Back on the boat we readied ourselves for our next trip. Approximately 168 miles and 198 locks as we travelled onto the Huddersfield canal, over the Pennines and through the Standedge tunnel. Then we were going down the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals before getting back into the Trent and Mersey. First we had to get from the Aire and Calder onto the Huddersfield narrow. This is accessed via the Calder and Hebble which has strange locks requiring a hand spike to open them. We didn’t have one of these and so improvised with an old metal spike we did have – ever resourceful!
The Huddersfield canal has a reputation for being little used and tough with 42 locks from Huddersfield up to the top at the mouth of Standedge tunnel. We had a brief stay in Huddersfield before setting off from the Huddersfield broad canal in dry sunny weather and then passed onto the Huddersfield narrow. The first thing we noticed was that it was very narrow. So narrow that in fact we got stuck going through the new bit at the bottom. Roger had to get his penknife out to cut off a fender in order to unstick us. I picked blackberries from the roof of the boat whilst I waited!
We soon got going again and made really good ground. The locks came thick and fast with little distance between each one. The Huddersfield narrow wasn’t great for mooring and we had some issues with a lack of water on the way up, but got up to the top by Saturday. We were booked to go through the Standedge tunnel on Bank Holiday Monday. Standedge tunnel is the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain crossing from Marsden to Diggle crossing the boundary between West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester. The tunnel opened in 1811 and is 3.25 miles long and very narrow. It is 194 meters underground at its deepest point and is 196 meters above sea level. We spent Sunday walking over the top from Marsden to Diggle. Sadly the path used originally for the horses is no longer there so we had to find our own way which we did mostly by following the air outlets over the top.
On Monday we travelled through the tunnel, where hard hats and fluorescent jackets were the order of the day. We were chaperoned by Josh from the canal and river trust. It was fascinating to travel the tunnel and see the old original bits and the repaired bits. It was very narrow, and we had a few bangs and scrapes, but after 1 hour and 40 minutes we came out into daylight at Diggle.
Having travelled through we were then stuck at the Diggle end of the tunnel for 5 days due to a damaged lock. We had a lovely time there taking the opportunity to hear the Black Dyke band and Diggle brass band, did some walking up to ‘Pots and Pans’ on Saddleworth Moor and spent some time doing chores. We were finally able to get going on Saturday and made quick progress down the 32 locks which were all really hard going. The canal was beautiful, going through some beautiful little towns and countryside.
We said goodbye to the Huddersfield narrow at Portland basin and turned left onto the Peak Forest canal. Another really beautiful canal and enjoyed miles of lock free cruising stopping at Romiley before the flight of locks. Tuesday morning we set off up the Marple flight of 16 locks ably assisted by 3 wonderful volunteers who travelled up the entire flight with us. What a blessing.
we moved onto the Macclesfield canal which was again really lovely. It felt very rural. We had another brief delay at a swing ridge after a transit van driver had failed to stop when the bridge was being opened and he drove into the barrier breaking it. After a brief repair we were going again and managed to get through the Bosley flight of locks before stopping for the day.
Before we knew it we were back onto the Trent and Mersey canal and passing through the Harecastle tunnel. We then faced another delay as one of the locks at Stone was badly damaged and wasn’t going to be open for at least 3 days. Rather than sitting and waiting we decided to explore the Caldon canal, and we’re so glad we did. We travelled through a few locks and quickly found ourselves putting the towns behind us and travelling in the most beautiful valley. The countryside was lovely and there were loads of herons, very few other boats and to top it all we were blessed with sunny days. We spent three days travelling to all ends of the Caldon, before heading down to Stone on the Trent and Mersey to join the queue to travel through the soon to be mended lock. The lock opened bright and early on the Monday morning and we headed off. Given that the canal had been closed for 6 days, we got through amazingly quickly and set off back to the marina. We had a couple of really long days to get back as we’d decided we wanted to get home on 16th September for a party, but managed it fairly easily.
What a trip. Fantastic journey over the Pennines and we were spoilt by good weather. The two stoppages caused us a short delay and resulted in some long days, but how wonderful to see Black Dyke and to enjoy the trip up the Caldon canal. What a fantastic way to spend a summer and what a privilege.