I do hope you have come upon this page by way of the previous entries in this series regarding a wonderful canal trip I took in 2015 with three great friends who I had met through a now sadly demised and brilliant travel website called Virtual Tourist which was killed off in the interest of corporate greed.
If you have happened upon this site looking for Salterhebble or whatever, here is a quick precis. My friends and I were having a weekend excursion on the Calder and Hebble canal / river system in Yorkshire and, for some inexplicable reason, I had been attacked savagely by some sort of severe stomach disorder which had left me in my bunk and so incapacitated that I genuinely cannot tell you where we had moored the previous night as I was suffering so much (not even my own bunk, just the one nearest the heads) and was still not feeling great that morning although thankfully better than the Hell of the night I had had before. I really do not ever want to go through that again.
Wherever it was that we were, I let the others get on with it, politely refused offers of breakfast as there was not a chance of that happening without accident, and got foetal again in the bunk to let the pain subside which it had thankfully done enough to allow me to get up about lunchtime.
Again, apologies to those who have read the previous pages but this for those who have not. None of my friends had run a narrowboat before and it is a bit of a trick although fairly easy once you get the hang of it. Off they went from wherever we had been and I had not even set foot in and managed to lock back down without mishap. Dammit, I’ll make bargees out of them yet! The stabbing pain in my guts had subsided to manageable levels so I rolled out of the bunk, brushed my teeth and headed out to the well where it was another crisp but thankfully clear day. I still was not feeling anything like 100% so I just let the others get on with it although I did a bit of easy locking as I wasn’t going to be merely a passenger.
I did navigate the one tricky lock which took me a couple of attempts as the sidewash from an outflow made it bloody difficult, even moreso than on the outward trip. I reckon it is the most difficult lock I have ever negotiated and I have done a few. The others, standing on the top of the lock must have wondered what the Hell was going on as they had opened it and I was holding steady in the fairly sizeable basin downstream when the sidewash hit me. I know one section of the Grand Union near Rickmansworth (West London) where there is an evil sidewash but I can ride that as my friends showed me which course to steer but I have never had one as bad as this and I had no option but to do a 360 degree pirouette and thankfully there was plenty of leeway. I waved to show that all was under control although it was far from it and had another go. Same result and another 360. It must have looked comical from up there and, in my defence, making a governed 58′ lump of steel with no keel to speak of perform a 360 on it’s own axis is not an easy feat. Third attempt and it was full bore on the throttle which, combined with my hard-won knowledge of the opposing current, enabled me to scrape the poor old Westmoreland into the lock whereupon it was quickly shut behind me amidst a bit of wry applause and a few shouted questions as to what the Hell I had been playing at.
After that I didn’t do much except a bit more easy locking as the others really had got the hang of it. Except for things like the dodgy lock described above (these are extremely rare) and single manning which is bloody difficult, it is not too hard to move one of these things about, even with their great size, weight and lack of power on governed leisure boats. I am being completely genuine about this, it is not difficult, your boatyard will probably guide you up the first couple of miles or at least give you a good idea of how to to it. It is just to get you used to the thing and it really is the greatest fun. Give it a try. Honestly, before you know it you’ll be riding tunnels and three different kinds of locks and having the time of your life.
We dropped Dave off back in Elland at the Barge and Barrel where we had a farewell drink as he had to collect his car and get back for work on the Monday morning.
I just could not resist including the image above and I have to say that if I could not have a narrowboat which is probably impractical with my back then I would love to live beside a canal but even the most modest and rundown cottages are now going for silly money. Seems like everybody has the same idea.
My friends wanted me to take Westmoreland back through the Salterhebble guillotine lock which I described on out first day out. It is not particularly tricky but perhaps not one for the novice which is why the young guy had ridden up on his bike to help us before. Very shortly after that lock we came back to the main cut and had an option. We could go back to the yard and sleep there, giving ourselves a lie-in in the morning (I think the boat had to be back by 0900 to get cleaned and ready for the next hire) or there was a small cut up to the delightfully named Salterhebble which was perhaps a mile or a little more going the other way.
It is now a cul-de-sac having once been a viable canal to Halifax but it is long blocked off. Perhaps one day the enthusiasts will take it on and re-open it. It really is a backwater, both literally and metaphorically and it was strange to discover that it is considered a suburb of Halifax, where this whole little adventure had started. OK, I was in the Forces, I can do an early start and, frankly, I do like the early morning as there is something so fresh and clean about it. Salterhebble, here we come!
I have to say that I was still not feeling great and so, having got us moored securely, I retired to a random bunk again for a lie down. Again my tip, written shortly after the event will suffice here for what turned out to be a very pleasant evening.
Through the miracle of modern technology (smartphones and the like) the ladies had ascertained that there was a restaurant in Salterhebble called the Watermill. We had moored up opposite a fairly sizeable Premier Inn (one of the no frills chains in the UK and definitely recommended if you are on a budget) but I had not immediately associated the restaurant with the hotel until I saw the “Brewer’s Fayre” logo displayed. I know that they and Premier Inn are both part of the Whitbread group and they use that name for the restaurants in which I have had some great meals.
The premises really are quite sizeable and with separate bar and eating areas. Although it was Sunday evening I was surprised to see how empty the place was, perhaps we just got there a bit late. The menu is fairly extensive with all the usual “pub grub” suspects on offer like grills, steaks, burgers and hot dogs as well as some Tex-Mex stuff like nachos and burritos. There is also a selection of five curries offered and a good range of both starters and sweets.
Given the condition of my stomach anything rich or spicy was out of the question. I decided on the fish pie which I had previously eaten in a different Brewer’s Fayre and really enjoyed. It is a generous portion served with garlic bread and a dressed side salad and I think it is very good value at £8:99 (prices will have changed). You would expect a “freezer to table” place to perhaps skimp on the fish but there really are good big pieces of various types in the dish. Tasty as it was I did not manage to do it full justice but I really didn’t want to push my luck by over-eating.
Service was prompt and friendly at both the bar and by the food server. The Watermill is one of those places where you have to go to the bar and order your meal which is then brought to your table. Whilst ordering I even remembered a long forgotten loyalty card which was duly pressed into service thereby saving a few pennies. I must redeem it some day.
The Watermill is certainly not haute cuisine but it does serve up decent food at reasonable prices in a pleasant atmosphere which is all I require of it.
The ladies had a couple of drinks although, strange as this may sound to those that know me, I think I had one pint all night! Unreal, I know but I was not going to risk it as I still didn’t feel great. After that we wandered down the short distance on the side of the basin for our last night onboard and an early start.
Up very early the next morning which will form the basis of the next entry on this little series.
If you want to see if we made it home in one piece, stay tuned and spread the word. I mean it, I am dying on my feet here with this website (done that onstage once or twice) so please do feel free to distribute these aged ramblings to anyone you know and think might be vaguely interested. I thank you.