BRITAIN’S oldest wooden narrowboat sets sail on horse-drawn journeys along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal this spring.
Horseboating Maria, built in 1854, will make the journey from Guide Bridge on the Ashton Canal and then along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Huddersfield and back.
It is a return journey of a total of 45 miles, 148 lock passages, ‘legging’ through small tunnels and passing through Britain’s longest, deepest and darkest canal tunnel, the three-and-a-quarter-mile long Standedge Tunnel, at Marsden.
The traditional art of ‘legging’ boats through Standedge Tunnel will be featured at two one-day events organised by The Horseboating Society.
On Sunday April 25 a canal boat will travel from Diggle to Tunnel End, Marsden, starting at 1pm, arriving at The Standedge Centre, Marsden, between 3.30 and 4pm. There will also be a guided walk for the public with the boathorse over the tunnel top, from 2pm to 4pm.
At 10.30am Horseboat Maria will be at Brownhill Countryside Centre, Dobcross, where visitors can see the horse-drawn boat work up through the Diggle flight of locks
At 1pm a four-mile guided walk, starting at the Diggle portal of Standedge Tunnel and following the boathorse along Boat Lane, over Standedge, to Tunnel End, while the boat is legged through Standedge Tunnel.
There will also be four mile ‘Storytelling Walk’ starting opposite the Railway pub in Marsden, and joining a walk to the Standedge Visitor Centre at Tunnel End, hearing tales as they go about the tunnel and dragons and others.
At 2pm there will be maypole and morris dancing by the Thieving Magpies and family activities with a St George and the Dragon theme.
At 3pm there will be a spectacular display of fire-spinning and fire-breathing and then, around 3.30pm, comes the arrival of the Dragon Boat – complete with two barrels of beer!
Visitors can go along and cheer on St.George and boo the bad, bad dragon. Can St George slay the dragon to rescue all the villagers?
So just what was actually happening at Standedge in 1810, some 200 years ago?
Boats had no tunnel yet to use, so their cargoes were unloaded, and packhorses and wagon horses took the loads overland, right over the top of Standedge, over the Pennine ridge. Below these horses at work, the tunnel was still being dug out, being worked from several shafts simultaneously.
Then, in December 1810, the first canal boat went through.
What’s happening on May 3 2010?
The Horseboating Society is making its annual return journey on the Huddersfield Narrow, ‘legging’ Standedge Tunnel. That is exciting enough, but take note.
On Monday May 3, starting at 11am, the tradition of parading a working horse on the May Day Holiday will be followed. After a long Pennine winter, the horse will nearly be in its sleek summer coat.
At Tunnel End, visitors will be able to see how a horse was worked as a packhorse, wagon horse, or boat horse before the tunnel opened for use in 1811.
A four-mile guided walk will follow the boathorse over Standedge, to Diggle, then the boat will be horse-drawn to Uppermill starting at Tunnel End, at 1pm ‘legging’ through the tunnel and arriving at Diggle between 3.30 and 4pm.
Horseboat Maria will be on display, moored at Tunnel End, Marsden. On Monday April 26 she will travel from Tunnel End, to Booth, West Slaithwaite. On Tuesday April 27 from West Slaithwaite to Slaithwaite, on Wednesday April 28 from Slaithwaite to Huddersfield, on Thursday April 29 from Huddersfield to West Slaithwaite and then, on Friday April 30, from West Slaithwaite back to Tunnel End where Maria will be moored on Saturday and Sunday May 1 and 2.
The Horseboating Society itinerary for 2010 also includes events on Thursday April 22 – a journey from Guide Bridge to Lock 8w, Heyrod, Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Friday April 24 – a journey from Lock 8w Heyrod to Lock 21w Uppermill, and a Saddleworth Museum (non-boating) visit on Saturday April 24.
On Tuesday May 4 and Thursday May 6 there are sailings from Uppermill to Guide Bridge on the Ashton Canal.
New Horseboating Society members and crew are always welcome. Horseboating training is provided on journeys and on occasional training days.
Crew and ‘leggers’ are always needed and are welcomed by the society.
CONTACT: For further information go on line to: www.horseboating.org.uk or email Sue Day at email@example.com or call 01457-834863, 07711-121-056