Leeds and Liverpool Canal

On Sunday October 6th, the Canal and River Trust had invited HBS to attend their Family Fun Day at the top of the Bingley Five Rise with Bilbo and horseboat Elland. The event was poorly advertised but there was glorious sunshine all day which brought the crowds along to the site and thus they found the event. Harnessing demos with Bilbo were well attended and appreciated at an ideal grass location midway down the locks. The boat was present but there was no horseboating. HBS was working in conjunction with education volunteers for CRT. These volunteers do activities based mostly at Bingley.

On Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th October, primary school children made visits to the Bingley Five Rise locks. HBS was again working in conjunction with education volunteers for CRT. These CRT education volunteers are known as Heritage Explorers, and at present they only operate in about 5 locations, but it is a scheme being expanded by CRT nationwide.

There were harnessing demos, no horseboating, on Wednesday, morning only, and Thursday, morning and afternoon. Four classes attended, totaling about 120 children. The demos were held outside the café at the top of the Five Rise because this building was originally a stable with stalls for boathorses. Elland was moored here, so the children could instantly compare the size of the boathorse Bilbo, to the size of the narrowboat Elland. It was made clear to the children that wide-beam boats were more commonly used on the L & L Canal in the past, requiring larger horses with even greater bodyweight than Bilbo to pull the laden wide-beam boats with their heavier cargoes. However some narrowboats were in use too.

On Saturday October 12th, HBS was filmed horseboating on the Bingley Five Rise and Three Rise for Channel 4 at Bingley, then after the film crew left, we continued horse-drawn to Shipley. The TV programme is a documentary for the series “Walking through History” presented by Tony Robinson (Time Team/Black Adder). Tony has been filmed on a historic walk along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, from Liverpool to Wigan. Within the documentary they wanted to interview someone with a horse-drawn boat to evoke the “historic” age. As a horse-drawn boat could not be provided between Liverpool and Wigan in October 2013, the film crew and Tony Robinson came to Bingley instead, at least on the same canal and to the very horse and boat which travelled from Leeds to Liverpool in 2012.

We took some sheets down on Elland as requested so the film crew could get on board the boat, only for them to change their mind and do all their filming from the ground! This did give them a more flexible approach at the locks as the filming could be done from either side of the locks. Filming on the towpath was quite hard as Tony Robinson approached from behind, at the bottom of the Five Rise, calling out a question, and then a discussion took place on the move as the horse-drawn boat approached the Three Rise. Some cyclists, approaching from behind, found their way blocked by the film crew who were filming Bilbo pulling Elland, and Tony Robinson in discussion. Words were exchanged in exasperation as the film crew asked the cyclists to get out of the picture, and when they retorted in objection Tony crossly told them that they should see it was difficult for the filming to take place. The joys of shared towpath use and/or filming!

Tony joined Bilbo on the Three Rise to see how we were improvising in the absence of the lock furniture which once existed on the several staircase locks between Leeds and Bingley. Originally there were small pulleys on the balance beams, around which the towing line was placed so that a horse could pull the boat from one lock into the next when going down locks. The horse would walk on the level ground next to the lock chamber in the opposite direction to which the boat was going. This technique of using a pulley is demonstrated at the Parkhead Festival in the Black Country every two years. HBS has to improvise as there are no pulleys left on any of the several staircase locks in the Leeds to Bingley area. So the towline is passed round a circular metal bollard at ground level beside the lock instead of round the original pulley at the height of a balance beam level. HBS has been experimenting, learning, and perfecting this technique. This was the third time that Bilbo had pulled on these locks downhill. On the two previous occasions he had been somewhat confused but had tried to help with guidance. On this occasion he was an absolute star, remembering and knowing what was being asked of him. He has to walk slightly uphill, slightly sideways, because of the location of the bollard instead of the original pulley. How wonderful it would be if CRT or the L & L Canal Society would replace the lock furniture so that we could demonstrate use of the pulleys once again. It is to the great credit of the L & L Canal Society that they have replaced many towpath rollers on the canal which HBS loves to use, to see and hear them rolling as the towline is used on bends of the canal.

The crew that day was supplemented by two young boys aged 9 and 10, both all dressed up in period clothing. It would be nice if the TV programme shows them. One boy is the son of a member of crew who is an artist in Saltaire and the son had been joined by his school friend.

On Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th October, Elland had a motorboat tow from Shipley to Leeds, above lock 2.

On Wednesday Oct 16th, Elland had a motorboat tow through the remaining two locks of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and along the Aire and Calder Navigation from Leeds to Thwaite.

The excellent news is that a home mooring has been agreed for horseboat Elland at the Thwaite Mills Watermill Museum on the Aire & Calder Navigation. This was accepted by CRT in August on renewal of the annual licence. This is the third winter that the boat has been moored at this museum. There are other boaters on site to keep an eye on Elland, and the mooring fits HBS policy in that it is not a towpath mooring but an offside mooring. It is unlikely that Elland will be out boating before April 2014.

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