Horseboating at Leeds

This Saturday (24th June) as part of 2017’s Leeds Waterfront Festival there will be opportunities to see some aspects of horseboating.

Horseboat Elland has been taken from her mooring at Thwaite Mills Museum to Leeds by motor tow this week.
Bilbo the boat horse will join her on Saturday only, to give harnessing demos and short horseboating demos at Oddy Locks on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal (close to Leeds city centre).

Extra crew welcomed, or just visit to be sociable!

Horseboating Society Update

HBS had a quiet horseboating year in 2015, due to Sue Day having to attend to family matters as a priority. Sue spent much of last summer 2015 and nearly all this winter 2015/2016 with her mother at her home in Suffolk. Sue writes:
“I have been far away from canals in Norfolk and Suffolk physically, and as a result, even mentally. There are no canals with towpaths for horse use in the area. I last visited home near Manchester in early May and have only just returned home 3 months later in time to prepare for appearance at the National Waterways Museum on Sunday August 14th.
“I am currently committed to helping my mother who has lost much of her eyesight due to age related macular degeneration. She is 94 and lives alone unless I join her.”
In 2015, we fulfilled various requests:
• horseboat Maria attended on the Lower Peak Forest Canal at the 150th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the railway in Marple, Cheshire. CRT chief executive Richard Parry steered Maria over the Marple Aqueduct and up some of the lock flight.
• horseboat Vixen took part in the annual Rochdale Canal Festival giving passenger rides.
• Horses at Work event day at the National Waterways Museum – harnessing demos and horseboating demos with horseboat Gifford
• various boathorse harnessing demos at waterway events
However the major project of horseboat Elland going around the South Pennine Ring had to be cancelled as it would have been very time consuming.
In 2016, HBS has been limited with our activities once again. However there have been several horseboating activities by others – like the Saturn Group and our Midlands HBS rep.
We still hope HBS will be able to be involved with horseboat Elland in some of the 2016 celebrations of the bi-centenary of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
The major activity will be in October, when motorboat Kennet will recreate the inaugural journey on the canal of 200 years earlier. Other boats are invited to join her on stretches, so let us hope Elland can do that, eg near Leeds – Bingley. Watch the HBS website and HBS emails for dates for any activities.

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.

Elland on the Leeds and Liverpool

Between Tuesday September 10th and Saturday September 14th, Bilbo pulled Elland on the Leeds and Liverpool canal, setting off from East Marton with Countryside Audio and Visual in attendance, for their second visit to the HBS. They had filmed Maria in April and had returned for another historic boat. Elland was kept sheeted up to provide a contrast to Maria with her sheets down.

After Salterforth the uncut trees between the towpath and the water channel were very hard work for the crew who had to lift the towline over them for about a mile. All year the trees have been growing taller until some cutting was started in late August. There is two summers’ growth as this area was cut before we travelled on it in 2012.

On Saturday Sept 14th, Elland was horse-drawn over the Burnley Embankment, on one of the Open Heritage Days held nationally that weekend, highlighting access to special architecture. The Burnley Embankment is one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Bilbo and Elland thus arrived at the Burnley Canal Festival, mooring opposite the historic Slater’s Terrace.

Busy time for Horseboating Society

The HBS has just had 2 lovely days on the Rochdale Canal on Aug 12th and 13th, travelling with horseboat Vixen from Todmorden up to the Summit and over it. Fine weather, good company, beautiful flowering heather on the Pennine hills, stunning scenery, Bilbo working really well, and plenty of appreciation from onlookers as usual. Through Locks 19 – 37. Vixen is moored below Lock 37 at the West end of the Summit at the Summit Inn.

However we still need crew for Elland on the Leeds and Liverpool. We had insufficient crew for Thursday Aug 15th so we are moving Elland on the following dates – Friday Aug 16th, Saturday Aug 17th. Getting into lovely countryside on these two days. Gargrave is charming too.

Vixen will be next used on Wed Aug 28th to introduce a small party of Portuguese equestrian children and their tutors to horseboating. They are visiting the Hebden Bridge Equestrian Centre on an exchange visit. Lynnette Crossley, HBS director, is funding this trip for the students.

Vixen will then be worked back to Hebden Bridge to be part of some filming going on at Hebden Bridge about the Rochdale Canal. The Llangollen horseboats are going to be involved too as the programme will cover 3 canals.

See Events page for dates for which crew are needed in August and September.

Legging Foulridge Tunnel

The Horseboating Society commemorated the centenary of the bovine feat of Buttercup the brown cow who swam through the mile long Foulridge Tunnel on September 24th, 1912.

On the exact date, a hundred years later in 2012, the horseboat Elland was legged through the Foulridge Tunnel and a storyline was developed. As the boat made its way through the tunnel, it came across a cow called Buttercup swimming through the tunnel. She was offered a ride on the boat which she gratefully accepted. Emerging at Foulridge, Buttercup was safely on board the boat but still needed reviving with alcohol after her long swim, just as in 1912. Unfortunately Cow’s Rum could not be found so Lamb’s Navy Rum was used instead!!!

See all the photos of the legging of Foulridge Tunnel here in our Photo Gallery.

Foulridge Tunnel

Foulridge Tunnel. Photo: Warwick Burton

Foulridge Tunnel

Foulridge Tunnel. Photo: Warwick Burton