So there we were, pootling along minding our own business, bemoaning the amount of traffic on the adjacent Keighley – Skipton road when what should we see but an A-board stood proudly on the towpath. ‘Bustys Baps’ it proclaimed. Now, while, yes, it could conceivably have been a mobile knocking shop, our money was on a snacks wagon so we chucked the boat in reverse, got about six feet away from the bank before we went aground and then leapt for it. It takes more than a bit of water-filled ditch to keep us away from a well-filled buttie. And we were rewarded for our athleticism/desperation as Bustys Baps was not your average layby snackateria. The proprietor proudly announced that all his fresh food was sourced from local farmers and he even had a bit of roast beef on the go with which he tried to tempt us. I’m afraid A failed completely to get into the spirit by ordering a spam sandwich so it was left to me to keep our end up (a bigger end each day) with a delicate sausage, egg and bacon breakfast bap. Well, I take my hat off to you Yorkshire farmers – it was as fine an assemblage of fried goodies as I’ve had in a very long while. So another happy, serendipitous moment in a cruise that seems to have been full of them.
I left you on Monday evening about to go for a pint and a packet of crisps. Well, that turned into two pints and a fearsome attack of the munchies so we walked into Bingley for an Indian. And yes, before you say it, we are having rather a lot of Indians this trip, but our route has been like one long curry alley and it would be foolish not to take the opportunity to sample the spicy wares on offer. The Shama was excellent, although I’m not sure about my peshwari naan featuring a liberal sprinkling of pineapple. I’m a conventional sultanas and coconut girl, and I wasn’t overly taken with the Hawaiian pizza approach. But friendly staff, sound cooking and great value means it gets a tick in our book - plus they gave us a doggy bag of uneaten naans, so extra points. (We sold them a sob story of five little mouths to feed at home...bet that had them looking up Childline's number). Oh, and I forgot to say the other day....if you've moored up in Clarence Dock and spotted lots of coconut on the jetty, I do offer a heartfelt apology. Five dogs and one peshwari leads to inevitable spillage...
As we left the Shama, we detoured onto the towpath to sneak a look at the three rise. To be honest, coming from Leeds means that you’re quite geared up for it as you’ve already done a fair few risers and got used to the cavernous proportions of the chambers. Even the five rise was not quite as forbidding as I expected and we popped up it the following day very sedately. Barry was keeping a paternalistic eye on things but letting his colleagues and A do the work – the pace is very measured and controlled, they rush nothing and keep a very close eye on how you’re doing. There are a few sticky outy bits in the odd chamber that can catch a gunwale sometimes and a few studs on the gates that you have to watch for, but the feeling is of a very thorough, professional operation that’s leaving nothing to chance from a boater’s safety perspective. That suited me fine and we waved our thanks to everyone as we set off for that evening’s objective, Riddlesden.
And now tonight, we’re in the Yorkshire Dales proper, having passed through the self-proclaimed Gateway to the Dales, Skipton. We’re moored a couple of miles past the town as it was a little incompatible with our doggy needs – instead we’re in the middle of nowhere looking out onto sheep dappled hillsides. Doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Actually, it started to look a bit dales-y as soon as we rounded the first corner this morning. We’d found ourselves a lovely little out of the way spot just past Riddlesden and as soon as set off, we could see the countryside start to swell and roll for miles, blighted only by the sound and sight of traffic carving through the middle of the greenery. The road noise is a fairly constant companion for this section but the knock-out views and the clusters of bluebell flooded woodland more than make up for it. Ever since we got on the L&L, low water levels/dredging issues aside, we’ve thought this a simply stunning canal and one that we are already committed to return to – but why is it so underused? If we were down at Great Haywood or Fradley at the moment, I’m sure we’d easily be seeing four boats an hour – not a day. Where’s the problem? Okay, it is perhaps not the easiest road as the locks are big and heavy and the swing bridges are so many and so frequent that you need to ease up on the coffee or have a big bladder to be comfortable. But like so much on the cut, if you take it steadily and slowly, you can achieve anything – and it would be a terrible shame to miss out as it is truly god’s own country up here. And you can get a mouthful of Bustys Baps too – that’s worth the trip alone.