Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Climbing the Mountains

When the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was built the builders, luckily, decided to parallel the path of the River Aire which was itself too mercurial in character to be part of the waterways system.  The result,, for us is a green, wooded and picturesque route through the Aire Valley to enjoy cruising along.  You are in the midst of the industrial area of Yorkshire and yet the canal is very pastoral.

The next big form of transport to go through this same area, the railroad, had other ideas.  No leisurely meandering for them.  They blasted their way from one side to the other of an area called The Nosegay, creating the long Thackley Railway Tunnel .  Their goal, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Yep, but not nearly as pretty.

And now, in the age of the automobile, the recently created Airedale relief road took no notice of the canal when planning its route.  This resulted in the literal need to move a section of the canal several hundred feet to accommodate the new road.  The almighty car must not be stopped, now must it.

What the future will bring only the future knows.

As I said earlier, this used to be a very highly industrialized area. At one time there was a thriving Kirkstall Brewery  that used the canal to get its kegs of beer to market.  The brewery building has now been converted to housing for Leeds University students.  Tell me what student or parent would not appreciate the irony in that. 

Further along are the romantic ruins of Kirkstall Abbey where Cistercian monks used to work and worship.  But then, once again, along came Henry VIII and the Abbey was no more.  But the beautiful ruins are still a wonderful sight to behold.

A former textile mill along the canal has been turned into lovely canal side housing with newer units built up around it that blend well with the 1896 former mill.  High end, historic housing with a view.

Eventually you enter the village of Saltaire, a purpose built residential village created by Sir Titus Salt  in the 19th century to house his mill workers.  The village is still a wonderful and picturesque place thanks to the imaginative reuse of former industrial buildings for restaurants, pubs, residential and commercial purposes.  Way to go.

At Bingley, which we will be going through next, there is a rise of 5 connected and large locks (built in 1774!) that move the boat 60 feet up into the Pennines.  Before that were 3 locks we went through that rise you 30 feet and before that a double lock that takes you up18 feet and one lock that rises you 10 feet.  So, in the 5 miles between Saltair and Bingley you rise a total of almost 120 feet!  You have to find that at least somewhat impressive.

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