Finally made it back to Leeds, Clarence Dock, the Royal Armouries and our winter mooring. We would have been here six weeks ago if it hadn’t been for the canal freezing over, so it’s great to finally arrive, tie up the boat, connect to the electric point and relax. This will be our home for the next few months.
Alisha and I went down south to visit my parents and brother’s family for Christmas. That meant abandoning the boat for a week during the freeze. If a narrowboat isn’t lived on during winter you’re supposed to protect it against damage by winterising it.
A week before Christmas the ice had thawed just enough to move the boat from where we’d been frozen in for two weeks. British Waterways phoned to say we might be able to travel back to Leeds in a couple of days, and they booked us in to travel through the staircase locks. Things were looking up: we might be back on our winter mooring soon.
The last winter I spent on a narrowboat, four years ago, was mild compared to this one. This time the canal has frozen over, and has been frozen for a week and a half, and it could take a while before the ice thaws.
Water is becoming a problem. We’ve got an almost empty tank, we’re not within reach of a tap and can’t drive to one. The local pub in Rodley has filled up a few water containers for me, and a local resident helped out with a couple of refills – I’m thankful for their assistance but that’s barely enough for a shower each day and some washing up. It’s not enough to run the washing machine so a trip to the launderette is overdue.
We filled up with diesel a week and a half ago but we’re down to one fifth of the tank. We have a diesel heater and have had to have it on constantly day and night to prevent frost damage to the water pipes, water pump, and shower, and to stay warm. Fortunately there’s a boatyard nearby so we can bring 20 litre containers of diesel to the boat by wheelbarrow, but it’s proving to be expensive. I’ve never used so much diesel in so short a time, usually a full tank lasts for several months. Before next winter we need to get a wood burning stove installed, to give us another way to heat the boat.
I’ve topped up the engine’s header tank with water and anti-freeze, made sure the greaser’s twisted daily, wiped the windows of condensation, and wished every day that we’d made it to our winter mooring before the freeze. Oh well, the snowy landscape’s been beautiful!
Narrowboat Audrey Too yesterday, stuck in ice, covered in snow. It’s supposed to be -11 degrees tonight so the diesel heater will stay on all night. Already, some windows are freezing up on the inside.
Swans charge at the ice to break it, so they can reach bread scattered on the surface of the frozen canal. Ducks try to waddle across the top of the ice. Filmed from my narrowboat, moored opposite the boatyard in Rodley on the Leeds and Liverpool canal.
Our narrowboat is stuck in the ice at Rodley. We only came up here to get some diesel, and had booked to go back through the locks to our winter mooring in Leeds Clarence Dock. But there’s snow and freezing temperatures forecast for the next week at least so we might be stuck here. Good thing we have a full tank of diesel because the diesel heater’s going to be on all day every day for a while.
See the path cut through the ice? That was made while the ice was still thin, by swans eager to get fed. They made little charges at the ice to break it. Since this afternoon the ice has become much thicker and we gave up the idea of trying to drive through it.
Alisha and I have decided to buy a winter mooring. This will make life easier for the next four months. We’ll have a base and won’t need to keep cruising the canals looking for the next mooring. We’ll be hooked up to electricity and rarely have to run the engine or switch the diesel heater on so we’ll save on fuel. Plus, Clarence Dock is conveniently located in Leeds for work and getting to the railway station. This is the view from the flood lock at the entrance to the marina:
Leeds is a ghost town for boats, hardly any narrowboats have passed through and there seems to be nowhere for visitors to moor in the city for more than two days at a time. That was quite a disappointment after having travelled up north through so many towns and cities with sizeable liveaboard communities. There are free 48 hr visitor moorings at Clarence Dock, and £3 a night 48 hr moorings Granary Wharf, both with electrical points, but that’s it.
Maybe when spring comes Leeds will be busy with boats again. Until then, we’ll take a break from travelling and relax for a while.
We purchased the winter mooring through the BW Mooring Vacancies website, where they’re offered on a first come first served basis. You have to register with the website, fill out a short form and send them a cheque.
During the winter months, in order to travel up the Leeds and Liverpool canal you need to book passage in advance with British Waterways. We did this today, travelling from Leeds basin to Rodley to the nearest boatyard where we could fill up with diesel. As well as several single locks there are a couple of staircases with three locks each.
We only passed a couple of moored boats on the towpath; the moorings at Kirkstall are empty and the only boats at Armley are in the marina. It’s not just the centre of Leeds that’s a ghost town for narrowboats in winter.
BW’s staff are very friendly and helpful and they worked the locks for us and another narrowboat. They were out in the cold and snow yesterday, and these locks only fill up very slowly: it’s not a fair weather job. In the photo above their van had stopped to help the other narrowboat which had a fouled propellor (probably caused by all the autumn leaves in the canal). The canal’s quite shallow in places and both boats scraped the bottom a few times.
We’ve booked to travel back to Leeds in a few days’ time – and we have a comfy winter mooring to look forward to. Just for once I’m looking forward to a settled existence and to not travelling constantly.
It took Alisha and I five weeks to travel from London to Leeds by narrowboat. Along the way we stopped off for a few days at Windsor, Marlow, Oxford and Leicester to do some sight seeing. Some days we rose at dawn and drove till dusk; other days we just went a few miles to the next town.
We travelled 353 miles, through 164 locks and 35 moveable bridges, across 11 aquaducts and through 4 tunnels. 121 miles of the journey was on large rivers. At least that’s how the Canal Planner website reckons it. Longest journey I’ve made by boat so far.
It’s great to arrive in Leeds, my old home city. We arrived just in time: the River Aire is in flood and we’re stuck in Clarence Dock with the flood lock’s gate shut and chained behind us. The water in the canal is rushing along fast and high, glad we’re not driving in it. We’re on the floating short-term moorings next to the Royal Armouries museum, with water taps and electricity available.
Time to relax, enjoy being settled for a while and start looking for work in Yorkshire. For the next few months we’ll stick around Leeds.