Posts Tagged ‘Ripon canal’

A Sense Of Community

Monday, August 30th, 2010

On Saturday morning, I went to Havenhands the Bakers in St James’s Square in Boroughbridge*, then on to the Post Office before going to Ripon to watch the start of the Annual Raft Race in the Ripon Canal Basin.  On that short journey, I met several people who I knew really well in both personal and business life, and a few others who I knew well enough to pass the time with.

It made me realise why I enjoy living in the country, in a rural space, rather than in a town or city.  I love that sense of community that gently underpins life in our rural community-scape.  We know the current Mayors of Pateley Bridge and Ripon quite well, which sounds grand but it’s not especially so in our small community – this ain’t London or New York.  We know the family that runs Boroughbridge post office, many of the local postmen, the local courier drivers, a good proportion of the local policemen, the local vicars and Dean of Ripon and many of the local schoolteachers and so on and so on.  You soon realise how many people you know who create the fabric of our local community.   And we know many of the local business people well enough to have an idle natter with, and we do have those chats.

I like that, having been brought up in a rural Northumberland.  City life never fitted comfortably, and the money never got close to compensating for a loss of that fabric that can bind people together.  While some business gurus talk about the business environment giving that community spirit, it does not really work, as there is always a hint, an undercurrent, of tension and aggression; business does not forgive mistakes and transgressions, whereas real communities live with, forgive and forget, and perhaps are defined by their own sense of forgiveness and tolerance for day-to-day transgressions amongst their own.

I feel that the Internet can go some way to recreating that sense of community and rebuild a fabric for society and go some way to letting people have a sense of belonging to something, a community, and hopefully that is a civil and decent digital and online community.  Maybe the Internet and its web can bring people together in a way that Governments really have failed to do, in spite of the billions in cash spent and huge amount of brain cells and legislation proposed on areas such as social inclusion and redevelopment.  In the end, it is people and communities that matter not politicos with an agenda to grab power.

Recently, Ripon as a community celebrated its founder, St Wilfrid, with the exuberant St Wilfrid’s Parade, full of joy and singing and not a small amount of indulgence.   This weekend our real life community had fun with its Annual Raft Race held at Ripon Canal Basin, where teams competed on a course in a mobile swan and on home-made, but rather professional, rafts; then on Sunday, it was the turn of the duck race held by The Water Rat at Alma Weir in Ripon.  What is great is the huge amount of fun and joy that people have when taking part in these community events – just look at the smiles on peoples faces and in their eyes.

That’s community, that’s North Yorkshire.

Photos from St Wilfrid’s Parade 2010 (more at Facebook):

A Vampire Screams

A Vampire Screams

The Jolliest Zebra I've Ever Seen

The Jolliest Zebra I've Ever Seen

A Jolly Bee With A Lovely Smile

A Jolly Bee With A Lovely Smile

The Great And Good Of Ripon - The Wakeman, The Dean, The Mayor

The Great And Good Of Ripon - The Wakeman, The Dean, The Mayor

Photos from Great Raft Race 2010 (more photos on Facebook):

Mayor Of Ripon In A Swan

Mayor Of Ripon In A Swan

Happy Face

Happy Face

Pirate Boat

Pirate Boat

Pirates Rowing Hard

Pirates Rowing Hard

Getting Dunked...

Getting Dunked...

...And Splash

...And Splash

Photos from Great Duck Race 2010 (more photos on Facebook):

Helping The Ducks Over Alma Weir

Helping The Ducks Over Alma Weir

In The River Skell

In The River Skell

* I bought croissants, jam doughnuts, cinnamon Danish and a loaf of bread which Havenhands bake every day on site and the bakers still live above their bakery.  How about that – I bet you thought small village bakeries like that had died away and the only ones were the new wave of hip, ultra healthy microbakeries.

