The five best… things I tried this week

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Bingley five-rise locks

Bingley five-rise locks

British skyr: Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt-type dairy product which has recently hit our supermarket shelves. I first tasted it at a breakfast buffet in Iceland in 1990, and went back for more every morning. It’s like yogurt but has a higher protein content. This morning I ate Hesper Farm skyr – Britain’s first home-produced skyr: creamy, thick and tangy. I bought it from Town End farm shop, when we stopped off on a bike ride from Malham Cove to Gargrave.

Straw Poll beer: Brewed by Thwaites, this is a light ale with a very subtle hint of strawberry – nothing like traditional Belgian fruit beers (which I’m also very fond of). Supped after a long walk at a hillside pub in Foulridge, Lancashire it was very refreshing.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal: I’ve been narrowboating before but not on this canal. The stretch we covered included the above-mentioned Gargrave, five miles from the magically stunning Malham Cove, the impressive staircase of five locks at Bingley, Salts Mill gallery at Saltaire, Skipton Castle, Bolton Abbey.

Digital detox: Not my choice! However, the twisting, turning canal, sometimes high in the hills, sometimes sunk in the valleys, meant an elusive mobile phone signal, affecting our 3G, 4G and thus internet access. Very, very frustrating but in the end, very relaxing.

Memory foam bike saddle: I’ve been using the saddle that came with my bike, but storing my bike outdoors over the winter has caused deterioration. Then I was offered the chance to try the Selle Royal Classic Freeway Fit Foam saddle, £29.99 from Halfords. Initially mounting up near home I thought it felt harder and less squishy than I would have imagined. However, last week, on gravelly towpaths, rutted dirt tracks and potholed country roads, it’s proved its worth. Its solid malleability offers sound shockproofing against the cycling surface, and now I don’t want to ride on anything else!

See my five best… pubs on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

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The five best… pubs on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

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Leeds & Liverpool Canal milepost

Leeds & Liverpool Canal milepost

Having just spent a fortnight narrowboating on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, I’ve found a few favourites along the way. Here they are, in no order whatsoever.

Beer Engine, Skipton
Open just over a year, this one-room micropub is simply but comfortably furnished, with custom-built cask racks behind the bar from which you can see the beer flowing along the pipes. It won CAMRA Pub of the Season and had a party to celebrate, which we were invited to, but missed due to an appointment with some locks. A warm welcome and a friendly clientele. And newspapers to read.

 

Narrow Boat, Skipton
Just around the corner from the Beer Engine. Set on a narrow cobbled street, leading to the canal basin, it has a pillared overhang outside, and a wooden interior, with canal-style decorations with a gallery upstairs. Lots of draught beer, Belgian fruit beers, and the sound of folk singing coming from upstairs.
Find out more: www.markettowntaverns.co.uk/the-narrow-boat

Mason’s Arms, Gargrave
There are oak beams and an open fire are inside this solid stone-built pub near the river Aire, apparently. I saw none of that as it was so hot I sat at a table outside across the road by a dry stone wall. Lovely pint of local cider and a fantastic lunch featuring a veggie chilli-filled Yorkshire pudding and a very imaginative selection of veg including purple mange-tout.
Find out more: www.masonsarmsgargrave.co.uk

Anchor Inn, Salterforth
Sometimes a warm, dry pub seems like heaven after a long, rainy day on the tiller or working the locks. The white-painted canalside Anchor appeared at the perfect time, and, even better, was serving dinner. And better still, something to suit a fussy vegetarian! The pub dates back to 1655 and is built partially underground – the cellar has impressive stalactites. And after dinner, just a 50-yard stroll back to where the boat was moored.
Find out more: www.facebook.com/anchorinn.salterforth

Green Chimney, Colne
Bare, painted brickwork, exposed-filament lights – and a bright green painted chimney in the middle of this café/bar/restaurant. Local food, local ales and live music. We ate well and although the halloumi on my chickpea burger was oddly tasteless, the best sweet potato chips I’ve ever had: crispy, not soggy. Bloody long way from the canal, though!
Find out more: twitter.com/thegreenchimney