March 22nd – Rillesden to Shipley

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On Thursday, after a hearty breakfast, our coach (and Daniel) picked us up and calmly conquered the narrow rutted track again to Rillesden. This time we walked eastwards towards Shipley on a cool, crisp, sunny morning with the breeze at our backs. After passing through woodland with the scary track high to our left, we saw a number of houses with gardens running down to the canal, making the most of the view over the Aire Valley towards Keighley. Soon after a drinks break, we reached the Bingley Staircase – the Five Rise and then the Three Rise Locks. These are “staircase locks” with the bottom gates of one lock being the top gates of the next. The Five Rise form the steepest rise on the UK’s canals and were opened 244 years ago on 21st march, 1774. Shortly afterwards we came across the charity canoeists again, who had overnighted in Silsden. They’d saved time by carrying their canoe past the locks. The Damart Mill and chimney were followed by a sloping Grade II listed bridge (No. 205). “Mid to late eighteenth century, hammer dressed stone, single horseshoe elliptical arch with dressed and chamfered voussoirs [me neither!], coped parapet aligned to the slope of the hill”. Then we watched a canal boat pass through Dowley Gap Locks before reaching the Hirst Woods aqueduct over the River Aire. As we approached Saltaire we saw the stone houses and church built by Titus Salt. He’d built a textile mill in 1853 with a village for the workers with wash houses, bath houses, hospital, school, almshouses, allotments, a park and a boathouse. Saltaire was designated a World Heritage Site in 2001. David Scott gave us a potted history of the man and his work before we completed the walk and entered our hotel from the towpath. A quick change of footwear and we reassembled in the Noble Comb for lunch and then our journey home. If the April trip goes as smoothly, we’ll be well pleased!

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