Consulting With The Tunnel. 4th October

Murrys Winding Hole to opposite Tescos………

Two years ago we crossed the Pennines from east to west via the Rochdale Canal with Clare and Graeme on NB Mr Blue Sky. Last year we crossed via the Leeds Liverpool visiting friends and family in Skipton and Leeds. Earlier this year we dodged the hills by taking the route south via the River Trent. There is one other route which we have only done once before, six years ago, the Huddersfield Narrow and Broad Canals.

Snake bridge

Recently all routes have had their problems. Lock floors, stuck boats, lack of water etc etc. The Huddersfield Narrow has problems with water levels towards Huddersfield on a good year, but this year those problems have been greater. Then over the last month the bottom end of the Huddersfield Broad Canal has been found to be empty on several occasions.

And another

The C&RT stoppage notices that come from this area are far more informative than you normally get, they explain what has happened and what measures are being taken to rectify the situation. However what we wanted to know was, was the situation going to improve or would Oleanna be stuck in Huddersfield all winter if we went that way.

I think we’re going to see a lot of the chap on the right

The amount of work needed to reach the summit, the tunnel passage and then working down the other side is more for those who like a challenge than those who prefer a life on the flat with a glass of wine in hand. Before we committed to this route we wanted to talk to someone on the ground with local knowledge. For the last week Mick has been trying to call Standedge Tunnel Control to speak to someone, but with no luck. Today however was different he got through.

This year the canal has suffered more from the lack of water as one of the reservoirs has been drawn down for inspection and maintenance (several others on the system have also been lowered). But the rain we are having has been doing a good job of filling the canal up. The chap sounded positive, which is what we wanted to hear. Decision made before we’d even got out of bed this morning. Huddersfield Narrow it is!

We’ll be going right please!

About a month ago we’d booked our passage through Standedge Tunnel and our cruising has been planned for us to reach Diggle portal the day before. We have also booked a ranger to assist for a day on our descent from Marsden, then you also have to book for Lock 1E to be unlocked to let you out the bottom and into Huddersfield.

Time to get moving!

A boat came past, possibly the boat that had followed us down Marple yesterday, at speed. They then met a Black Prince hire boat at the next bridge, we just waited for both boats to pass before untying. The Black Prince boat might just arrive in time to start the flight before midday.

They’ll need warp drive to reach the locks in time!

Soon after pushing off ourselves we were approaching a big bend when the bow of another Black Prince boat came charging round it. Thankfully it seemed that the person at the helm had some experience as we narrowly avoided a collision. If they could keep their speed up we reckoned they would miss the locks by about ten minutes! Not good if you are trying to the Cheshire ring in a week!

We pootled along at a reasonable speed through the long winding wooded valley. A chap was blowing leaves off his astro turf. Maybe it’s best to keep on top of such things, but what a never ending job!


Under the M67. Was this the face of a local graffiti artist on the wall here? Was this going to be the local ‘Ghost’? It was, we were to see plenty more pupilless faces today.

We caught the boat ahead of us up at Duckingfield Lift Bridge. Here you need an anti-vandal key, or handcuff key to get the lock off the mechanism and they hadn’t got one. The chap was tinkering with the lock as the lady knocked on a boat to see if they could help. We pulled in for me to hop off just as they got the lock unlocked. At least it saved me doing all the winding, but I did make sure it was locked back up once it was down again.

Mick asked them which way they were going. ‘To Ancotes’ was the reply. He pointed out that they would need a handcuff key for the locks. But the lady said they wouldn’t be doing the locks today. They’d still need a handcuff key no matter what day they were doing them.

Dukinfield Junction

They turned left at the junction, we turned right onto new waters for Oleanna and Tilly. Under the Asda Tunnel and out passing moored boats and three flying ducks.

Then on towards Bridge 111, the first of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, just below 1W Ashton Lock, the first lock of the canal.

Broken even with the price tag still on it!

Now six years ago we’d just bought ourselves a long reach aluminium windlass. I was nursing my lack of little finger so was at the helm, off went Mick to set the lock. He soon returned with the brand new windlass in two pieces! The advantage of the longer reach no longer available he struggled with a standard windlass. A while later we replaced the broken aluminium windlass with a long reach one made from steel, now my best friend.

Lock 1W finally open!

Today it would be me working the locks and 1W made itself known quickly. The lock was full so I went to empty it. The towpath side paddle being extremely stiff took some work. A couple of clicks, then adjusting the position of the windlass to give me more umph! Eventually it raised. I then tried the off side, this just slipped every half turn, so I left it closed. The gates were stubborn too, one side with a cranked beam. If this was to be the case at every lock we were going to be working hard for the next few days!

Plantation and Tame Lock were much easier. Hills just in view ahead and old mills alongside the canal.

River Tame

The River Tame aqueduct took me by surprise, I nearly had to do a Giles as I’m not too keen on having nothing on one side of the boat!

Now we cruised through overgrownness on both sides approaching Stalybridge. Railings and lamp posts hide in amongst the sideways trees. At one time someone thought the canal would be a popular place to walk, it is but only on one side, the other left to grow over and collect rubbish.

