On 30th October and 1st November 2009 demonstrations of horseboating took place on the Cromford Canal in Derbyshire. Shire horse William pulled the boat Duchess along a mile of canal between Cromford Wharf and Leawood Pumping Station.
Shire horse William pulling the boat Duchess on the Cromford Canal. Photo: Mike Kelley
The horsedrawn passenger boat business with narrowboat Iona might be desribed as 40 years old this year, as it started out in 1969 at Norbury on the Shropshire Union Canal. A second boat came into use, and was given the same name of Iona as the first boat. The business was then sold with horse and boat and, without missing a season, set up at Godalming on the River Wey, where it still operates.
This season boathorses Rosie age 24, Ben age 16, and Denzell age 8 have shared the workload of carrying the many passengers enjoying a 2 hour trip on the River Wey.
August 30th 2009
Horse drawn boats were a part of the Kirkintilloch Canal Festival, on the Forth and Clyde Canal on Sunday August 30th, 2009.
The Clydesdale horse Ben had attended a horseboating training day with his owner George Robertson held on June 17th in preparation for the festival. The training day involved 3 HBS members Sue Day (HBS chairperson), Tim Lucey (HBS Scottish rep) and Richard Davies (festival co-ordinator). On this occasion the local motorboat Janet Telford was pulled by Ben, using a bridle at the bow to help the crew control the steering of the boat in the absence of a large rudder. It rained constantly!
Ben tows motorboat Janet Telford at Kirkintilloch. Photo: Tim Lucey
At the Kirkintilloch Festival, Ben pulled three different boats, one at a time, each with the mast lowered. These were White Wing, the 1919 vintage fishing boat, Wee Spark, a one-third scale Clyde Puffer and a steel yacht based on the design of a Dutch inshore fishing boat - complete with lee-board. Again the bridle system was in use to help steerage. Ththe fishing craft would have been horsedrawn when on the canal in the past. A crowd of interested onlookers can be seen watching from the bridge. The sun shone down (well, at least the rain stayed off until mid-afternoon)!
Tim Lucey, HBS's Scottish representative, went along to keep an eye on things!
Fishing boat being horsedrawn at Kirkintilloch Festival. Photo: Tim Lucey
Maria travelled along the whole length of the Rochdale Canal, including the "Rochdale Nine" down to Castlefield, On Sunday 9th August she returned via the "Rochdale Nine" and the Ashton Canal to her base at Guide Bridge.
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.
Maria was moored in Castlefield Basin alongside the only grass area for Bilbo. This small grass haven has only survived due to the Castlefield Residents putting up opposition to planned development on it. Power to the People! Save our Boathorse Grass! Castlefield was the first urban heritage park set up in the UK.
Saturday was spent talking to passers-by and visitors, and the Museum of Science and Industry, (in Castlefield) sent people across to Maria as an extension to their Transport Festival.
Sue Day on board Maria at Castlefield. Photo: Elizabeth Hogg
Sunday was the long haul home. Up the Rochdale Nine. Up the Ashton 18. How quick and simple the Ashton seemed after 184 broad lock passages on the Rochdale! But the Rochdale is magnificent as it strides from Manchester city across the Pennines into Yorkshire market towns.
A short video taken by Lucy Rogers of The Waterways Trust, showing Maria being horseboated on the "Rochdale Nine", can be seen by clicking the arrow below (or following this link).
A selection of photos of the highlights of the Rochdale Canal Festival can be viewed here.
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!
Maria was horseboated along the Ashton and Rochdale Canals to take part in 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.
Maria, Bilbo and the team successfully reached Sowerby Bridge on schedule on 16th July, still as part of the Rochdale Canal Festival.
The return horsedrawn journey along the Rochdale and Ashton canals starts on Monday 27th July. Crew members are needed. Details of dates are now on the Events page.
Maria was horseboated along the Peak Forest Canal to Marple to take part in the Marple Locks Festival.
The 2009 rally had a record turnout of 84 historic narrowboats. It was the first time that a horsedrawn narrowboat had attended the Rally which is established as the premier event for a historic boat gathering.
Elland was horsedrawn by Bilbo from Stoke Bruerne, where she and Bilbo had attended the Gala Weekend of the Canal Museum.
On the Saturday of the Braunston Rally, the HBS crew legged Elland through Braunston Tunnel while Bilbo was taken over the tunnel-top. Legging time, just under one hour for two pairs of leggers. Elland was then horseboated down the Braunston locks as a demo and photo opportunity, and this was much appreciated by the many observers with eyes, cameras, and video cameras.
