Friday 18 September 2015

The main line

Not quite as early as intended, we pootled off back along the Selby Canal, through the wooded section where we'd seen kingfishers on the way up (or rather, down) a week ago. Seems more like a month than a week. Some of the bridges in this part are quite attractive, though not a patch on those we've seen on the Shroppie or the Trent & Mersey.

One was rather non-descript, looking out of place.

It was only as you passed underneath that its significance became apparent.

I don't imagine any of the constructions for the proposed HS2 will be quite so unassuming. Am I wrong, or would ditching HS2 and Trident solve Britain's deficit problems at a stroke? Naïve, I know.

The Selby Canal proper leads on through a flood lock to a piece of the River Aire doubling up as a side-shoot of the Aire & Calder Navigation. We had two locks to negotiate before getting back onto the main line of the A & C.

A week ago we had noted that, like the locks on the River Avon, the walkway across the bottom gates of these is attached to the inside of the gates. That was where Erin Mae's swan-neck came to grief two years ago, as she rose in the lock and the tiller was trapped under a steel-mesh walkway. Unnoticed, that could have not just bent the swan-neck, but sunk Erin Mae by keeping her stern down as the water rose. This time, of course, we were aware of the danger. Anyway, judging by the look of the walkway, it might itself have sustained some nasty damage before anything worse happened.

So it was farewell to our diversion to Selby and York, which had its fair share of excitement. We re-joined the main line of the A & C, and continued eastwards in the direction of the Humber. Occasionally there were some nice views across a valley.

But for the most part it's a bit of an industrial or post-industrial mess. The power stations popping up in all directions are no longer served by the canal, but by rail.

The canal is paralleled here by a trans-Pennine motorway,

and contemporary indications of why the canals are no longer a major player in the carrying business.

I've been trying to get a feel for the extent to which this move away from the canals is in the recent past. Nicholson's 2009 guide for this area speaks of the need to be careful of the huge barges plying their trade on the A & C. We haven't seen any. Where we're moored up tonight, we can look back to the large electrified lock and the noisy motorway beyond it.

But if we look forward from the bedroom, this is what we see.

Looking back, looking forward. The canals seem to work best when they do a bit of both.


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