Elland on the Leeds and Liverpool

Between Tuesday September 10th and Saturday September 14th, Bilbo pulled Elland on the Leeds and Liverpool canal, setting off from East Marton with Countryside Audio and Visual in attendance, for their second visit to the HBS. They had filmed Maria in April and had returned for another historic boat. Elland was kept sheeted up to provide a contrast to Maria with her sheets down.

After Salterforth the uncut trees between the towpath and the water channel were very hard work for the crew who had to lift the towline over them for about a mile. All year the trees have been growing taller until some cutting was started in late August. There is two summers’ growth as this area was cut before we travelled on it in 2012.

On Saturday Sept 14th, Elland was horse-drawn over the Burnley Embankment, on one of the Open Heritage Days held nationally that weekend, highlighting access to special architecture. The Burnley Embankment is one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Bilbo and Elland thus arrived at the Burnley Canal Festival, mooring opposite the historic Slater’s Terrace.

History Tour and Rush Cart

On Friday September 6th, Vixen carried passengers from Hebden Bridge to Mytholmroyd, as part of their guided history walk with Diana Monahan exploring the Rochdale Canal. Some passengers assisted as crew at the locks. Then the boat arrived in Sowerby Bridge on Saturday September 7th for the Rushbearing Festival. The canal basin there features in the large festival. Thousands of visitors from around the country attended the weekend processions, held in glorious sunshine. This Year the procession of the rushcart visited The Navigation Inn for the first time.

Filming with Prunella and Tim

On Wednesday September 4th, filming took place with passenger boat Vixen and Bilbo on the Rochdale Canal. For a Channel 4 TV programme, actorsTimothy West and Prunella Scales were travelling along the Rochdale Canal from its start at Sowerby Bridge to meet and interview people en route. Bilbo towed the boat to the location chosen by the TV crew at Black Pit Lock in Hebden Bridge. Eventually a phone call came to say the film crew would be late. This was OK as Bilbo was enjoying grass in the local park and the weather was pleasant.

When they arrived, Bilbo was ready for them, harnessed to pull the boat. To our disappointment, the film crew said they were running too late to film the boat horse-drawn which made little sense to us as it would have taken one minute to set the boat moving towards the lock for a quick shot of the boat being horse-drawn.

There was an interview between Timothy West and Sue Day and Adrian Lovett, and a visit to Bilbo tied at the lock-side and the boat on the aqueduct. Prunella gave Bilbo a kiss on his nose and she was assured that Bilbo received plenty of kisses from Sue! Timothy referred to the past, that two boats would have been common. Sue Day agreed that horses did pull two narrowboats at a time on the Rochdale but widebeam boats were very usual. Only later on reflection did the crew realize that Timothy probably was thinking of a narrow motorboat and butty. Sadly the narrow motorboat and butty has dominated the minds of most people today, and the arduous work of horses pulling two loaded narrowboats or a loaded widebeam boat is often overlooked. On the Rochdale Canal horses pulled widebeam boats from 1804 to the canal closure about 1950.

Busy time for Horseboating Society

The HBS has just had 2 lovely days on the Rochdale Canal on Aug 12th and 13th, travelling with horseboat Vixen from Todmorden up to the Summit and over it. Fine weather, good company, beautiful flowering heather on the Pennine hills, stunning scenery, Bilbo working really well, and plenty of appreciation from onlookers as usual. Through Locks 19 – 37. Vixen is moored below Lock 37 at the West end of the Summit at the Summit Inn.

However we still need crew for Elland on the Leeds and Liverpool. We had insufficient crew for Thursday Aug 15th so we are moving Elland on the following dates – Friday Aug 16th, Saturday Aug 17th. Getting into lovely countryside on these two days. Gargrave is charming too.

Vixen will be next used on Wed Aug 28th to introduce a small party of Portuguese equestrian children and their tutors to horseboating. They are visiting the Hebden Bridge Equestrian Centre on an exchange visit. Lynnette Crossley, HBS director, is funding this trip for the students.