Over the weekend, harnessing demos were held at the BW Stop House garden with Bilbo and Toy Bonny.
Elland is horseboated from Crick to Stoke Bruerne, including being legged through Blisworth Tunnel, to take part in the Stoke Bruerne Gala Weekend.
Bonny the Boathorse gave birth to her second foal on Friday, June 5th at about 10.00 am. The foal is a full brother to last year's foal Mayfair Lady. Name undecided so far. Bonny and foal are doing well despite the foal only having 6 hours dry weather before experiencing 36 hours of unseasonal cold and wet weather.
23rd - 25th May 2009
The Horseboating Society had a good presence at Crick Boat Show. Two boats were horseboated to the show and there were WoW activities with Toy Bonny and live boathorse harnessing demos with Bilbo Baggins.
A video taken at Watford Locks for the Rugby Advertiser can be seen on this page, featuring an interview with Sue and some shots of Elland being horseboated.
I wanted to thank you for all your help and support in achieving some
fantastic media coverage for the Show (not forgetting The Horseboating
We had a clean sweep of all media outlets and there is no
doubt in my mind that this had a major positive impact on visitor
numbers to the Show. They always say in the media never work with
animals but on this occasion it was an absolute pleasure to work with
Bilbo and you.
Please pass on my thanks to the volunteers and I look forward to working
with you again in the future.
4th May 2009
Having been legged back through Standedge Tunnel the previous day, Maria was horsedrawn back along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Ashton.
Journey nearing completion: Bilbo and Maria approaching Lock 8w. Photo: Alan and Anita Crosby.
3rd May 2009
Maria is legged back through Standedge Tunnel in a time of 2 hours 40 minutes. On board and helping to leg was Paul Atterbury, waterways historian and author, and vice-president of The Waterways Trust, who have been working with the Horseboating Society to promote Standedge Tunnel.
Maria leaving Standedge Tunnel, with Paul Atterbury legging. Photo: Ken Catford.
See Gallery section for more photographs.
Read Newspaper Report by Ken Bennett from Oldham Chronicle.
25th April 2009
Maria was legged through Standedge Tunnel in a time of 2 hours 47 minutes. On board was 90-year old former legger Ronnie Barnes.
See Gallery section for more photographs.
Read Newspaper Report by Ken Bennett from Oldham Chronicle.
The journey between Marsden and Huddersfield had to be abandoned as the canal was closed because of a leak. However, the legging back through the tunnel on May 3rd and the return to Ashton on May 4th will go ahead as planned.
Ronnie Barnes on board Maria at Diggle. Photo: Chris Sunderland.
The first ever display of "The Boathorses and Bargehorses of Britain" took place at the Shire Horse Society Spring Show. See Gallery section for more photographs.
Boathorses in the arena. Photo: Ken Catford.
Boathorse Buddy towed joey boat No. 15 through Netherton Tunnel, the longest canal tunnel with a towing path. See Gallery section for photographs.
A strange event took place at the Heavy Horse Festival 2008! Prince the Boathorse was in attendance and was put his his paces even though there was no boat to pull. ITV was filming at the event so, in order to simulate the load of a boat in tow, a "tug of war" was arranged, with Prince pulling his towline with people providing the resistance! Sue Day said that a tug of war using a horse was a first for her!
Boathorse Prince takes on the humans in the "tug of war". Photos: Maria Muntz.
Bilbo Baggins and Maria made a return journey of 45 miles and 148 locks to Huddersfield including being legged through Standedge Tunnel, Britain's longest canal tunnel. See photos.
Queenie and Maria made a return journey from Manchester to Liverpool for the World Canals Conference.
See photos of the journey.
There was a television programme showing Queenie with Maria on the Discovery Real Time channel. The programme, called "Narrowboat Afloat" was shown on November 15th. Maria was shown arriving at the 40th Anniversary Gathering of the Historic Narrow Boat Owners' Club at Bugsworth Basin. See report.
There was a feature showing Bonny towing Saturn on the BBC North West programme "Inside Out" on 23rd October.
Maria was horseboated to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. This became a "protest cruise" to draw attention to cuts in BW's funding. Local MP David Heyes joined the crew and took a turn steering Maria. See report.
