Marsden to Uppermill
10th August 2011
5 miles - 11 locks - 6 hours (half underground)
A curious feature on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is that its longest pound is at the summit, of which the vast majority is underground.
Standedge Tunnel - Diggle Portal
We found ourselves in pole position for the run through the tunnel, ready for our 8.30am departure which we had booked way back in Easter. Our chaperone for the morning was Fred Cater, the undisputed subject matter expert on the Standedge Tunnel. Fred is a great guy and has the amazing ability of mantaining a nearly uninterrupted 1.5 hour commentary on the life and times of this huge hole in the ground, with no repetitions and certainly never boring. We have had the ten bob tour in the past, but this was the whole works.
For the 1st half of the journey we were shadowed by a BW Land Rover and then we were on our own, calling back to the Marsden control room as we paused in selected adits. They have a nifty little system which tracks boat progress through he tunnel, with positions logged by motion sensors and supplemented by calls - take a look in the office next time you are passing.
There is a particular narrow section about half way through which provides skippers with a real navigation test. The threshold for a good passage is 2 bumps but with a lot of attention I was able to keep a clean sheet.
Our passage time was about 15 mins faster than in 2009, but well short of the 1hr 16 record, not that we were in any hurry. It was raining as we entered and was still bucketing down as we emerged at Diggle, dropping Fred off along with the hard hats and fire extinguishers before making a very squelchy descent down the locks to the Transhipment Warehouse at Dobcross.
Warth Mill - Dobcross
With water streaming down our necks we decided to take a break at Dobcross, a pause which allowed for lunch and a visit to see Bob Gough in the Huddersfield Canal Society's office. Dr Bob is the author of the brilliant Huddersfield Narrow Canal - A Towpath Guide which is a far superior cruising guide to my Nicholson, which just can't provide the detail needed on a canal with an average of four locks a mile. We picked up a 74 club plaque which will sit alongside the BCN Marathon plaque as a memento of a truly remarkable canal.
With the rain sluicing down we lost heart at Uppermill, mooring in the winding hole and settling down to watch the rain turn the towpath into a quagmire. Even the ducks looked fed up.
Uppermill is a great little town which seems to have picked itself up by its boot straps when the mills closed, reinvented itself and now remains a bustling and progressive centre. Its no surprise that the HNC renaissance started here. The mills have become desirable apartments and the high street is all spick and span with most shops occupied.
Not nice weather - even the ducks looked miserable...
I spent the afternoon dozing and reading Pennine Dreams, the official account of the restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. It felt very appropriate to immerse myself in this detailed account whilst actually making our way along the waterway.
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