Chelsea wins place on Cromford team

13-year-old Chelsea was the star of successful horse-drawn passenger boat trials on the Cromford Canal on Monday 17th March. The sturdy Dales-cross-Clydesdale mare pulled 70-foot heritage narrow boat Birdswood from Cromford Wharf through High Peak Junction to Leawood Pump House at a quicker pace than ever achieved under motor power. And then she hauled the 21-tonne boat back again – all without undue effort.

Chelsea will be the key player on the Friends of the Cromford Canal (FCC) team that is bringing horseboating back to this previously unused waterway. Lance and Corinne Rose of working horse specialists Arraslea Shires (based in Alderwasley) are new to horseboating, too, so Monday’s outing represented a steep learning curve for all concerned.

With trials concluded satisfactorily, the FCC has just announced 14 public horseboating days for the 2014 season:

 •   Easter Sunday 20 April, Easter Monday 21st April
•   Bank Hol Sunday 4th May, Bank Hol Monday 5th May
•   Sat 7th June, Sun 8th June
•   Celebrating Cromford Sun 22nd June
•   Sun 6th July
•   Sat 2nd Aug, Sun 3rd Aug
•   Sat 4th Oct, Sun 5th Oct
•   Sat 1st Nov, Sun 2nd Nov

These special days are in addition to narrow boat Birdswood’s weekly Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday motor cruises. Full details of trip times and fares are at

In addition, schools in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire can enjoy the Birdswood horseboating experience on Tuesdays 24th June and 8th July. The boat can seat up to 35 pupils plus teachers and helpers. Contact Schools Liaison Officer Judy Berry at for details.

Birdswood on the Cromford Canal

Boat horse Chelsea with handler Corinne Rose setting off with narrow boat Birdswood from Cromford Wharf. Photo: Dave Miller

Birdswood on the Cromford Canal

Horse-drawn narrow boat Birdswood behind boat horse Chelsea at High Peak Junction, Cromford. Photo: Dave Miller

Birdswood on the Cromford Canal

Boat horse Chelsea with Corinne Rose of Arraslea Shires. Photo: Dave Miller

Equine Celebrations

Sunday Jan 19th 2014:
The 13th anniversary of the Horseboating Society, which was founded on 19 Jan 2001. A day for everyone to shout out, Hussah! and Hurrah!

Friday January 31st 2014:
Start of the Chinese New Year, 2014 being the Year of the Horse! Many celebrations in major cities over the previous and following weeks.

Rochdale Canal

On Friday October 4th, HBS crew were out horseboating with Bilbo and horseboat Vixen on a gentle journey from Hebden Bridge to above Brearley locks,. This involved 2.5 miles, 2 locks, and poling against the roof through Fallingroyd Tunnel because crew usually cannot reach the tunnel roof for legging.

On Thursday Oct 17th we were Horseboating with Bilbo and Vixen from Brearley locks to Stubbing Wharf, Hebden Bridge. We had a boat full of 12 passengers, which is as many as we are allowed. They were encouraged to walk on occasions as well as sit on board the boat. There were 3 from the Hebden Bridge Local History Society, thanks to Diana Monahan who is secretary of that group, and has acted as horseboating crew on most dates this year in the Hebden Bridge area. There were 9 passengers from the River Foss Society thanks to Adrian Lovett and his friend Peter Hopwood, with all those 11 travelling in quite a distance from the York area. The boat was left at the Stubbing Wharf pub, ready for their annual Apple Day.

Leeds and Liverpool Canal

On Sunday October 6th, the Canal and River Trust had invited HBS to attend their Family Fun Day at the top of the Bingley Five Rise with Bilbo and horseboat Elland. The event was poorly advertised but there was glorious sunshine all day which brought the crowds along to the site and thus they found the event. Harnessing demos with Bilbo were well attended and appreciated at an ideal grass location midway down the locks. The boat was present but there was no horseboating. HBS was working in conjunction with education volunteers for CRT. These volunteers do activities based mostly at Bingley.

On Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th October, primary school children made visits to the Bingley Five Rise locks. HBS was again working in conjunction with education volunteers for CRT. These CRT education volunteers are known as Heritage Explorers, and at present they only operate in about 5 locations, but it is a scheme being expanded by CRT nationwide.

There were harnessing demos, no horseboating, on Wednesday, morning only, and Thursday, morning and afternoon. Four classes attended, totaling about 120 children. The demos were held outside the café at the top of the Five Rise because this building was originally a stable with stalls for boathorses. Elland was moored here, so the children could instantly compare the size of the boathorse Bilbo, to the size of the narrowboat Elland. It was made clear to the children that wide-beam boats were more commonly used on the L & L Canal in the past, requiring larger horses with even greater bodyweight than Bilbo to pull the laden wide-beam boats with their heavier cargoes. However some narrowboats were in use too.

