Narrowboat holidays—Huddersfield Narrow Canal

Published: Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Standedge Tunnel

Then there is Standedge Tunnel—over three miles of it, which is the great attraction of this waterway, and though in the early days of its restoration boats were pulled through in convoy by an electric tug, further work in the tunnel means that boaters can now steer their own boats through.

The tunnel took seven years to complete at a cost of 50 lives. It is like no other canal tunnel in the country, part brick, part stone but mostly just hewn rock as it bores its way through the Pennines, giving boaters an experience like no other. Being over three miles long and taking a very long time to get through, the old adits are used that connect it to a disused railway tunnel, to make sure all is well, with personnel in attendance as seen in the above picture.

Would not fit

During the canal restoration, it was soon realised that the outline of the modern narrowboat would not fit the confines of Standedge Tunnel built for the restricted shape of the barges of old, so a great deal of work was undertaken to rectify the problem with many 'pinch' points taken out and parts of some of its roof treated.  Further work was done during the past few years to further make passage easier for narrowboats.

Owing to the shortage of water, British Waterway crews assist boaters at the flights at both end of the tunnel, to a strict timetable, that at least takes some of the effort out of working the 74 locks.

During its 20 miles the waterway must be the best for supermarkets in the country with an Asda built over the waterway just beyond its junction with the Ashton Canal, a Tesco with moorings by its car park at Stalybridge and a Sainsbury's right by its side at its junction with the Huddersfield Broad Canal, again with its own moorings.

But please note that though a waterway guide gives the Huddersfield Canals as taking 70ft boats, this is inaccurate, as the Huddersfield Broad Canal locks were built to a maximum length of only 57ft 6ins, but even boats that length are known to be virtually impossible to get through the locks, so there is only one route for boats over this length.

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal is one of its own, it is hard work though very rewarding, with the trip through Standedge Tunnel well worth the effort. With the hard work required for some locks, and the sheer volume of them, it is not recommended for beginners.

The waterway is 20 miles long, has 74 narrow locks including a guillotine lock, two tunnels but with no lift or swing bridges.

Ease of operation

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The more black stars the better.