Pennine Waterways News

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Horse-drawn to Huddersfield

Members of the Horseboating Society are going to re-create the past of the waterways in May when they take the horse-drawn narrowboat Maria across the Pennines from Ashton to Huddersfield and back.

In addition to the boat being towed all the way by horse, it will be legged through Standedge Tunnel in the traditional manner!

The boat sets off from the Ashton Canal on Thursday May 1st, through Stalybridge to Mossley. The following day it will continue along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Uppermill, where it will be on show during Saturday.

On Sunday the boat will ascend the Diggle lock flight to Standedge Tunnel, to co-incide with the Diggle Canal Festival, alongside the top lock, where there will be traditional rope skills demonstrated, games, stalls, etc. Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas will help the boat up the locks.

Ashton MP, David Heyes, a member of the Parliamentary Waterways Group, will help to leg the boat through Standedge Tunnel. Energetic members of the public will be able to join the boat horse on a guided walk "over the top", across the moors to Tunnel End, Marsden.

Standedge Tunnel is the UK's longest canal tunnel, at more than 3 miles. The legging will take around 3 hours and will be done by pairs of leggers taking turns. The tunnel was built without a towpath and "legging" was the traditional means of propelling boats through tunnels.

"Maria" will be on show at Tunnel End on Bank Holiday Monday. The boat will continue its horse-drawn journey to Slaithwaite on Tuesday and to Huddersfield on Wednesday.

The return from Huddersfield to Slaithwaite will be on Saturday 10th May. The boat will climb the Marsden lock flight on 13th May.

On Wednesday 14th May, "Maria" will return through Standedge Tunnel, this time as part of a normal convoy, before continuing to Uppermill. The following day the boat will carry on to Staybridge and Ashton.

"Maria" is the oldest surviving wooden narrow boat, built at Marple in 1854. The horse being used for this journey is Bilbo Baggins. "Maria" was previously legged through Standedge Tunnel in July 2006 - the first boat to have been legged through for around 60 years! [report here]

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