Gallery 39 – Rochdale Canal 2012

The passenger horseboat Vixen (built in 1990) was used during the Rochdale Canal Festival in August 2012. She was started from Hebden Bridge to go to Sowerby Bridge for the start of the festival. She then travelled over several days from Sowerby Bridge to the Rochdale Canal Summit level, carrying passengers on various occasions.

An enterprising idea, from the Rochdale Canal Development Officer Lucy Rogers, was to invite poet-in-residence Winston Plowes to hold poetry workshops on the horse-drawn boat over two days. The result was an exchange of words and vocabulary, culminating in a poem written about the horseboating from Todmorden to Walsden.

On Friday August 24th, Vixen was used to give public trips on the Rochdale Canal Summit amidst spectacular Pennine scenery which the passengers enjoyed in glorious sunshine. The resident lock-keeper is keen to see Vixen used again for horse-drawn passenger work on the Summit, even including some limited lock use.

Friday 24th August:

Vixen on the Rochdale Canal

Passengers boarded Vixen near the lock-keeper’s house at lock 37, for a return journey on the Summit, lasting about 40 minutes. Photo: David Sumner

Vixen on the Rochdale Canal

Bilbo Baggins pulls Vixen, having helped wind the boat above lock 36. Photo: John Humpherson

Vixen on the Rochdale Canal

Bilbo enjoys a pleasant towpath surface on the Summit amidst Pennine scenery. The Horseboating Society, with others, campaigned successfully to prevent this towing path from going under tarmac as was planned about a year ago. Photo: John Humpherson

Vixen on the Rochdale Canal

The last passengers of the day were lucky, experiencing going down lock 37, West Summit Lock, before Vixen was moored at Chelburne Wharf below the lock. Bilbo was able to go into the field attached to the lock-keeper’s house. Photo: John Humpherson

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