It’s amazing how easy it is to relax once you slow down your pace of life. My life’s one of constantly having to meet deadlines, so it was a real change for me last weekend as I took a barge trip along the Leeds-Liverpool canal between Skipton and Kildwick. The pace here hasn’t changed much in the 235 years since this, the oldest stretch of the waterway was opened. Back in the 1770s horses pulled barges of limestone from the quarries as far as Bingley; today it’s mainly pleasurecraft limited to four mph – although with all the stops for gate opening you rarely average such dizzt heights. Those rushing by on the accompanying A629 up to the Lakes and Dales are missing out on some good countryside and wildlife in this part of the Aire Valley. One downside of the trip was spotting a mink scurrying by the canal bank. It is bad news for the rest of the wildlife in these parts as this offcumden is a real threat to the balance of nature wherever they turn up. As well as fish, they take young ducks, rabbits, voles and even climb trees to rob nests – certainly an unwelcome guest.