Polly Booth, of the Waterways Action Squad (ages 16-25) wrote –
I signed up to help the Horseboating Society because I was very interested to see this old style of boating in practice. I wasn’t sure what to expect before I arrived but I did imagine it to be very arduous for the horse. I was surprised that the boat glided effortlessly and Bilbo (the boat horse) didn’t seem to struggle at all. There was a gentle silence to the boat, which is not possible with a motored barge, and when we weren’t preoccupied with the locks it was relaxing to walk alongside it. I’d never operated a lock before so that was an experience in itself, some of them were quite easy but others were rusty and they posed a bit of a challenge.
When the narrowboat, horse and crew in (mostly) full Victorian dress passed through more urban areas the difference between old and new was striking and it made a nice image.
It was exciting to ride in the boat through a long, dark tunnel in Huddersfield, which had been especially built beneath a development to accommodate passing boats. There was no room for Bilbo who had to be taken along another route to meet us at the other side. Without the horse towing us members of the crew used poles against the side of the walls to push us along. I appreciated seeing this technique but I was quite glad we didn’t need to ‘leg’ the boat through. ‘Legging’ involves lying on the narrowboat and pushing it along a tunnel with your feet using the walls or ceiling. I wasn’t sure I was quite ready for the indignity of that!
It was an interesting day and I’d encourage anyone to have a look at horseboating in action if you get the chance.