Vixen will then be worked back to Hebden Bridge to be part of some filming going on at Hebden Bridge about the Rochdale Canal. The Llangollen horseboats are going to be involved too as the programme will cover 3 canals.

See Events page for dates for which crew are needed in August and September.

Horses at Work Day at Ellesmere Port

The Horses at Work event day held at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port on Sunday Aug 11 was enjoyed by many.

John Inch, the manager, had advertised it on Facebook with an earlier photo of Bilbo, maybe taken in 2011. He wrote:

Hi Sue, Please find attached the Horses at Work photo that had 1,093 views on Facebook and had lots of lovely comments. Hope you enjoyed Sunday. It was another success and marginally (3.4%) up on the previous year. Regards, John

The event day is organised with the help of HBS members Barbara and Ken Catford and other HBS or Boat Museum Society members. Like last year, we had several young crew ( age 17,18) working with older crew to make up 2 crews for the morning or afternoon. Good crowds attended the harnessing and horseboating demos. Bonny enjoyed her outing with the 2 short trips to the winding hole and back. At age 21, she is in semi-retirement now, and just does short trips. A far cry from her Manchester to London journey in 2000.

Find out more about activities at the National Waterways Museum here.

Bilbo at National Waterways Museum

Photo: National Waterways Museum

Maria on television

Horseboat Maria was filmed at Standedge and Diggle in 2012 for two separate television programmes. One was repeated in late May and the other is being broadcast in June for the first time.

Maria was on television as a repeat showing on May 28 with the Dan Snow programme “Locomotion”. The boat was towed by Bilbo on the Diggle locks of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, showing the use of canals before the advent of railways. (May be available on BBC iplayer.)

Look out for Maria on “Town” with Nicholas Crane. He legged Maria in Standedge Tunnel in 2012. As the film was to show Nick only as a legger, it was necessary for him to leg from the back cabin roof. The programme will be about the town of Huddersfield. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal only became fully navigable from end to end when the Standedge Tunnel finally opened in 1811 after 16 years of digging and building. The Huddersfield Broad Canal was an earlier navigation and both canals increased trade for the town of Huddersfield.

Vixen in the Valley of Lights

Horseboat Vixen was horsedrawn by Bilbo Baggins from the Rochdale Canal Summit to Todmorden over two days on Nov 12 and 13. An overnight stop was made at Walsden by the famous Grandma Pollards Fish & Chips and Pie Shop. A member of the crew had to go ahead cutting saplings down before the arrival of the boat as they have not been removed in recent years and we had struggled with these saplings in August when travelling up the locks to the Summit. They varied from 5 to 15 feet tall.

Vixen then took part in the arts event of the Valley of Lights which was funded by Calderdale Council. It was devised as a celebratory event after the flooding in the valley during the summer months which did substantial damage to homes and businesses. The event was linked to the annual Christmas lights switch-on but was on a much larger scale to show residents and visitors that the valley towns were up and running again, ready for trade for Christmas.

The Horseboating Society was honoured to be involved as only 4 boats took part, but HBS did not receive any funding so it was decided to work closely with the Rochdale Canal Society and take motor tows from Todmorden to Hebden Bridge to Mytholmroyd, sharing crew together. At each of the 3 towns, Vixen had a display on her roof of home-made paper lanterns of a horse pulling a boat, lit up with LED wire and lights. Inside she had window displays of stars, snowflakes and rocking horses. The other boats were decorated with inflatables made by the arts group Space Cadets. Our hand-made lanterns were admired by many people who visited the boat displays. The lanterns were on display on Vixen on Saturday Nov 24th at Todmorden, Thursday Nov 29th at Hebden Bridge and Saturday Dec 1st at Mytholmroyd.

Vixen will be moored in Hebden Bridge again for the winter. A horseboating passenger boat business ran here from 1987 to 2004 and Vixen was brought to the Rochdale Canal in 2010 to be used for occasional passenger work to continue horseboating activity on this canal.

Maria on the Peak Forest Canal

Light display on Vixen at Mytholmroyd. Photo: David Ormerod, Bronte Boats