Ripon Water Walks – Walk Along Ripon Canal

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Ripon is blessed with lots of fabulous waterways and green corridors through the city.  One of the most noticeable is Ripon Canal, which cuts a straight caesura into the centre of the city, with the canal sitting on your left as you come in along Boroughbridge Road and onto Bondgate Green right up to Ripon Canal Head.  Like everything about Ripon, it’s on a small scale (only 2.3 miles), beautifully formed and has become forgotten by time, having closed down in 1906 and later reopened for leisure boating and recreation in 1996.  I love it.

Ripon Canal Head In Yorkshire

Ripon Canal Head In North Yorkshire

So following on from my last walk along the River Ure, I have spent some time putting together some thoughts on walking along Ripon Canal, together with some photos. 

The concept behind the canal is simple: the River Ure becomes difficult to navigate on stretches upstream of Boroughbridge, so the building of the canal and other small sections of canal along the Ure made it possible for boats to pass from Hull and York to Ripon, especially with core industrial products like coal into Ripon from the Yorkshire coalfields and back the other way lead and other products.  

A quick history of the canal is as follows: it was authorised to be built by an Act of Parliament in 1767, with construction work being completed in 1773, but it fell into a rapid decline from 1844 when the Leeds and Thirsk Railway Company opened successful negotiations to buy Ripon Canal.  Leeds and Thirsk Railway became part of the North Eastern Railway in 1854 and the Canal was left to decline; by 1892, no traffic was going along the Canal and the railway companies tried to abandon it, then to offload it on the Corporation of York.  When all other canals were nationalised in 1948, Ripon Canal was excluded and was officially abandoned in 1956.  From 1961 until 1996, private boat-owners restored the canal for recreational boating and it now is actively used by enthusiasts.

I start this walk usually by parking outside of Wolseley Center on Bondgate Green, then cross over the road and walk back down towards Ripon Canal Head before turning around and doing the walk properly.  Ripon Canal Head has been renovated and includes some compact canal view houses, a farm shop and an embroidery and craft shop called Barnyarns, as well as a renovated warehouse.  There were four boats moored just beyond Ripon Canal Head and I briefly chatted to a gentleman who was enjoying a glass of red wine and reading a book beside his narrow boat – the Moorhen – and discovered he was based in Retford in Nottinghamshire and spent much of his time travelling the canal network.  It is a short gentle walk to the first lock beneath lovely lime trees, with a few industrial buildings on the left – such as Ripon Builders Merchants and Wolseley Center – and just before the bridge you might get the curious dry, yeasty smell of bread wafting across the canal from Ripon Select Foods on Dallamires Lane, which is one of England’s main manufacturers of breadcrumbs for the food industry.  It is reminiscent of the damper, beery yeasty smell of Edinburgh, which was one of the first memories I had when at university there back in the 1980s.

You amble under the dark, gloomy concrete bridge into the outskirts of Ripon, with Fisher Green on your left.  The canal bank here is covered in grasses and beflowered with meadow buttercups, white and pink wild roses and white ox-eye daisies and everywhere you look there are ducks and ducklings gliding busily along the waterway.  On your right, there’s a quaint wooden bridge, painted white and black, that leads onto Dallamires Lane and down to one of the mooring points where you will sometimes see a long boat with the name, Belly Button, that has got a pub-sign-style painting on the side of a man carrying his large beer belly along in a wheelbarrow.  Today, it was empty save for drake resting his weary head on the concrete.

Sleeping Duck On Ripon Canal

Sleeping Duck On Ripon Canal

Just before the first lock – Rhodesfield Lock – there is the pretty whitewashed former lock-keeper’s house and then you angle down about 3 to 4 metres to the new level alongside a caravan park and berths for narrow boats.  At Rhodesfield Dock, a local boat, the Graceland, had just completed coming up the lock system and the owner was pushing her off the side and was taking her to dock by the wooden canal bridge.  On the right, you can see sometimes see the blue-painted narrow-boat Söll, which has a row of beautiful carved birds on its roof; I don’t know whether it is its Germanic name or the wooden birds on top, but it reminds me of Bornholm and its eider ducks (I know Bornholm is not Germanic but Danish-Swedish, but that’s the way my thoughts erroneously wandered).

