Saturday, 10 November 2018

Pocklington Canal

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Route: Eastfield Farm, Crossfield Farm, Coat's Bridge, White Carr, Sandhill Lock, Wilberforce Way, Giles Lock, Silburn Lock, Canal Head, Devonshire Mill, Pocklington

Date: 10/11/2018
From: Eastfield Farm

Parking: N/A
Start Point: Eastfield Farm
Region: Yorkshire
Route length: 4.0 miles (6.4 km)
Time taken: 02:00
Average speed: 2.0 mph

Other points of interest: Coat's Lock, Canal Head

In the absence of any serious walking recently, here's a short walk we did along a stretch of the Pocklington Canal while staying nearby. The morning weather was superb, preceding a grey and drizzly afternoon.

Though now disused for commercial traffic, Pocklington Canal is one of the most important canals for wildlife in the country. Abandoned in the 1930s, the canal was saved by the work of energetic local volunteers and campaigners and is now home to three Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

The canal is just under 10 miles long, linking the town of Pocklington to the River Derwent. The lower half from the Derwent to Melbourne has been completely restored to a navigable state. We would be exploring the upper half between Thornton and Pocklington.
The farm roads of East Yotkshire
Farm fields south of Pocklington
We joined the canal at Coat's Lock, having walked down the country lanes from Eastfield Farm. The road crosses the canal at Coat's bridge. The towpath along the length of the canal is designated as a bridleway so don't be surprised to see horses joining you for your walk!
Coat's Lock
Coat's Bridge
The canal was one of the last to be built in the UK, and was promoted by prosperous local farmers who sought more effective means of transporting their goods to the fast-growing towns of West Yorkshire. Its Act was passed in 1815, and it was completed in 1819 at a cost of £32,695.
Pocklington Canal
Farmland alongside the canal
Autumn berries
In 1848, the canal was sold to the York and North Midland Railway and, like many English canals in railway ownership, deteriorated through lack of maintenance. Subsequently, the canal gradually fell into disuse and the last commercial craft to use the canal was the keel Ebenezer, in 1932.
Pocklington Canal
A glider and tug from the local airfield
We continued on towards to Pocklington, moving into the more overgrown sections of the canal between Sandhill Lock and Silburn Lock. The volunteers aiming to restore the canal are currently raising funds to refurbish Sandhill Lock which looks like it needs some considerable work.
The canal tow path
Sandhill Lock
Pocklington Canal
Silburn Lock
Pocklington Canal
The canal sweeps around a couple of bends, eventually reaching Canal Head where it comes to an abrupt end.
Canal Head
Canal Head is a curiosity of the canal. It was too expensive to build a crossing of the Roman York Road (now the A1079) as it would have required a further five locks. When the canal was in use, coal and building materials were unloaded at Canal Head to continue their journey to Pocklington by horse and cart.
Willow sculpture
Willow tree at Canal Head
Boats turned in the basin and made their return journey to industrial west Yorkshire carrying agricultural produce. Prior to 1969, Canal Head was just overgrown waste ground used as a dump for mud from the canal, which was dredged sufficiently to allow it to continue its drainage function. Visitors were not welcome and there was a sign saying 'No public right of way'. This sign soon disappeared and Canal Head was cleared and landscaped, mainly thanks to volunteers.
Canal Head
On the night of 26th / 27th November 1943 the crew of Lancaster ED939 took off from Skellingthorpe airfield at 17.08hrs to undertake an operational flight to bomb Berlin. On their return to the UK thick fog over Lincolnshire effected visibility and were instructed to divert north to land in Yorkshire following a few crashes to aircraft around midnight in Lincolnshire.

The visibility over Yorkshire was not much better and a number of Lancasters would crash before they could land including at least three from 50 Squadron. The crew of Lancaster ED393 were diverted to land at Melbourne and then re-diverted to Pocklington and while flying in their landing circuit the aircraft lost height and crashed at Canal Head, Pocklington. The crash destroyed the Canal Head public house and also a number of cottages on Ramsdale Terrace. Five of the crew were killed and also two civilians but remarkably two of the crew survived. A memorial bench was sited near the crash site in more recent years but in 2014 a much more impressive memorial stone and plaque was erected through the efforts of local men Chris Brown and Charlie Ross. The latter had witnessed the crash seventy years earlier.
Memorial to the crew of Lancaster ED393
The large house adjacent to the Canal Head basin was originally a warehouse and one of the few buildings associated with the canal. It was in poor condition and required extensive renovation when converted for residential use. It is named the Mill House because there was once a sawmill adjacent to the warehouse.
Mill House
From Canal Head, the path crosses Yorks Road and continues on past Devonshire Mill. The mill was used for grinding flour and is one of few surviving in East Yorkshire. Much of the original mechanism including the water wheel, jack wheel and grindstones still survive.
Fields near Clark's Spring
Pocklington School
We reached the town in perfect time for dinner. By the time we finished, it had clouded over, leaving us to retrace our steps in the drizzly rain. It was certainly a day of two halves but an enjoyable one at that.

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