Tackling Woodnook Lock

Published: Wednesday, 02 August 2017

WE HAVE today come up the Aire & Calder from Ferrybridge to Stanley Ferry. This route took us through Woodnook Lock, writes Mike Todd.

Woodnook MikeWe had received the stoppage notice last night so were a little bit miffed (as we knew that there had been at least one closure recently) and also concerned as we really did not want to have to go via Leeds, nor hang around for several days!

Unable to contact

Our first attempt to contact Customer Services was not brilliant—the lady answering simply read out the same information that we had and was unable to contact anyone else to get an update.

In any event—at least in hope more than common sense—we pressed on and arrived at Woodnook around 1 o'clock.

Woodnook2 MikeA group of engineers was just leaving but we did manage to get a recommendation that we contact Customer Services again as they understood that there would be at least one assisted passage this afternoon. This time we had a more helpful conversation and the person put us on 'hold' whilst she spoke to someone else. She came back with the detail that the passage would be 2.30pm—3.30pm (an official notice was posted just after this).

More helpful

As it happened, a work boat came upstream and they had been given 2pm for passage—and we could tag along. This turned out to be even more helpful as they were being penned through the next two locks.

Filling the lock using the manual top sluices was very slow—it took perhaps 40 minutes and there were difficulties with this mechanism which has perhaps not been used too much in the recent past! Certainly, locking through manually really does need local knowledge.

The staff were really helpful and friendly. However, what we did learn is that the problem is with the top sluice 'stalk', the bar the connects the lift hydraulic lever with the actual paddle. For reasons that they were unable to discover 'looking down the hole' it catches on something somewhere. Hence the need to call out divers to take a closer look from underneath. How much work it will need is currently anyone's guess. It also seems that the whole lock mechanisation is just about 'lifted out' and will need some expensive replacement.

All too few moving boats

This work will have to be prioritised—one lock here will pay for many others down south. The traffic is not great—we saw all too few moving boats despite the efforts of the Boaters Update to persuade us to make more use of these northern routes. This is a pity as much is now really beautiful.

The gradual loss of heavy industry means that nature is reclaiming the banks and the navigations are often at least as attractive as the more well known southern ones. It would be interesting to hear from boater representatives how they will be making an input into the choices which CaRT inevitably have to make in establishing future priorities.

There will be another stoppage at Woodnook before long: the work boat was going to Stanley Ferry to collect new balance beams for Woodnook which were clearly well into the time for replacement.