Saturday, 5 September 2009

Huddersfield Narrow closed again

Huddersfield Narrow closed again
5th Sept 2009

The poor old Huddersfield Narrow is in trouble again. First it was a major breach at Slaithwaite in the east, then a problem at Pylon Lock in the west, then a lack of water above Huddersfield, then the guillotine lock gate above Slaithwaite becoming unsafe and now closure for the rest of the season due to a severe leak into Ramsden Mill, just above lock 14E.

It just hasn't been the HNC's year, and it all started so well.

Regular readers will remember that I travelled along the HNC from west to east in the spring, forming part of the first group of self steerers to pass through the Standedge Tunnel. I was captivated by this waterway which is, without doubt, my absolute favourite canal in the UK. I just wish more boaters could experience its delights first hand and not have to rely on second hand accounts.

The problem with the HNC, apart form the traffic limitations through the tunnel, is it's unreliability. At the present time it is impossible to plan a trip over the Southern Pennines with any degree of certainty that the passage will be possible. I may find this unpredictability something of an attraction, but must boaters don't like such uncertainty.

In common with other restoration projects, the HNC was made navigable, but only just.
  • The lock gates were bodged together and patched with plywood inserts
  • The paddle gear was old hydraulic stuff abandoned elsewhere in the 1970's
  • The canal was never really dredged with a narrow navigation channel created by moving silt to the margins (which has now migrated back again!).
  • The lock walls were not repointed, and therefore leak like crazy
  • The landing areas remain silted up, sometimes with the mooring bollards many metres from navigable water.
Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. I am just stating what I experienced. Travelling along the HNC is something of a pioneering experience, but this isn't everyone's cup of tea. It is one thing to restore a waterway to a technically navigable standard but it is as big a job again to bring it up to full cruiseway standard which the masses will find acceptable.

I guess I am saying that the restoration of the HNC wasn't an end in itself, but was in fact just a very significant beginning. There is lots of work still to be done on the canal and it is a worry that the repeated closures could become more and more prolonged to the point that it is no longer a credible cruising route.

Lend the HNC your support by joining the Huddersfield Canal Society today.

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