Maria was horseboated to the Historic Narrow Boat Owners' Club Rally at Marple, then on to Bugsworth Basin, where she was loaded with limestone to bring back to the Ashton Canal. On the way to Marple, BW's Chief Executive, Robin Evans, joined the crew and legged a tunnel, steered the boat and worked the locks! See report. See photos of journey.
Members of The Horseboating Society legged "Maria" through Standedge Tunnel as part of a special celebration to mark the 200th anniversary of Thomas Telford's appointment to finish the tunnel (details).
Legging through Standedge Tunnel.
The Ashton Packet Boat Company's historic wooden narrowboat "Maria", built in 1854, made the horsedrawn journey along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal between Ashton and Huddersfield and back, including being the first boat legged through Standedge Tunnel for 59 years. The passage through the tunnel took 2 hours 52 minutes. Click here for photos.
On the return journey, the boat was legged solo through the tunnel by Horseboating Society member Nigel Dix in a time of 3 hrs 3 minutes. Click here for photos.
The 2006 Annual General Meeting of the society took place at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley.
Click below to see the Minutes of the 2006 AGM. .pdf file ( - needs Acrobat Reader or similar) .Word document
Members of The Horseboating Society legged "Sunny Valley" through Blisworth Tunnel as part of a special weekend to mark the tunnel's 200th anniversary. On Sunday morning, 25th September, the boat was legged from the Stoke Bruerne end northwards. The boat was then towed on past Blisworth Village to Gayton Junction by Bonny the Boathorse, who had walked over the top of the tunnel, accompanied by villagers dressed in period clothing.
Reaching the northern end of Blisworth Tunnel.
Photo: Sean Neill
The Horseboating Society Website was "Website of the Month" for June in Waterways World magazine!
Bugsworth Basin Maria was horse-drawn to the opening of Bugsworth Basin, which took place on Easter Saturday, 26th March. On Easter Sunday, Maria's original purpose was re-created when she carried a load of 16 tons of limestone out of Bugsworth Basin. See Photo Gallery for more pictures.
Photo: Mike Casswell
In February, Maria was horse-drawn along the Ashton Canal to Portland Basin for the AGM of The Horseboating Society. The return journey was in the snow, with thin ice on the canal! See Photo Gallery for pictures.
Some of the members of The Horseboating Society gathered for the AGM, with Maria at Portland Basin.
Members of The Horseboating Society inspect the boat horses at Portland Basin.
Maria travelled from Guide Bridge to the top of Marple Locks for the Marple Locks Celebration.
On Saturday 3rd July Maria went down the top four locks, carrying passengers portraying Samuel Oldknow and his apprentices, re-enacting the first journey down the locks 200 years ago. Later in the afternoon Maria continued down to the bottom of Marple Locks before returning to Guide Bridge.
Maria was launched from Jinks' Boatyard at the top of Marple Locks in July 1854, so this event was also celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first journey of Maria down the locks! Maria has been de-converted from being a passenger trip boat and restored to her original 1854 condition as an open working boat.
Peak Forest Canal - 2003
The horse-drawn boat Maria was taken along the Peak Forest Canal to Marple Aqueduct to be present for the unveiling of a memorial to Dr Cyril Boucher.
Maria crossing Marple Aqueduct, towed by Queenie driven by Steve Corbett.
It was appropriate for the horseboat Maria to attend the ceremony as she was built at Marple in 1854 at Jinks' yard, above the top lock. She celebrated her 150th birthday in 2004.
When the Boucher family came to Marple in the 1950s the locks were still open and a few boats still making passages. In his speech at the ceremony, John Boucher. the eldest son of Dr Cyril Boucher, referred to Maria as one of the graceful maintenance boats of the area.
Thanks were given by IWA National Chairman, John Fletcher, to the Ashton Packet Boat Company for providing Maria and to Sue Day for supplying the motive power of boathorse Queenie.
The eight mile journey between Guide Bridge on the Ashton Canal and Marple is lock-free but includes two turnover bridges, two tunnels and the Marple Aqueduct. Queenie pulled Maria through Woodley Tunnel and the crew legged her through Hyde Bank Tunnel. Ten foot high trees on the towpath edge caused great difficulties in the Woodley area. Sadly, the boathorse path over Hyde Bank Tunnel has been made into a difficult route for horses as new wooden barriers have been erected. Despite these problems, the horseboating was much enjoyed by the crew in glorious weather.