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Open Country
Sat  6.10 - 6.35am
Thurs 1.30 - 2.00pm (rpt)
Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
This week
Saturday 7 October 2006
Listen to this programme in full
This week Richard Uridge is on a canal boat making the sixty foot descent through the Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds and Liverpool canal.
The Bingley Five Rise Locks in West Yorkshire is a magnificent example of eighteenth century engineering. The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next.

Each lock takes around 80,000 gallons of water and on the journey down the same 80,000 gallons can be used to fill each lock in turn. On the reverse journey, however, all the locks must initially be full, causing the operation to use about 400,000 gallons.

For the same reason the upward climb is around 45 minutes whereas the downward journey takes just 25 minutes, about the duration of an Open Country programme!

Richard is on board a replica of a traditional commercial boat, owned by Alan Holden. From his teenage years, Alan worked on the canal boats and was captivated by the life. Now retired, he still spends most of the summer months on the waterways.

Coming along for the ride are canal historians Mike Clarke, the President of The Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society and George Sheeran of the Pennine and Yorkshire Studies Unit at the University of Bradford. The Five Rise locks took just three years to build, but the 127 miles of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal took over forty years. Originally intended for agricultural purposes, the canal was overtaken by the industrial revolution, so the limestone it carried instead of improving the soil served eventually to make lime mortar for the newly developed two storey buildings, as lime-wash to brighten the walls of the weaving sheds and finally to purify cast iron.

The Five Rise Locks are overseen by the lock-keeper, Barry Whitelock. He ensures the safety of boaters by careful operation of the intricate routine of opening and closing the sluices and the huge 7 ton lock gates themselves.

Les Barnett of the Bradford Urban Wildlife Group describes the thriving flora growing on the walls of the locks and Jonathan Hart-Woods, an ecologist with British Waterways explains how the Leeds and Liverpool Canal still remains a rare stronghold for our native white clawed crayfish.

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