Bonny and Maria on TV soon

Bonny the Boathorse, now aged 25, is celebrating her 25th year with Maria, the boat she took to London in 2000 from Manchester.

As part of the television programme ‘Britain Afloat’, Bonny and Maria were filmed crossing the Grade II listed Marple Aqueduct. Maria was on her home waters here, having been built at Marple.

The series will be about different types of boat and the programme about Narrow Boats will be shown on BBC1’s East Midlands region on Friday 29th September at 7.30 pm, available nationwide on BBC iPlayer the next day. (Programmes about other types of boat will be broadcast in other regions on 29th Sept.) The programme will then be broadcast nationwide as part of a series on BBC2 on Saturday 14th October at 8.00 pm.

Maria is owned by the Ashton Packet Boat Company and operated with horsepower by The Horseboating Society.

Crossing Marple Aqueduct. Photo: Warwick Burton

Crossing Marple Aqueduct in 2011. Photo: Warwick Burton

Crew needed for filming in June!

Horseboat Maria is in demand once again for television filming. This will be on Saturday June 17th, 2017, on the Lower Peak Forest Canal at the bottom of Marple Locks, on and around the aqueduct. There will not be filming on the locks.

We will be working for the team of “Inside Out” who are making a programme about narrowboats for BBC2.

Crew are needed and we have been asked to be in Victorian period clothing – that is as we would normally turn out for horseboating with Maria. Contact Sue Day on 07711-121-056 with a text as first choice.

Maria will be towed by motorboat from her home mooring at Guide Bridge by the Ashton Packet Boat Co, owners of Maria, to meet the horsebox and boathorse at the bottom of the Marple locks.

The film crew are expected to arrive from 1.00 pm onwards, and the presenter wants to have some involvement with preparing the horse and boat. This seems an opportunity for a social get together for HBS members, as well as being involved with the horseboating and filming.

Please let Sue Day know if you can crew on the day. Also try to let her know if you might come along to just socialise. Bring a packed lunch and drink to eat lunch at 12 noon before filming. Contact Sue Day on 07711-121-056 with a text as first choice.

(Victorian style period clothing required by the film crew. Dark waterproofs or dark donkey jacket, not modern fleeces and cagoules, when on or near the boat.)

Horseboating with Maria

Horseboating with Maria

Filming for CeeBeebies

On May 22nd, horseboat Ilkeston was filmed near the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port. This was for a programme called ‘Your Story’ for the children’s channel CeeBeebies.

Ilkeston at Ellesmere Port

Filming Ilkeston at Meadow Lane, Ellesmere Port. Photo: Ken Catford

Ilkeston at Ellesmere Port

Ilkeston approaching Meadow Lane, Ellesmere Port. Photo: Ken Catford

Ilkeston at Ellesmere Port

A moment of rest for the stars. Photo: Ken Catford

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.

Filming with Prunella and Tim

On Wednesday September 4th, filming took place with passenger boat Vixen and Bilbo on the Rochdale Canal. For a Channel 4 TV programme, actorsTimothy West and Prunella Scales were travelling along the Rochdale Canal from its start at Sowerby Bridge to meet and interview people en route. Bilbo towed the boat to the location chosen by the TV crew at Black Pit Lock in Hebden Bridge. Eventually a phone call came to say the film crew would be late. This was OK as Bilbo was enjoying grass in the local park and the weather was pleasant.

When they arrived, Bilbo was ready for them, harnessed to pull the boat. To our disappointment, the film crew said they were running too late to film the boat horse-drawn which made little sense to us as it would have taken one minute to set the boat moving towards the lock for a quick shot of the boat being horse-drawn.

There was an interview between Timothy West and Sue Day and Adrian Lovett, and a visit to Bilbo tied at the lock-side and the boat on the aqueduct. Prunella gave Bilbo a kiss on his nose and she was assured that Bilbo received plenty of kisses from Sue! Timothy referred to the past, that two boats would have been common. Sue Day agreed that horses did pull two narrowboats at a time on the Rochdale but widebeam boats were very usual. Only later on reflection did the crew realize that Timothy probably was thinking of a narrow motorboat and butty. Sadly the narrow motorboat and butty has dominated the minds of most people today, and the arduous work of horses pulling two loaded narrowboats or a loaded widebeam boat is often overlooked. On the Rochdale Canal horses pulled widebeam boats from 1804 to the canal closure about 1950.

Maria on television

Horseboat Maria was filmed at Standedge and Diggle in 2012 for two separate television programmes. One was repeated in late May and the other is being broadcast in June for the first time.

Maria was on television as a repeat showing on May 28 with the Dan Snow programme “Locomotion”. The boat was towed by Bilbo on the Diggle locks of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, showing the use of canals before the advent of railways. (May be available on BBC iplayer.)

Look out for Maria on “Town” with Nicholas Crane. He legged Maria in Standedge Tunnel in 2012. As the film was to show Nick only as a legger, it was necessary for him to leg from the back cabin roof. The programme will be about the town of Huddersfield. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal only became fully navigable from end to end when the Standedge Tunnel finally opened in 1811 after 16 years of digging and building. The Huddersfield Broad Canal was an earlier navigation and both canals increased trade for the town of Huddersfield.