I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Friday, 26 July 2013

East Portal Standedge Tunnel (Huddersfield Narrow Canal) – Monday 22nd July

So Plan A or Plan B?!  I walked up to the tunnel entrance to see if we could go through today but was told that “there wasn’t a hope in hell’s chance of going through” - that told me!!!  It’s all to do with pre-booking and only having the number of men on duty for the booked boats.  It makes sense but we thought we would ask.

Marsden
While I waited the arrival of Penny with the car, Richard and Jim walked up to the tunnel entrance again and came back saying that they had negotiated with the C&RT people for us to move up to the tunnel entrance, after 4pm, until we go through on Wednesday.  Penny arrived about 2.30pm with Niamh – Jim had been waiting for her at the lock for 2 hours – devotion or what? 

The tunnel entrance
We moved down to tunnel entrance, filled up with water and moved across the canal and moored up.  It was a lovely evening so we finally got round to having the barbeque – phew I can hear you saying!

Our barbecue camp
Richard, Penny and I took the dogs for a walk round the Tunnel End Reservoir.  This was built between 1798 and 1806 as a feeder for the canal and held 22.7 million gallons of water and fed by the River Colne.  However in 1799 the banks broke and flooded Marsden.  The breach was rebuilt but it fell into disrepair due to silting.

Not a bad place to barbecue
A bit of history about the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the Standedge (pronounced Stanege) Tunnel:

The canal was built to link Ashton-under-Lyne with the Huddersfield Broad Canal.  Work started in 1794 and work was completed from Ashton to the bottom of the Diggle flight and from Marsden to Huddersfield but the next problem was to link the two by a 3 miles tunnel.  The tunnel took 16 years to build and ended up being 23 feet off its proposed centre-line.  The Diggle end was also found to be higher than the Marsden end and the invert had to be lowered and the linings rebuilt.  Good old Thomas Telford was brought in to sort it all out!!  There were fourteen construction shafts and there are four passing places – White Horse, Old Judy, Red Brook and Brun Clough.  The tunnel cost £123,804 (£6 million in today’s money) to build and the canal cost £402,653 (£20 million in today’s money).  The first boat went through on 10th December 1810 with the official opening on 4th April 1811.

The tunnel is 5698 yards long (3 miles and 418 yards), 600 feet below ground and 650 feet above sea level – it is also in the Guinness Book of Records.  There are four tunnels in total, the canal being the lowest and the oldest.  There were two rail tunnels built in 1849 and 1871, though these are now not used by trains.  The current train tunnel was built in 1894.   The last working boat to go through was in 1921 and in 1938 it was no longer maintained - the canal tunnel was closed to through navigation in 1944 but was still used for drainage and water supply functions.  The last boat to pass through the whole canal was the Alisa Craig in 1948 which carried Inland Waterways campaigners who wanted the canal re-instated.  The journey caused interruptions to various industrial water supplies and the British Transport Commission quickly removed lock gates to prevent further such voyages.  Subsequently most of the locks were filled in and road bridges demolished.  Scout Tunnel was bricked up and long lengths of the canal were sold off.

The Huddersfield Canal Society was formed in 1974 and campaigned determinedly to restore the canal, taking 10 years to raise the necessary money.  Restoration of the canal started in 1981 and the first boats went through on May 1st 2001.  Since the restoration boats used to be towed through the tunnel by an electric barge and had to be covered by a rubber sheet which used to damage boat paintwork.  Nowadays boaters steer their own boats under the supervision of a C&RT pilot.  But more about the passage through the tunnel once we have actually done it!

The view from our barbecue camp
Marsden Lock 42E to the East Portal of the Standedge Tunnel
0.47 miles
0 locks

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