Film ID:
YFA 1331



Visitor Tabs


This is a documentary about boats and barges on the River Aire, and those who use them.  The film was made by Vera Media Production as part of the Yorkshire Media Consortium project.  The documentary features interviews with many people connected with the river and its canals, from its source to Goole and on to the North Sea.

Title – Yorkshire from the Aire: from Malham to the sea

The film begins with views of the river Aire and its surroundings to the accompaniment of a song about the area.

Intertitle – A Yorkshire river and the people who live and work on it

Various people who have boats on the river Aire talk about their experiences on their boats and barges. Dr Tim Thom of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority talks about the river and the work they do, as there is an aerial view over Malham Cove.  He explains that they don’t know exactly where the river begins, and goes on to talk of the importance of the river for wildlife and that they are trying to take a more sustainable approach to the river’s upkeep.  He shows the river at various points along its course, showing the work of restoration they have done, such as controlling flooding.  The course of the river is followed from the air.

Intertitle – River Aire Leeds City Centre November 2000

The river is shown in Leeds very high during heavy rain while a flood warning is heard.

Intertitle – Aire and Calder Navigation 300th anniversary celebration November 2000.  Boats from up and down the river gather in Leeds.

Barges arrive, and one of the owners, Elaine Bowler, tells of why she likes being on the barge, and of how they haven’t been bothered by the floods.  The inside of her barge is shown, as she explains that she has on a boat everything that people have in a house.  She shows off the new diesel stove they have just had fitted.  Another boat owner, Alfred Dawson, skipper of the ‘Sirius’ and now retired, fitted out an old sand moving barge from York, and goes down to Goole in it at New Year.  Karen Forrest, Skipper of ‘Tiddler’, has been on her barge for ten years, and is on her own apart from her dog.  She explains that there are always odd jobs that need doing.  Ken Nelson of the Inland Waterways Association shows the small living quarters of a family that used to live on a working barge, accompanied by some old photographs of the family towing the barge with a horse.  He and his wife have now renovated the barge, all their own work.

Intertitle – River Aire St Aidan’s Open Cast Mine near Castleford

As we are shown a large crane digging at the mine, David Porter, Site Manager, talks about the work of the mine, which sends 3,000 tonnes of coal by barge.  Then David Sheppard, General Manager of the Canal Transport Dept of CPL Hargreaves, explains the movement of coal by barge to Ferrybridge Power Station, with the barges, now 35 years old, often run by families.  The barges are shown going through the hoppers.

Intertitle – Immingham Docks 6.30am

Captain Robert Mayman of the ‘The Spruce’, a barge carrier based in Rotterdam, explains how it picks up barges at smaller ports to be transferred across the sea.  Shipping Agent Edmund Athayde explains his job of liaising between the ship and the tugs.  The Spruce takes on water in order to lower to a level where it can take on the barges.  The crew of the ship are featured as Robert Mayman explains their nationality, with most of the crew being from the Philippines.   They both talk about women workers on some ships, especially from Germany and Russia.  Edmund Athayde explains what the cargo is for that day, and where it is going to, including rice to Goole, while Robert Mayman states that they will load 8 barges of British steel.  The mother ship takes it over to New Orleans where it goes onto the Mississippi, from where it can be transported thousands of miles up to Canada.

At Knostrop Lock, Leeds there is a sign for the Leeds Waterfront Heritage Trail.  Brain Eastwood, the supervisor of Thwaite Mills, gives an account of the history of the mill, with the help of old photographs.  Some of the supplies come from Cornwall, along the coast, and into Goole where it continued by barge to the mill. A flood caused a collapse leading to its closure in 1976.  It is now an industrial museum, and we see the old machinery still in action.  He explains the work of the museum with school children, providing them with an education on the canal system.  

Intertitle – 92 miles from its source the Aire ends at the Port of Goole.  The town was built in 1826 by the Aire and Calder Navigation

Various historic artefacts are on display at the Waterways Museum where the Museum Archivist Loveday Herridge explains the work of the museum with school parties as part of the ‘Sobriety’ project.  The history of the project is given by the Director of the Waterways Museum and Adventure centre, Bob Watson.  He says that it started when they were given the large Humberside barge Sobriety in 1973.  He then goes on to talk about the tug Wheldale, which used to pull around 20 ‘tom puddings’ filled with coal.  It has been revamped by students from local prisons.  

Intertitle – The Sobriety Project runs various boat handling courses.  This one is called waterways to work for women.

As women pull a barge to the side of a canal, Claire Porter, a boat skills student, explains that the course takes 300 hours for the certificate after which one can do the boat masters.  They had just travelled form Castleford to Goole by Barge, taking five hours.  Another student, Alison Edwards, gives her reasons for being on the course.  The tutor, Carol Booth, talks about her job, which she started past the age of fifty, as their barge makes its way past Goole docks.  Another student, Joan Stewart, is on the course because she owns a boat and wants to learn all aspects of having a boat.  Carol Booth explains what the course can lead to.

Ken Nelson gives the economic and environment arguments for moving goods by canal.  The film finishes showing more views of the river as it makes its way out into the North Sea.

Thanks to:
British Waterways
Inland Waterways Association
Associated British Ports Grimsby and Immingham
Mike Clark, Canal and Industrial Historian
CPL Hargreaves Ltd
Eddison Mission Energy Ltd Ferrybridge
Herfurth Shipping
Sophie Howarth
Humber pilots Ltd
Immage 2000 Studios
Patricia and Lewis Jorgenson, LMS Manning Manila
LMS Ship Management
Roger Kojan, Wakefield MDC development Dept.
Leeds Museums and Galleries
Kevin Lycett, Musician and Artist
RJB Mining
Dr Tom Steele, Glasgow University
Thwaite Mills Museum, Leeds City Council Leisure Services
Voyager Production
The Waterways Museum and Adventure Centre, Goole
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority
Picture Researcher/Runner – Sharon Hooper
Production Office Co-ordinator, Jill Leahy
Camera – Jan Wells, Shahin Afnan
Aerial Camera – John Trevitt, Peter Conner
Editor – Martin Belderson
Music Big river performed by Rico bell and the Snake Handlers   ©Eric Bellis 1998 ASCAP
Directed and Produced by Al Garthwaite and Catherine Mitchell
Yorkshire from the Aire is part of the A4 Contemporary Video Collection
A Vera Media Production
© 2000 Vera Media