October: Greenberfield Lock to Gargrave

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We left from the small car park, and now closed cafe, at Greenberfield Lock in light rain and stepped officially into modern Yorkshire at Bedlam Dike (where the Lancs/Yorks boundary was relocated in 1974). A five point mark carved into a bridge, I later learned, was a benchmark used to mark the height above sea level. Waymark footpath posts here had witches carved into them, presumably part of the Pendle Witches Trail. The canal wound gently towards East Marton before which we joined the Pennine Way (which was Britain’s first national trail) for a while and a “team photo” under the sign. Here besides the charming old Cross Keys Inn and Church with Norman tower, we passed under a curious double arched bridge which was built to carry the Skipton – Gisburn turnpike over the waterway. The original packhorse bridge was much lower than the new road so a second arch was added to maintain the level of the road (the A59). Here the canal meandered between grassy hummocks or drumlins, remaining from the glacial period, as it made its way northwards (with muddy towpaths). In the time when barges were towed by horses there was a series of posts and rollers on this part of the canal which guided the tow lines around the bends similar to those we saw earlier on some bridges. We passed through a lovely lower Dales landscape of rolling hills, scattered beech woods and fertile pastures enclosed by drystone walls. The canal was quite winding here with some sharp double bends. We could see canal boats across the fields appearing to go in the opposite direction, only to pass us later round the bend. With no let up in the rain, we stopped for lunch under cover of some trees. Soon we reached Bank Newton flight of locks where there was one of the canal company’s yards and workshops and recently a boat hire business. Volunteers from the Canal and River Trust were busy manning the locks to aid two canal boats down the flight. Nearby was Newton Hall, with its long mullioned windows and tall gables – a typical Dales yeoman’s farmhouse from the 17th century. Also nearby is an old Quaker meeting house with part converted to a hostel. The views across the limestone fells of Craven, with Sharp Haw on Flasby Fell in the foreground, were dulled somewhat by the rain, but the passing through the locks of the canal boats and the work of the volunteers on the gates and sluices kept our interest. We passed a lock keepers Cottage dating from 1791. This was the year work on the canal restarted after a ten year gap due to lack of funds. Before we reached Gargrave, we passed over the infant River Aire on the Priestholme Aqueduct and then under the Settle Carlisle Railway. After passing another three locks, we reached the A65 and our destination at the Anchor Inn, for a well deserved rest and drink.

(With thanks to David Scott)

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