On Saturday October 12th, HBS was filmed horseboating on the Bingley Five Rise and Three Rise for Channel 4 at Bingley, then after the film crew left, we continued horse-drawn to Shipley. The TV programme is a documentary for the series “Walking through History” presented by Tony Robinson (Time Team/Black Adder). Tony has been filmed on a historic walk along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, from Liverpool to Wigan. Within the documentary they wanted to interview someone with a horse-drawn boat to evoke the “historic” age. As a horse-drawn boat could not be provided between Liverpool and Wigan in October 2013, the film crew and Tony Robinson came to Bingley instead, at least on the same canal and to the very horse and boat which travelled from Leeds to Liverpool in 2012.

We took some sheets down on Elland as requested so the film crew could get on board the boat, only for them to change their mind and do all their filming from the ground! This did give them a more flexible approach at the locks as the filming could be done from either side of the locks. Filming on the towpath was quite hard as Tony Robinson approached from behind, at the bottom of the Five Rise, calling out a question, and then a discussion took place on the move as the horse-drawn boat approached the Three Rise. Some cyclists, approaching from behind, found their way blocked by the film crew who were filming Bilbo pulling Elland, and Tony Robinson in discussion. Words were exchanged in exasperation as the film crew asked the cyclists to get out of the picture, and when they retorted in objection Tony crossly told them that they should see it was difficult for the filming to take place. The joys of shared towpath use and/or filming!

Tony joined Bilbo on the Three Rise to see how we were improvising in the absence of the lock furniture which once existed on the several staircase locks between Leeds and Bingley. Originally there were small pulleys on the balance beams, around which the towing line was placed so that a horse could pull the boat from one lock into the next when going down locks. The horse would walk on the level ground next to the lock chamber in the opposite direction to which the boat was going. This technique of using a pulley is demonstrated at the Parkhead Festival in the Black Country every two years. HBS has to improvise as there are no pulleys left on any of the several staircase locks in the Leeds to Bingley area. So the towline is passed round a circular metal bollard at ground level beside the lock instead of round the original pulley at the height of a balance beam level. HBS has been experimenting, learning, and perfecting this technique. This was the third time that Bilbo had pulled on these locks downhill. On the two previous occasions he had been somewhat confused but had tried to help with guidance. On this occasion he was an absolute star, remembering and knowing what was being asked of him. He has to walk slightly uphill, slightly sideways, because of the location of the bollard instead of the original pulley. How wonderful it would be if CRT or the L & L Canal Society would replace the lock furniture so that we could demonstrate use of the pulleys once again. It is to the great credit of the L & L Canal Society that they have replaced many towpath rollers on the canal which HBS loves to use, to see and hear them rolling as the towline is used on bends of the canal.

The crew that day was supplemented by two young boys aged 9 and 10, both all dressed up in period clothing. It would be nice if the TV programme shows them. One boy is the son of a member of crew who is an artist in Saltaire and the son had been joined by his school friend.

On Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th October, Elland had a motorboat tow from Shipley to Leeds, above lock 2.

On Wednesday Oct 16th, Elland had a motorboat tow through the remaining two locks of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and along the Aire and Calder Navigation from Leeds to Thwaite.

The excellent news is that a home mooring has been agreed for horseboat Elland at the Thwaite Mills Watermill Museum on the Aire & Calder Navigation. This was accepted by CRT in August on renewal of the annual licence. This is the third winter that the boat has been moored at this museum. There are other boaters on site to keep an eye on Elland, and the mooring fits HBS policy in that it is not a towpath mooring but an offside mooring. It is unlikely that Elland will be out boating before April 2014.

Horseboating DVD

Unfortunately Countryside Audio and Visual did not film either Bywater Cruises with its 12-seater boat or Vixen also a 12-seater operated by HBS. They felt they had enough passenger boats with the 4 companies which operate regularly. In fact they nearly missed out the Tiverton Company on the Grand Western in Devon due to travelling distance. However the HBS requested that all 4 regular companies be included.

The HBS owes massive thanks to Countryside Audio and Visual for the time they have put in unpaid to make this DVD. Great thanks also go to HBS member Diana Zeuner who provided the contact point for all this to happen. It is likely that the DVD will be available before Christmas. Watch this space.

Not all the material that HBS would have liked has been included in the DVD but there had to be limitations due to the availability on dates and travel with accommodation costs of Countryside Audio and Visual. Some techniques involved with horseboating will be shown but not as full a range as would have been preferred. Still the HBS looks forward to the DVD being on sale soon. It has taken several years for this project to get off the ground. The filming has been done by horse enthusiasts in the end as Video Active which makes many waterway DVDs was no longer willing to do the work unpaid as originally discussed with them.

The Horseboating Society will be promoted on the DVD and the HBS website can continue to provide an up to date list of operators of horse-drawn boats.