Ripon Lock-Keeper's Cottage

Ripon Lock-Keeper's Cottage

Rhodesfield Lock On Ripon Canal

Rhodesfield Lock On Ripon Canal

We now walk from Rhodesfield Lock to Bell Furrows Lock, which is beside Smeaton’s Marina, named after one of the engineers who built Ripon Canal.  You can cross over Bell Furrows Lock to the other side, giving you a decent view back along the route you have travelled so far.  A common frog scuttled across the path.

View To Smeaton's Marina On Ripon Canal

View To Smeaton's Marina On Ripon Canal

From Bell Furrows Lock, it’s a half mile walk to Nicholson’s Bridge and Ripon Motor Boat Marina.  On your left, you have a bird sanctuary beside Ripon Race Course; it is a wetland that has been restored from gravel pits, forming part of a larger wetland area along the River Ure and all the way down to the Humber Estuary.  On the other bank, there are some fields and the well manicured ends of some of the posher residences at the edge of Ripon, while the trees have changed to a mix of sycamores and elder.  I couldn’t see much of interest the other day except a few swans and tufted ducks, while I raised a grey heron that had been calmly fishing in the canal and languidly started its laboured flight off the canal onto the wetlands, with its strange cricked neck folding back on itself.  By Nicholson’s Bridge, you have the edge of Ripon Race Course to your left and the edge of Ripon to your right and move on to cut through farmland to the meeting of the Canal and the River Ure about one and a half miles further on.

Ripon Motor Boat Marina

Ripon Motor Boat Marina

Canal Boats By Nicholson's Bridge Over Ripon Canal

Canal Boats By Nicholson's Bridge Over Ripon Canal

Narrow Boat Under Rentons Bridge

Narrow Boat Under Rentons Bridge

From Nicholson’s Bridge to Ox Close Lock the walk opens out and you have Ripon Race Course to your left and then farmland on the right bank.  On Saturday evenings in the summer, there is loads of activity around the marina and up and down the canal.  Everyone is full of spirits and cameraderie, while proud narrow boat owners are bringing their boats in to a resting place for the night.  Boat names are an art in themselves, while the colours of the boats’ painting are glorious and the flamboyance of the pots of flowering plants atop the boats is full of gaudy joy.  The air is suffused with the smells of hedgerow flowers interspersed with the smoke from charcoal burning in barbecues.

May Fly

Mayfly By Ripon Canal

After you pass one of the starting points at Ripon Race Course, you seem to be walking along a wide garden path.  On the opposite bank, cows come down to the water’s edge for an evening drink.  At Renton’s Bridge, I crossed to the other side to the sound of several joyous song thrushes with their evening choral mash-up.  Mayflies were flying around, bobbing up and down in a weird dance.  At Ox Close Lock, there were quite a few boats hunkered up for the evening, with several more including the Rivendell coming into the canal system off the River Ure.  I walked beyond the canal to a lone oak tree and rested for a while, looking at Newby Hall a short distance to the west and back towards the small hidden opening of Ripon Canal. 

Entrance To Ripon Canal from River Ure

Entrance To Ripon Canal from River Ure

I pondered on why so many people were on boats and in caravans, constantly moving around and why we all felt the need to escape rather than to enjoy the here and now of where we live.  I realised that it’s because we are so disconnected from reality and the natural world in the artificial edifice that mankind has built and calls “life”, so that we need to reconnect with the natural world, rediscover where north is and listen to the music of the nature.  It’s mankind’s fictional “life” that is wrong, and in the end irrelevant, and whenever people realise that deep down, they must rediscover reality for themselves, somewhere, somehow and they need to go on a journey, and that journey is personal and the solution is unique for each individual or family and is beautiful and right whatever the solution they arrive at for restoring their own inner harmony.