Long Distance Journeys

Sue Day of Horsedrawn Enterprises has undertaken a number of long distance horsedrawn journeys over the waterways network, including arriving with horsedrawn boats at IWA National Waterways Festivals.

After attending the National Festival in Chester in 1995, Sue went on to the Boat Museumat Ellesmere Port. For 1998, she went to the National Festival at Salford Quays, continuing on around the Cheshire Ring and Upper Peak Forest Canal – a distance of over 100 miles. In 1999 she journeyed from Manchester to Worcester, including a run up the Caldon Canal to Froghall and back – a distance of about 200 miles.

In 2000 Sue undertook her most ambitious journey – from Manchester to London and on to the National Waterways Festival at Waltham Abbey. This journey was with the 1854 “Maria”, believed to be the oldest surviving wooden narrowboat, which belongs to the Ashton Packet Boat Company. The journey won the award for the most enterprising and meritorious journey to the Festival. This time, 310 miles and 298 locks were undertaken.

The voyage raised over £7000 for Sue’s chosen cancer charities and involved over forty crew members, whose ages ranged from 18 to 73.

This voyage gained much coverage in local papers and in the waterways magazines and, as a result of the interest created, Sue was moved to set up The Horseboating Society early in 2001. The Society has around 100 members so far, many of whom have joined Sue as crew on these journeys.

Maria at Stalybridge, Huddersfield Narrow Canal

Maria at Stalybridge, Huddersfield Narrow Canal

Horseboating on canals owned by the Canal and River Trust is only allowed with their permission, so the journeys take a lot of discussion with waterway managers as well as careful planning and investigating possible hazards such as motor-cycle barriers.

Long distance journeys, as well as raising the profile of horseboating, give a benefit to the communities through which they pass. Many people in these places have never seen horsedrawn boats although they are part of their heritage.

Some older people are reminded of seeing them in their childhood.

These journeys are part of an active campaign aiming to keep the whole canal network available for horsedrawn boats. It’s a case of “use it or lose it”.

In 2001, Sue took “Maria” for a return trip along the newly re-opened Huddersfield Narrow Canal. “Maria” had the distinction of being the first boat to complete the passage along the canal after its re-opening.

In 2002 “Elland”, built in about 1850/60s, was taken the whole way around the new South Pennine Ring, comprising the Ashton Canal, the Huddersfield Narrow and Broad Canals, the Calder and Hebble, where “Elland” only just fitted its Salterhebble Locks, and the newly-restored Rochdale Canal.

She posed for photographs at Elland, the town from which she took her current name. Elland then took part in the opening ceremony at Littleborough, with Fred Dibnah cutting the tape from her bow!

Also in 2002, Sue took two boats – Maria and Elland, horsedrawn to the IWA National Festival at Huddersfield.

The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant to The Horseboating Society for its project “Why Do Canals Have Towpaths?” during 2005 – 2008. Sue Day became the boathorse contractor for the Horseboating Society over this period, assisted by Horseboating Society members as crew.

In 2004-5 Maria celebrated her 150th anniversary, having been built in 1854. She was restored to her cargo-carrying status.

Maria loaded with limestone

Maria loaded with limestone

In 2005 Maria was loaded with 16 tons of limestone at Bugsworth Basin, re-creating her role of 150 years ago. Queenie pulled the loaded boat 8 miles and down the 16 locks at Marple. In August the boat, loaded with 10 tons of limestone, was towed by Queenie for 80 miles to the IWA National Festival at Preston Brook. The journey was given the IWA award for “the most enterprising and meritorious journey to the IWA National”.

The Chief Executive of British Waterways came by invitation of the Horseboating Society to the IWA National to meet Society members and horses. He received the Society’s document “Horseboating: Preserving Our Waterways Heritage”. In 2006 he came horseboating with Maria from Ashton under Lyne to Marple to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Historic Narrow Boat Owners’ Club. Very gamely he legged the boat through Hyde Bank Tunnel.

Maria at Standedge Tunnel

Maria at Standedge Tunnel

At Bugsworth Basin Maria was loaded with 18 tons of limestone and Queenie pulled this load for 2 days over 16 miles and 16 locks. We believe this is the first time that a boathorse has pulled 18 tons of limestone over such a distance for around 50 years.

Maria has been horseboated to Huddersfield and back several times, including being legged through Standedge Tunnel in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Maria has also been horseboated to Marple and Manchester on many occasions. Manchester City Centre is an especially difficult area for horseboating, with some of the journey underground and the boathorse having to negotiate city streets.

In 2007, Queenie took Maria from Manchester to Liverpool. This was the first time that a horsedrawn boat had attended the World Canals Conference.

Maria at Bootle, Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Maria at Bootle, Leeds and Liverpool Canal

In 2008 new boathorse Bilbo Baggins was trained on the Ashton Canal, then made journeys to Bugsworth and Huddersfield. He appeared at the National Waterways Museum at Stoke Bruerne during their open weekend when he crossed over the top of Blisworth Tunnel whilst the boat Angel was legged through. Bilbo took Angel down the flight of locks at Stoke Bruerne and back up as a public display of horseboating to contribute to the weekend.

The journey to the IWA National 2008 was made by Buddy towing Success for 24 miles.

Horseboating Society members have taken part in horseboating several other boats in various parts of the country, including Saturn, Gifford and Sunny Valley.

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