Members of the Horseboating Society have been the first to "leg" a boat through Standedge Tunnel for around 60 years. On May 7th 2006 they propelled the historic wooden narrowboat "Maria" through the longest canal tunnel in the country.
NB Maria moves towards the tunnel to the sound of the Diggle Band.
The journey was completed in 2 hours 52 minutes. Eight leggers, working in pairs, took turns of about 20 minutes each. Also on the boat were 87-year old Ronnie Barnes and his wife. Ronnie worked on the canal when he was young and legged maintenance boats through the tunnel.
Maria is Britain's oldest surviving wooden narrowboat (built in 1854) and is owned and has been carefully restored by members of the Ashton Packet Boat Company.
NB Maria was followed through the tunnel at a distance by one of BW's electric passenger modules, acting as safety boat. Behind this was the BW work boat Pennine being legged by a team raising money for the Forget-Me-Not Trust.
Getting ready to start legging. Above the portal, Nigel Dix gets ready to take Bonny the Boathorse over the top of the hills.
While Maria was legged through the tunnel, Nigel Dix walked Bonny the Boathorse 'over the top' and a large group of walkers followed them over the moorland.
The following Sunday, 14th May, Horseboating Society member Nigel Dix legged the boat through the whole tunnel length from Marsden to Diggle. (Details and photos below.)
The unusual sight of a boat entering Standedge Tunnel without being covered with rubber sheets!
These special events were held by British Waterways as part of a double celebration at Standedge in 2006: the fifth anniversary of the reopening of the Tunnel and the 200th anniversary of Thomas Telford's appointment to finish the original tunnel.
On both Sundays there was free family entertainment at Standedge Visitor Centre. Visitors were able to take part in traditional games and see waterway crafts including harness making, ropework, such as making towlines and splicing, and demonstrations on a pole-lathe. Characters dressed in costume added to the atmosphere and members of the Huddersfield Canal Society were on hand to talk about the history of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and its restoration.
Legging an unlined section of the tunnel.
Canals such as Standedge were built without towpaths and, in the days before boats had engines, the only way to get a boat through a tunnel was to "leg" it - walking along the roof or the walls of the tunnel. Teams of men hired themselves as "leggers" to take the boatthrough the tunnel while the boatman led his horse over the top of the hill.
Legging pauses as the boat glides through a wide section of tunnel.
The constantly-changing profile of the tunnel.
A distant speck of light is the end of the tunnel.
Emerging from the tunnel to the waiting crowd.
Emerging from the tunnel. Photo: Bob Gough
Maria moored up at a damp Tunnel End as the crowd awaits the other boats.
Ten minutes later the Forget-Me-Not Trust team emerges.
Nigel Dix Legs Standedge Tunnel "solo"
On 7th May 2006 Members of the Horseboating Society legged the historic wooden narrowboat "Maria" through Standedge Tunnel - the first time a boat has been legged through this tunnel for 59 years. A week later, on 14th May, the boat was legged back through the tunnel from Marsden to Diggle, but this time by one person legging solo!
Nigel Dix tries out the mattress on which he will leg the tunnel.
35 year old Horseboating Society member, Nigel Dix, from Saddleworth, completed this mammoth task in just 3 hours and 3 minutes!
Nigel lay on a mattress on the cabin roof and propelled the boat through without assistance. Where the tunnel was too high to reach the roof, Nigel used a pole to propel the boat forward. A back-up crew was on board in case Nigel was unable to complete the task, but, in the event, their services were not needed!
NB Maria was followed through the tunnel by one of BW's electric passenger modules, acting as safety boat. Behind this was the BW work boat Pennine being legged by a team raising money for Kirkwood Hospice.
Despite poor weather, crowds gather to see the convoy of boats enter the tunnel.
Setting off! Robert Mackenzie (right) will walk Bonny the Boathorse over the moors to Diggle.
The easy bit - Nigel legs the brick lined section close to the Marsden end of the tunnel.
Nigel poles the boat through a section where the roof is too high for legging.
Nigel gets dirtier as his boots bring down dust. He is wearing a face visor for protection.
The last few steps!
Emerging from the tunnel to the waiting crowd, with the BW boat a few minutes behind.
Tired and dirty. Nigel Dix after his solo legging through Standedge Tunnel.
A few minutes later the Kirkwood Hospice team emerges.