Leeds-Liverpool canal

Last week, we embarked on a journey along part of the 127 mile Leeds-Liverpool canal on ‘Sweet Basil’, a 47′ narrowboat hired from Snaygill Boats of Skipton, the perfect way to have a short break and stay socially distanced during the renewed lockdown that our part of the country is facing at present.

Naturally, I packed some camera gear in the hope that some of the waterway’s wildlife would reveal itself along the way. The weather was amazing for most of the trip and I anticipated plenty to see. However, despite early morning forages, the canal was remarkably quiet. We travelled west from Skipton through Gargrave and on towards Lancashire, through the Foulridge tunnel and turned around at Barrowford locks. In conversation with another photographer who had boated out of Lancashire, she expressed disappointment at the number and variety of wildlife photographic opportunities. She had seen lots of kingfishers in the depths of Lancashire towns where the canals were ‘not particularly scenic’ but none on the more beautiful parts of the trip. I saw no kingfishers at all and not that many birds of any description save for the ever-present mallards, moorhens and swans. Some of my sightings created difficulties for me as I was steering the boat. If you’ve ever steered a narrowboat, you’ll know that you have to give it your best attention. Grabbing the camera and shooting moving targets is not a sensible option unless you can first stop safely. I did this once when we spotted the male banded demoiselle at the side of the canal. There was no other traffic, I backed up (not a nautical term, I’m sure) and the insect kindly waited while I manoeuvred into position for a shot.

There’s a quite beautiful spot between Gargrave and East Marton where the canal forms a horseshoe around a lovely valley. The canal at this point has lots of wild flowers attracting bees and other insects. Here, I got the female banded demoiselle, a nice green grasshopper and a peacock butterfly as well as the young barn swallow and willow warbler. The red admiral came at a point where our starter motor died and I found him near to our disabled boat. The juvenile mandarin duck appeared alone near to Barrowford locks.

What looked like a roe deer was too distant for a shot and a calling red kite high in a conifer tree plantation didn’t reveal itself.

I don’t get that excited by mute swans, probably because they always seem to be semi-domesticated or, at least, relatively tame. But there was a nice group that visited the moored boat looking for food and they prompted me to try a few shots with a short lens.

We headed back into Yorkshire a little earlier than scheduled so we continued on to Silsden where there were plenty of grey herons in the fields and on the towpaths. By this time, the weather had deteriorated a little, the light was poor and we were moving, so there was little opportunity to make pictures.

So, not an amazing success for photography but such a nice break anyhow. You can see the few images I did take in my new posts. Now, until the health situation improves, it’s back to my local patch photography, hoping that some new and interesting projects raise their heads in Kirkheaton.

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