Pennine Explorer Cruise – Final Day & Night

Saturday 1st July 2017

South Pennine Boat Club (SPBC) and Calder Navigation Society (CNS) hosted a rousing last night of the Explorer cruise in the excellent club facilities at Battyeford.

Even the sun came out as CNS lock-wheelers helped 9 boats down the Huddersfield Broad into the Calder & Hebble. Christine and Chris brought their 59 foot long narrowboat Ketura through the 1776-built locks without a hitch. The 150-year old Locomotive Bridge was hosted and dropped 9 times as the convoy left Huddersfield. By early afternoon all the boats were found moorings in the well-appointed marina taking the places of boats which were cruising elsewhere on the network. SPBC catering team supplied tea and scones as crews relaxed in the pleasant surroundings.

By 7pm around 70 had gathered for the final evening. Guest boaters and some of the Huddersfield Canal Society helpers joined SPBC and CNS members for an evening to remember. The three crews whose boats exceeded the dimensions of the Broad all made their way by car or bus to join in the fun. CNS provided a complimentary pie and pea supper and a fine range of desserts courtesy of Avril Davies and her team. SPBC operated their splendid new bar. The real ale, wine and soft drinks flowed. Peter Davies welcomed guests and club members resplendent in shirt jacket and tie, almost unrecognisable from the waterproofed biking lock-wheeler of Wednesday. Richard Stead gave and informative potted history of the Calder & Hebble navigation including images of the 2015 flood damage and an insight into the unique C&H hand-spike. The raffle helped defray some of the costs and the prizes were happily shared between hosts and guests. Frank Auffret warmed up the audience with a ditty or two ably assisted by the SPBC male voice choir and the excellent Kirkpatrick trio provided live music to listen and dance to.

It was an opportunity to thank all who have been involved in the cruise – the boaters for coming, the canal society (HCS and CNS) and boat club (Tudor Cruising and South Pennine) volunteers for helping with the passage and final night mooring respectively, all those organising and hosting evening events, Canal & River Trust staff and volunteers for ensuring that no challenge was left unresolved.

Was the cruise a success? By common consent it was. Hard at times when the weather was at its worst but all will take home happy memories of their Pennine transit. Some will retrace their steps (or should I say Locks) in the coming days. Most will carry on their adventure via the Rochdale, Leeds & Liverpool or River Trent. We wish them safe and enjoyable cruising. Will it ever be repeated? Who knows? It has certainly demonstrated the resilience of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. When was the last time 12 boats made the same passage on the same day in the same direction? If it has ever been done before it will be in the early 19th century. It is doubtful whether 12 boats have ever started from the same pound and moored in the same pound. It required careful water management each evening and morning particularly at Milnsbridge.

Pat Stow of Diligent Too summed it up: ‘It’s been a fantastic experience’.


Pennine Explorer narrowboats mingle with club members’ boats at Battyeford.


Assembled guests and hosts listen to Richard Stead’s presentation.


Guest and host boaters emulate the ‘Tiller Girls’

Alan Stopher
Chair Huddersfield Canal Society – tired, happy and getting back to ‘normal’

(All photos: Alan Stopher)

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Pennine Explorer Cruise – Huddersfield Reached

Friday 30th June 2017

8 locks down to Huddersfield sounds easy but it needed careful water management because 12 boats don’t normally do it in quick succession. Excellent support from Canal and River Trust staff (Will and Colin) supported by Canal Society volunteers (Dave and Diane, Paul and Keith) at the locks meant that all 12 boats arrived at the Huddersfield University moorings by 2.30pm.

The University site full of boats was reminiscent of the rallies which the Canal Society held around 20 years ago to raise awareness of the restoration potential. In the evening we assembled in Heritage Quay – the splendid new University Archive centre – to award the plaques to all the boaters who had crossed the Pennines.

Jack Kershaw on behalf of the boaters thanked all involved for the organisation of the cruise and signalled out particularly people for a special mention. They know who they are.

Afterwards Alan Stopher, Chair of the Society conducted a walk around Huddersfield Town Centre to show our visitors fine buildings, sites of historic significance and what makes Huddersfield the town it is. We paused to read the plaque on the façade of the original George Hotel where the Huddersfield Canal Company had been formed in 1793. The building had been sited at the Market Place but the Georgian façade had been taken down and reconstructed in St Peters Street to make way for the new thoroughfare of John William Street and New Street. After taking in St George’s Square, surely the finest urban square in the north of England, we retired to the Sportsman pub to slake our thirst.

