11th April 2009
Well the words “hard work” come to mind, obviously. From the moment we cast off from Castlefields on the Wednesday to the time we returned the following Thursday the locking was incessant and cruising on the flat virtually non-existent. In fact, with an average of three locks per mile, there were very few occasions when a lock was not visible either in front or behind us. But we can't complain, hard work never killed anyone and we knew what we were letting ourselves in for before we started.
Taken as a whole the trip was absolutely fabulous, far exceeding our expectations.
The Huddersfield Narrow Canal was an absolute delight. It's scenery was spectacular and the self-steer passage through the Standedge Tunnel represented one of the high points (quite literally) of our boating experience. But perhaps the real crowning jewel of this waterway is the people we met along the way. This collective includes the BW staff who were helpful, enthusiastic and friendly; the numerous Huddersfield Canal Society officers who made a point of seeking us out and most importantly; the residents who live near “their” canal. All three groups displayed an immense pride in it's restoration and so desperately wanted the boaters who use it to enjoy the experience.
I fell in love with this waterway before we even reached Stalybridge and my infatuation grew as we completed each hard won mile. In the end we spent three and a half days negotiating its 19 1/2 miles and 74 locks, which included a half day layover at Standedge to walk the moors. This wasn’t really long enough to do the canal justice, but now I am a fully paid up member of the Huddersfield Canal Society I am sure that this is the start of a lasting relationship rather than a quick fling.
The Calder and Hebble Navigation proved an interesting link between the two trans Pennine canals, a days deep water cruising which in itself covered nine miles and 15 locks, many operated with the medieval looking hand spike. It was a refreshing change to follow the course of a canalised river and the journey offered many memorable sights.
But it is also a waterway of promise. It is acting as a catalyst for urban regeneration which will intimately see it transformed like the neighbouring
The thing is, what comes first? The canal or the regeneration? Answer – the canal. Come back in 20 years and the western side of the Rochdale will be buzzing with boats, with boring old duffers like me banging on about that it was like to cruise it in the bad old the “glory days”.
This is one of the inland waterways hidden treasures. To complete the circuit is an achievement in itself but it will repay your efforts in spades. It's cruising in the raw, a bit like the rest of the system in the 1970’s when you were never quite sure if you could complete the journey. It offers that elusive ingredient which is lacking elsewhere, that edge of uncertainty and excitement which provides a rich source of boating tales for those long winter evenings.