Salt shaker vent

The canal was built over 17 years, originally opening in 1811 Standedge Tunnel being the last stretch to open. For a while the canal was profitable being a shorter route connecting Manchester to Leeds than the Rochdale, but bottlenecks were created at the tunnel where it took four hours to leg a boat through! In 1845 the canal was bought by the Huddersfield and Manchester Railway Company who’s route was to follow the canal up the Tame and Colne Valleys. Standedge Tunnel was used to remove the spoil when they built the railway tunnel. Once the railway was open there was no need for the canal which fell into decline and ended up closing in 1944.

In 1974 the Huddersfield Canal Society was formed with the aim of re-opening the canal. Whole sections of the cut had been filled in, built over and several bridges had been removed. Volunteers with the support of local councils worked hard and by the 1990’s all sections that had not been filled in were restored. The Huddersfield Canal Company was set up to co-ordinate the reopening of the remaining sections, one of them being a half mile through Stalybridge which had been filled in and partly built over. But in May 2001 the canal was reopened. Plenty photos of the building work here.

4W mossy but new

Lock 4W is more or less where the major works in Stalybridge started. A whole new lock was built with it’s approach under a road. I’d remembered this and the railings which meant dropping crew off to work the lock had to be done at the start of the tunnel/bridge.

The bottom gates were problematical to close. In fact after pushing and bumping the gates there was still a six inch gap between them. We tried adding water pressure to the equation, but all that was going to do was deplete the pound above. The paddles were closed, gates reopened, Mick tried prodding around with a boat hook but the water was too deep. The gates closed a touch better and water pressure did the rest of the job for us, up the 11ft 1″ Oleanna rose, the pound above looking a bit short on water.

Looking back to 4W

I walked ahead and dropped the water from 5W which aided our need to get over the cill. Mick decided to leave the ground paddles open until Oleanna was safely across the cill, this would help water move around her should I have needed to let more water down. Once clear of the gate he then dropped the paddles. As on quite a few of the Huddersfield Canal Locks both ground paddle mechanisms are on the same side as the gate beam, handy as there are no walkways over the top gates.

Stalybridge Civic Hall and hills

We had a similar problem at 5W with the gates closing. An extra nudge and water help again. Now we could see the Civic Hall and the hills behind as we made our way through the new cut to 6W.

Nice trees, a shame about the weeds

Up at lock level there is masses of paving everywhere, a municipal feel to the town centre, all revamped when the canal came back through town. Once exciting I’m sure, but now it feels just a touch soulless. An art installation sits near the lock, Holy Trinity and Christ Church a little behind it. Then once up through Lock 6W Tescos takes over, car park on both sides of the canal. We pulled in where another boat was moored right opposite the checkouts. The chap on NB Texas Star had a very pretty dog and he was trying his best to get a coat of paint on the back of his cabin just as it started to really rain.

Two paddles and Tescos ahead

After a late lunch we put together a big shopping list, enough supplies to get us into Yorkshire. This must be the closest we’ve ever moored to somewhere you can leave your trolley and get your £ coin back. The only problem is the railings between the car park and boat. I passed the shopping through and Mick popped them on the boat. It was then either a walk round for me or a scramble through the railings.

Look what they’ve just bought!

This afternoon we’ve had the following through from C&RT

Huddersfield Narrow Canal – Water management information
Starts At: Lock 1 East, Stanley Dawson Lock
Ends At: Standedge Tunnel

Monday 4 October 2021 14:30 until further notice

With the support of the EA, during the 2021 boating season we installed a temporary river pump at Britannia bridge, in Milnsbridge, abstracting water from the River Colne into the Huddersfield Narrow canal to aid continued navigation on the canal. We have unfortunately been unsuccessful in gaining an extension on this abstraction from the EA which we had hoped would continue until the end of the 2021 boating season, so as of 30th Sept 2021 we have ceased abstraction for this year.

The canal is currently looking healthy and we are relying on supply from our reservoirs, natural feeds and of course wet weather to maintain water supply, with the recent rainfall proving beneficial. The local team will continue to do their best to manage water levels in order to support safe navigation and if we are faced with the need to implement restrictions or closures, we will update the notice accordingly.

At least the rain is doing some good to the east of the Pennines, here it has stopped us from heading out for an explore, instead we stayed by the stove keeping dry and warm. Outside it was someone’s birthday, maybe they were having a car park party! Thankfully they quietened down after a while leaving us with the car park lights and the very raucous Canada Geese!

Today we have learnt something that we’ll never forget. Did you know that a Moorhens skin type is fur ?! No we didn’t either until we were checking what juvenile Moorhens looked like. Check this link if you don’t believe me!

6 locks, 61ft 3″ climbed, 5.89 miles, 1 lift bridge, 1 boat held up, 1 right, 2 canals, 1 Asda tunnel, 6 furry Moorhens, 1 pretty woofer, 6437 giant spiders, 1 car park mooring, 1 box, 2 bottles wine, 1 trolley almost to the boat, 1 very damp evening, 0 shore leave.

So our route today

Murrys Winding Hole to opposite Tescos, Stalybumbridge, Huddersfield Narrow Canal

One thought on “Consulting With The Tunnel. 4th October

  1. Jo Edwards

    We did the Huddersfield Narrow from the other direction in 2012. It is the hardest canal we’ve ever worked, much of it caused by the high frequency of locks and the low/no water situation in the pounds. Both meant that on many occasions it was almost impossible to get on and off the boat so I walked between many of the locks. HOWEVER. It remains the high point of our 20 years on the boat, admittedly mainly on canals and not rivers, and Standedge Tunnel is something else. Enjoy. We did. Jo ex n/b Sarah Kate

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