The cruise through the Huddersfield Narrow’s 74 locks is over but with many happy memories. Tomorrow (Saturday),  9 boats head down the Huddersfield Broad to Battyeford …….

Camarilla heads into Bates Tunnel on the final leg to the University moorings

Pennine Explorers mingle with residential boats within Huddersfield University campus

Kim from NB One for the Vine ‘unveils’ the Huddersfield Narrow Canal plaque on the façade of the original George Hotel to the acclaim of her fellow Explorer cruise members

(All photos:  Alan Stopher)

Pennine Explorer Cruise – Slaithwaite to Milnsbridge

Thursday 29th June 2017

The drizzle got a little heavier around mid-day but despite this it was a better day for weather as 12 boats slipped gently down the 13 locks to Milnsbridge Basin. ‘The boat with no name’ which had been shadowing the 12 to Slaithwaite joined the main Pennine Explorer cruise as Troubadour was due to lay over for a few days. Water levels were still high over the weirs which meant that some had to be drained off by CRT when we reached Milnsbridge bringing an extra 12 lockfuls. Thanks are due to Paul and Lesley (HCS boat crew), friend Jean, and Mike and Alan from Calder Navigation Society who put in a good shift helping with locks. Also thanks to Will, Colin and Richard from CRT who kept the water managed through the day. ‘We’ve had far more help than we ever envisaged on this trip’, said Glenys Kershaw of NB Camarilla.

Keith Sykes arranged a special evening visit to the Colne Valley Museum at Golcar which involved a short bus journey. 5 volunteers welcomed us, and in showing us around, explained about life in a weaver’s cottage in 1845, and how spinning and weaving was done before the factory era. We were also shown the clog-makers workshop. A pleasant evening was rounded off with tea and biscuits in their well-appointed café. We’re grateful for the enthusiasm of the museum volunteers and the time they made available.

Paul from the Canal Society gets started on Lock 22E with the weather looking none too promising. Pomona’s dog is unimpressed too.

Lock-wheelers Jean (left) and Lesley (right) are ready for anything as they start to work Lock 21E at Slaithwaite.

Jack struggles to hear anything on his mobile whilst in Lock 15E at Linthwaite, as CRT’s Will checks on water levels.

Bream descends Lock 15E with the magnificent Titanic Mill behind.

A Colne Valley Museum volunteer shows how a Hargreaves Spinning Jenny works.

Part of the 12 boat flotilla moored at Milnsbridge.

Huddersfield beckons …

(All photos:  Alan Stopher)

Pennine Explorer Cruise – Slaithwaite in the Rain

Wednesday 28th June 2017

Wall to wall water didn’t stop the 12 boats descending the locks to Slaithwaite today and judging by the evening gathering at the Swan pub it didn’t dampen their spirits.

‘Too much water’ on the Huddersfield Narrow was the surprise verdict as boaters gathered for an evening of song and dance after a day of non-stop rain. David at the Swan had put out the bunting to welcome us, Thieving Magpies and Slubbing Billy morris sides entertained us outside, and Enoch’s Hammer folk group continued the musical entertainment in the cosy lounge for the rest of the evening. The cruise’s own bard, Ray Butler from Owl recited a number of verses on canal themes, many learnt during his time on the legendary BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations to the uninitiated) and a good time was had by all. Thanks go to all the musicians and dancers, the landlord and his staff and not to forget, Ali, Peter, Graham, Eric,  Jean and Martin who helped on the 21 locks down from the summit.

Slaithwaite moorings full up

Thieving Magpies defy the weather

Some of the Pennine Explorers assemble in the Swan together with Peter and Tricia in the corner from HCS

Enoch’s Hammer go through their repertoire – note the PE notice board!

Ray Butler declaims his lines

Tomorrow we run down to Milnsbridge….

All Photos – Alan Stopher

Pennine Explorer Cruise – The Tunnel’s End

Tuesday 27th June 2017

All 12 boats safely made their way through on a record breaking day for the restored Huddersfield Narrow Canal. It must be well over a hundred years since so many narrow boats traversed the longest highest and deepest canal tunnel to emerge at Marsden and occupy the basin at the eastern portal.

