At 12:30 Neil and Pauline on “Waterlily” started their transit of the Standedge tunnel. At 600 feet above sea level the Huddersfield Narrow canal is the highest canal in the country and the tunnel, at 3 1/4 miles, is the longest.
Next, at 13:15, it was our turn. Suitably trussed up in safety gear, up to speed on precautions necessary and given an indication as to what we should expect ………
……. with our pilot on board we gently eased “Chance” into the gloom of the longest, deepest and highest tunnel we’re ever likely to experience.
Getting through the first 200 yards of the fairly modern brick lined start we soon arrived at the really awesome bare rock of the tunnel.
The tunnel, which took 17 years to complete in 1811, was blasted and hacked by hand in candlelight. It lies below and between two railway tunnels which were built later – one of which now acts as a safety tunnel for the canal tunnel.
Being the deepest tunnel in the country it lies 638 feet below the highest point of the moor above. At some points the tunnel is so narrow there are just 3 or 4 inches each side of the boat. The awesome natural beauty of the bare rock was tremendous and once or twice it opened out into incredible limestone caverns.
Occasionally there was some relief from the narrowness when it briefly widened and there were also sections which have needed to be sprayed with concrete to stop loose fragments from falling.
Some parts, even with “Chances” excellent LED headlights, are extremely dark and the pilot was certainly necessary to give us guidance as to where to steer.
Some stretches are almost cathedral-like in height and some have barely enough headroom for the boat never mind the steerer! (“Chance” was rigorously measured for maximum height, overall width, length, depth below waterline and width of the roofline or tumblehome before we were given permission to pass).
This is a lovely wide high section but it didn’t last for long!
At four points along the tunnel’s length there are connecting adits with the safety tunnel where we had to ‘call in’ to the man and his van who was checking on our progress.
This is a great shot of the last mile of the tunnel. Not quite dead straight but you can see light at the end! Until 1947 boats were still ‘legged’ through the tunnel – with a three and half hour journey time. The shear boldness and bravery of the builders and workers is just staggering when you consider the basic equipment and tools they had at their disposal.
Towards the east end the tunnel reverts back to brick lining. Brilliant craftsmanship when you you think they only had candlelight to work by.
After 1hour 50 minutes (we weren’t going for any records!) we emerged into the light once more. Thankfully we sustained NO DAMAGE at all, so James doesn’t need to get the paint pot out just yet!
The experience was incredible and photos and descriptions pay little homage to the beauty and the diversity of the tunnel. It was a strange and weird feeling for the entire transit and one we would really recommend. There are lots of terrifying tales of how much damage can be caused to your boat but if you listen to your pilot and take your time there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a thoroughly wonderful time. It was first class!
On Wednesday evening, with Pauline and Neil, we walked into the delightful little town of Marsden to the River Head Brewery Tap (on the right of the pic) ……
……. where we enjoyed an incredibly good meal in celebration of the days achievements (Pauline and Neil also transited unscathed in the very fast time of 1hour 20 minutes – but they’ve done it before!)
Thursday morning dawned damp and dismal (we need to regularly remind ourselves it’s June!)around the pretty little basin at the east portal of the tunnel.
Our journey for the day was to negotiate 21 locks down to Slaithwaite. The route took us through fabulous scenery.
The landscape can give strange views – there’s a man mending the chimney on the house. He must feel very odd looking at a boat passing level with him.
James did a lot of locks today!
Lovely scenery and lots to look at round every bend in the canal.
We arrived at lock 24E where we’d had to book a CRT person to help us through the guillotine bottom gate …….
…….. and, miracle of miracles, the top gate of the lock was perfect in it’s seals – no water leaking through at all! This just has to be recorded!
The steerer’s eye view of the guillotine gate as it rises and, once safely through without being sliced in half, it was just two more locks before mooring up in Slaithwaite.