You don’t have to be a Fred Dibnah or a Timothy West to appreciate the wonders of the North’s waterways, and one the greatest of these is surely the Bingley Five Rise Locks.
Claimed to be the most spectacular feature of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, the Five Rise is a lock staircase, where the locks open directly from one to another, taking the Leeds and Liverpool canal through a rise of 60 feet. Just a few hundred yards away is its little brother, a three-rise flight of 30 feet.
The locks opened in 1774, hailed as a major feat of engineering at the time, and were part of the stretch of canal between Skipton and Shipley. A crowd of 30,000 turned out to celebrate the opening.
The 127-mile Leeds and Liverpool Canal was built in fits and starts over 50 years as funds ran out, engineering difficulties cropped up and the demands of industry required several changes of route. It formed an important part of the development of industry in Lancashire and Yorkshire, but the coming of the railways and the growth of road transport led to a long slow decline in traffic and years of neglect in which many canals were closed and filled in.
In the last 50 years or so, however, the country’s canals have won a new lease of life for tourism and leisure and the Leeds and Liverpool is one of the finest.
At the Five Rise, boaters relish the challenge of negotiating their way through the five locks, a process that takes about 30 minutes if done with skill, and their progress will be watched by bystanders – known as ‘gongoozlers’ in canal terminology.
As one Bingley resident remarked:
“Watching a boat go up or down the locks is always a treat and an educational experience which dates back centuries. It shouldn’t be missed.”
While in Bingley, there’s plenty more to see and do, including St Ives Country Estate Country Park, 500 acres of parkland, open moor, wildflower meadows, and adventure playground, fishing pond, ducks to feed and a sculpture trail to explore.