Well done to all the CRT staff and volunteers who helped ensure a safe and informative passage for our intrepid boaters. ‘It’s been a fantastic day’ was the verdict as the crews tucked into barbecued sausages and burgers and a cask of beer from Empire Brewing at the put-up food stall beside Tunnel End Cottages. Particularly appreciated was the help given by the chaperones who guided the steerers through the darkness during the 3 and a quarter mile tunnel passage and pointed out some of the historic features.

The wonder of Standedge Tunnel (Photo: Nathan Reynolds)

The last boat through emerges a little before 6pm as Steve Wood brings his boat, Bream,  through the tunnel portal.

10 of the 12 boats are crammed into the water space in front of Tunnel End Cottages.

A joke shared between (L to R) Nicky Owen (Nb One for the Vine), Jack and Glenys Kershaw (Nb Camarilla), Trevor Ellis (HCS Deputy Chairman and Volunteer Tunnel Chaperone) and David Baldacchino (CRT Waterways Manager)

Tomorrow it’s down the Colne Valley to Slaithwaite and an evening of Folk Music and Morris Dancing…..

All other photos: Alan Stopher

Pennine Explorer Cruise – Climbing to Diggle

Monday 19th June 2017

18 locks, 13 boats and the summit reached by all.  The ‘Everest’ of canal pounds  – 645 feet above sea level and the highest in the UK – was reached by the whole Pennine Explorer cruise plus one additional boat after a fascinating if challenging day.

With so many on the move on one day it was inevitable that there would be some adjustments needed to ensure sufficient water in all of the short pounds.  However, an added complication was a failed downstream paddle on Lock 30W coming only a few days after the other paddle of the pair had become detached from its rack.  Not daunted by this, the CRT team put their mind to getting us through and succeeded.  Phil Smith applied all his ingenuity to what he described as ‘Heath Robinson engineering’ and with support from his colleagues managed to sufficiently fix the damaged paddle to get all boats though.  Steve Wood of Bream, a 70ft traditional narrowboat, said ‘he’d not had so much fun for ages and when can we do it again?’

Thanks to friends from Tudor Cruising Club, volunteers from Huddersfield Canal Society and CRT’s own volunteers for all their efforts in helping the Explorer cruise keep on schedule.

Tomorrow Standedge Tunnel beckons…….

The Cruise reaches Wool Road ready for the ascent of the Diggle Flight.  (Bob Gough)

Taking a tea break on the Diggle flight are L-R – Ali from Huddersfield Canal Society, Kim and Nicky from ‘One from the Vine’ and Duncan from Tudor Cruising Club.

Wild flower show on the Diggle flight

For a period it looked like the problem at lock 30W would mean mooring on the flight. This did not seem to trouble Nicky, Kim and four-legged friend.

Phil Smith applies his magic from the Stern of Pomona whilst Ann looks on.

The Pennine Explorer cruise at Diggle Summit with Standedge above.

Julie Arnold and friend rest after the climb.

All other photos:  Alan Stopher

Pennine Explorer Cruise – To Roaches

Part of the convoy leaving Stalybridge

Sunday 25th June 2017

The 12 boat cavalcade left the urban areas behind as it started the climb up the Tame Valley. 8 locks took the boats to Roaches Lock above Mossley and included a passage through the short Scout Tunnel. “I’ve really enjoyed the day and it brings back memories of an earlier trip when I was so struck by the  magnificent mill buildings set in the Pennine valleys’” observed Pat Stow of ‘Diligent Too’. In the comfortable surrounds of the Roaches Lock pub, Alan Stopher, Chairman of the Huddersfield Canal Society, showed the Impossible Dream film made in the run up to reopening of the canal in 2001. The well-made film has stood the test of time and, said Ray Butler of ‘Owl’, “it records the tenacity of those who stuck to their convictions when many doubted that the Huddersfield Narrow could be restored.”  Tomorrow (Monday 26th) will see the Explorer cruise reach summit level at Diggle in preparation for the Standedge Tunnel passage the next day.

Alan Stopher
Chairman HCS

A remarkable 17 boats moored below Roaches Lock.

Images by Alan Stopher