Gallery 29 – Narrow Boat Maria on the Rochdale Canal 2009

In July 2009 members of The Horseboating Society took the historic wooden horsedrawn boat Maria from Guide Bridge to Littleborough to be part of the Rochdale Canal Festival.<
Bilbo and Maria left Manchester city centre from Dale Street, climbing the Rochdale 18 to Failsworth. Many lamp-posts and railings hindered use of a towing line but the crew cheerfully met the challenge of city horseboating. Photo: Steve Hallam

Bilbo spent most of his time at Littleborough relaxing in the stable and field opposite the boat. After a boathorse harnessing demo in the afternoon, Maria left the festival site as a horseboating demo to climb the 12 locks to the summit level of the Rochdale Canal. Photo: Lucy Rogers

Bilbo towed Maria through Failsworth Basin during a pleasant journey up the Rochdale 19. Two breaks were taken for horse and crew at grassed areas, outside the Navigation pub and for lunch above Lock 75. Photo: Alan Pollitt

HBS crew, with a BW NW staff member saying goodbye at the top lock of the Rochdale 19, and our new friend who loved watching us horseboating. He accompanied us again the next day. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Approaching the Boat and Horses pub, soon after Maria was legged through the modern tunnel under the M60 while Bilbo crossed above the M60 on a high bridge. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Refreshments for all at the Boat and Horses. Bilbo had a haynet. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Legging Maria at Edinburgh Way while Bilbo had to take to the roads. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Approaching Oldham Road turnover bridge in Rochdale. It was very frustrating when the towline snagged in a large thorny bush growing within the curve of the bridge. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Passing the remains of Clegg Hall. From here to Littleborough, BW had been unable to complete tree cutting ahead of us, so the towing mast was lifted to full height and the towing line was lifted with a pole over many trees. At Smithy Bridge, there were so many tall trees that the boat had to be shafted past them. Photo: Alan Pollitt

July 11th, the Mayor arrives to open the Rochdale Canal Festival. In his speech to open the festival, the mayor thanked the Horseboating Society for our contribution of bringing living heritage to the event. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Maria moored in the pound below the summit, having left the festival site as a horseboating demonstration on the locks. Ray the lock-keeper welcomed Bilbo into the field beside his house, for a rest for a couple of days. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Maria on the Rochdale Canal summit pound. Bilbo grazed in the field seen above Maria, next to the lock-keeper’s house. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Descending from the summit to Todmorden. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Guillotine Lock, Todmorden. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Lifting the towing line over moored boats. A problem between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Barge moored to towing path so the towing line was disconnected to get Maria past. Seen at Hebden Bridge Wharf where the horsedrawn passenger boat Sarah Siddons operated, from 1987 to 2004. The business struggled when many moored boats were allowed to settle from 2002, tied to the towing path, making horseboating difficult with a smaller paid crew. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Maria approaching Fallingroyd Tunnel. Crew member at the ready to leg Maria through. This was a regular feature of the horsedrawn passsenger trips at Hebden Bridge. Photo: Alan Pollitt

On the return journey, local MP and waterways supporter David Heyes steered Maria all day from the Rose of Lancaster, Chadderton, to Piccadilly Basin at Dale Street, Manchester. Here Maria is passing under the lift bridge at Grimshaw Lane, Chadderton. Photo: Alan Pollitt

Boathorse Bilbo with Sue Day at Lock 86, Miles Platting. Photo: Alan Pollitt

A party of children from the local Children’s Centre came out to greet Bilbo and Maria at Lock 86, Miles Platting. This was organised by a member of BW staff. Photo: Alan Pollitt

BBC North West Tonight filmed the arrival of Bilbo and Maria through the final lock of the Rochdale Canal outside Dukes 92 pub. They then filmed an interview with Sue Day and returned in the evening to broadcast the weather forecast from Maria. All this was shown that evening, Friday 7th August.
Photo: Elizabeth Hogg

If you have taken any photographs of Maria’s return trip from Sowerby Bridge or of her jourey on the Rochdale Nine, please contact us!

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