The stretch of canal walk now from Bingley to Skipton was to give a great idea of how different each day can be. The day before I had walked out of Leeds to Bingley and learnt so much, especially about the locks and history of the canal. Today we were heading further east along the canal and towards the Yorkshire Dales. Just a couple of days walking within beautiful scenery, along a lovely waterway, and you get from city, to hills and dales.
I started where I left off the day before, at Bingley Five Rise Locks. And from those magnificent locks you hit a stretch that contains no locks throughout the whole day. Quite strange especially as you are heading towards the hills etc.
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Heading Towards The Hills
I say heading East but in fact you head north east, and if you have a sense of direction you realise you are not heading directly towards Liverpool at all just yet. This length of canal I was walking today was the first section that was completed on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, in 1773. It hugs and winds round the hills, in the valley, and thus negates the endless locks that would have been needed.
The countryside was starting to open up and even though you pass by Keighley and Riddlesden you still feel away from it all. Livestock and wildlife became more of the norm. It was so quiet along this stretch. Just the occasional walker like me or cysclist.
Malc was loving a new day and the new walk too. Of course it takes a lot to tire him, busy exploring everything plus saying hello to the animals as passing.
The variety is enriched when throughout the day you pass through open spaces and agricultural land and then suddenly enter through villages and towns that were once great industrial places. Places that thrived on what was a busy canal full of trade and boats.
On the outskirts of these places you get the back gardens of more modern houses where since the canal’s heyday the areas have become more suburban. Then in the middle of town you can see the signs of the past industry mixed with the new. The old mills converted with the times, to a more residential use.
Looking After The Environment
It was in Silsden I met Jonny Hart Woods, who is a senior ecologist with the Canal & River Trust. He gave me an insight into the tremendous amount of work being done all across the canal, to keep it safe, to keep the wildlife flourishing, to keep homes along the canal safe and absolutely a whole lot more. There is so much to think about.
Think back to heavy industrial days when the canal was not long built and in its heyday. There probably wouldn’t have been any trees at all along the canal really. That was 250 years ago and now you get to walk the waterway, often surrounded by beautiful greenery, woodland and hedgerow.
These are all superb for wildlife and the environment. But they can cause chaos on canal structures and houses. Their strong roots causing leaks, damage to bridges and so on. There is a tremendous amount of management to be done continuously.
Also, along a canal walk you see pretty little houses backing onto the water’s edge. If that house owner plants a seeded tree to make their garden pretty. Or wants to build their own little canal jetty, remember that this wasn’t accounted for in the 18th century and you can easily (and often is the case) end up with a flooded house.
Tree management by the trust and surrounding landowners is also carefully done so wildlife can continue to flourish. E.g. work or felling is preferably done in winter to avoid nesting birds or bats.
The Canal & River Trust is currently raising awareness of plastic waste on our rivers and canals at the moment, with the plastics challenge. It is estimated that around 14 million pieces of plastic ends up in the waterways of the UK each year. Half a million of this then ends up in the ocean. We have all seen it as we walk along the canal. If each person who visited the canal picked up just one piece of plastic rubbish they see on their trip, then it would all be cleared in a year.
Malc did his bit, he loves playing with plastic bottles, also taking a swim and playing fetch, so he was sent in a few times along the way to collect rubbish.
Passing Through Kildwick
After Silsden you wander back into the countryside before getting to Kildwick. A gorgeous little Yorkshire village. It might be small but it has a big church, St Andrews Church, that leads onto the canal towpath. It becomes more unique to the experience because on the totally opposite side of the canal is a graveyard.
There has been a church here since Anglo Saxon times, well before the Norman conquest. The church stood well in time, even through most of the Scots Raids due to the fact it was named after St Andrew and their own Patron Saint. Most of the church you see today dates from Tudor times. It was extended and thus a very long church.
The graveyard attached to it is the old graveyard, but the over behind the opposite bank of the canal is what is called the ‘new graveyard’. However today, burials can only take place in existing plots.
The towpath takes you on through further villages like Farnhill. What was noticeable is how the old mills and infrastructure from a couple of centuries ago has been transformed into dwellings that back onto the canal, and they must have some amazing views from their window.
Alas the day was ending and Skipton was in view ahead. Another great day of walking and learning. I knew tomorrow would be completely different too, as well as miles to walk there was to be some time on the water. Will show you what happened next.