Leeds-Liverpool Canal


Five Rise Locks, Bingley

As it wasn’t raining today, I took the Brompton and went to Keighley to cycle along the canal towpath to Leeds. (Perhaps not the best bike for the rough surface, but definitely the best bike for the crowded trains.) I discovered that the staircase lock I have seen many times from the train at Bingley isn’t Five Rise Locks but only Three Rise Locks (I had always assumed the missing locks were out of sight). Both sets of locks are stepped very steeply, and I was sorry that there was no boat to watch going through them.


Five Rise Locks from the top

Next came Saltaire, which I visited a few years ago. I recall being particularly impressed that Titus Salt built his mill downwind of the workers’ houses so that they could live with less polluted air.


The canal at Saltaire

Towns thin out a little between Shipley and the outskirts of Leeds. I made a short detour to visit the extensive ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, which was less isolated than most ruined abbeys I visit. This one was next to a retail park.


Kirkstall Abbey, ruined Cistercian monastery, founded 12th century

A very pleasant day; some might think the scenic train journeys were disproportionately long for an 18-mile ride, but not me. What struck me, though, was how cramped England is. The narrow canal (I compared it to wide Dutch canals); the busy roads; all the infrastructure – road, railway, canal, industry and housing – crammed into the Ayre valley; the cramped trains. I guess the topography doesn’t help: you can spread out more in a flat land like the Netherlands.

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