A NOVICE narrowboater’s month-long waterborne odyssey took him through some fantastic scenery.
But after 275 miles of waterways and around 120 locks, the state of Huddersfield Narrow Canal left him disgusted.
Bob Watson, 64, steered son Rob’s boat, The Geisha, from London to Slaithwaite.
But the rubbish-choked, silted up condition of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal between Ashton and the Standedge Tunnel at Marsden meant the home leg of his trip left a bad taste.
Retired Bob, of Slaithwaite , had never been on a narrowboat before but agreed to bring the boat home for Rob, who lives in Meltham.
Bob, accompanied on the journey by his sister Pat Watson, 66, said: “It was an enjoyable adventure with some near accidents and bumps and scrapes along the way.
“We saw some lovely scenery and met some nice people but the whole experience was soured by the stretch of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal from Ashton to Standedge.”
Bob’s journey took him from the boat’s moorings at Penton Hook Marina on the River Thames at Staines in West London to the canal network at Oxford, Coventry, Trent & Mersey, Macclesfield and Peak Forest.
But it was only the turn on the Huddersfield Narrow that left him shocked.
“The first thing we were met with was what can only be described as a slick,” said Bob.
“It was the full width of the canal and 50ft long. There was rubbish, cardboard, bottles, wood and general scum.
“You just had to go through it but there was no knowing what was underneath.”
Then on the second lock on that stretch the canal was so clogged with rubbish the gates wouldn’t seal and it took four attempts to navigate.
Where there should have been moorings for boats to be tied while lock gates were opened, Bob said they had “disintegrated”.
He added: “The sides of the canal were so silted up you couldn’t moor there anyway.
“The top speed on the canal is 4mph but you could only manage 1.5mph because the water was so low.”
At Diggle Rise, Bob spoke to some canal volunteers who told him they pulled three bin liners of rubbish from the water every day.
“It is an industrial area but I don’t know where all the rubbish comes from,” he said. “It’s a dumping ground.”
Once through the Standedge Tunnel into Yorkshire the canal runs clean again.
Bob wanted to highlight the state of the canal even though he’s no intention of going back on the water.
“I’ve done my bit,” he said. “I’ve never done anything like that before and I won’t be doing it again!”
The boat is now in Slaithwaite and will head to Aspley for a refit.
Rob bought it to live on while he was working in London.
A spokesman for the Canal and River Trust said: “We’re disappointed that Mr Watson didn’t enjoy his visit to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.
“We care deeply about our waterways and it upsets us when people find them in this condition.
“We recognise that the area is in need of some dredging and we are about to spend up to £250,000 doing just that.
“Ideally we’d love to do more but, as a charity with 2,000 miles of waterway to look after, we have to prioritise where we spend our money.
“Like Mr Watson we hate to see litter on our waterways and we do all we can to tackle the problem but we can’t do it alone.
“More and more people from local communities are helping to care for their waterways and volunteers have been helping us to clear all manner of rubbish and dumped items from the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.
“We always welcome more help and if anyone wants to get involved they should get in touch. And, of course, everyone can play a part by simply taking responsibility for their waste.”