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Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Standedge Tunnel

This is another £1 Away Day Blog. That is a day out by train which my West Yorkshire bus pass allows me to go practically anywhere in the area for £1 return. Today we are going to the Pennine town of Marsden, near Huddersfield (Last of the
Summer Wine country). For the Marsdens among you it is possible that your ancestors came from here. Another possibility is that they came from Nelson, just over the hill in Lancashire.

We are going to take a look at part of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and its main feature, the Standedge (pronounced Stanidge) tunnel. The canal runs between Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire to Huddersfield, a distance of just under 20 miles and this year is its 200th anniversary. It was closed in 1944 and lay derelict for 30 years before restoration began. it re-opened in 2001

Marsden station is next to the canal towpath and the tunnel is about half a mile away. A few narrow boats are tied up by the side of the towpath under an ugly bridge.

Around the first bend and you are in the countryside, lush vegetation and mallard families looking for their dinner and looking
after their young ones.

I know that it's called the 'narrow' canal but this is ridiculous!

It only takes a few minutes to get to the basin at Tunnel End.

This is an old warehouse which has been turned into a visitor centre. When I had a walk round there was a class of schoolchildren, aged about seven or so, having the time of their lives learning about the canal, getting dressed up in Victorian clothes and learning about how children 200 or so years ago lived.

The tunnel entrance. The tunnel is the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in the country. it is 3¼ miles long, 636ft underground at its deepest point, and 643ft above sea level. It took 17 years to build from 1794. You will notice that there is no towpath in the tunnel. The boats were propelled through by boatmen - or ‘leggers’ as they are called. They lay down on the boat and use their legs to push on the walls or roof to move the boat along. The operation takes up to four hours, according
to the weight of the cargo and the number of men engaged in the work. They got 1s 6d (7½p) per trip. The horses and boat crew had to walk over the hill to meet the boat. The record for the trip is 1 hour 25 minutes, done in 1914 - by a man and his wife. Thomas Bourne started working at the tunnel when he was a boy. His job was to ensure the boats went into the tunnel safely then walk over the top of the moors and make sure they came out of the other end. He did this job for almost 37 years
and walked an estimated 215,582 miles.

This is the boat that gives trips into the tunnel. It usually goes about ¼m into the tunnel and then returns. It does do complete trips all the way through on occasions. Some of the schoolkids were also on the boat. When the guide asked if they had any questions, one budding boy racer, not happy with the 3mph we were going, piped up: 'D'unt it go any quicker, mister?'

Deep under the Pennines. During the construction of the new double-line railway tunnel between 1890 and 1894, great damage
was done by the mining operations to the canal tunnel. To make good the damage, a considerable length of brick flying arches (with side walls where required) and continuous arching were built. This is just one small length of the strengthening work. The termperature in the tunnel is a constant 10°

Lock 42 East. This is the highest point of the canal. In the eight miles from Huddersfield it has risen 439ft through 42 locks.

Looking down the hill to Lock 41.

The start of the overflow channel at Lock 41. Excess water coming down the canal bypasses the lock . . .

. . . and rejoins the canal below the lock.

Lock 40. It's amazing how natural these locks look in the landscape. They are not industrial at all.

Round the corner and down the hill to Huddersfield.

Looking back up the hill

The Pennine hills rising above Marsden.

The impressive lych-gate at the parish church.

Packhorse bridge opposite the church. It was built in 1775.

I hope that you have enjoyed the trip. Just time for a pint now in the Railway Inn before I get my train. Compo, Clegg and company have been known to sup in there when on their adventures.

10 people like this.

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 11:52

Smashing photoblog John. Very vibrant photos, a smidgen HDR looking.  There is also a lot of really interesting information here too.  Fave shot, Lock 42 East.  Mind you it was difficult, there are some real stunners in this one.

A COMPLETE Photoblog, great shots and really informative.

Cheers John.  Glad you stuck at it.

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 12:04

Another great blog from you John. I visit this area on a regular basis for walking over the moor and the Marsden estate. Quite often we see the Fire & Rescue guys on exercises in the tunnels, I think there are 3 in total. I never been into them though.

We also see the Air Ambulance perched on top of Pule Hill, probably taking part in the same exercises.

We also used to see Summer Wine filming there as well, quite often in the car park opposite the Railway pub ! A lot of the 'madcap downhill' sequences were filmed down a quiet lane opposite the glof course

My favourite pub is the Tunnel End, just up from the visitor centre, where they do great food and are extremely friendly (even to us walkers in boots and all !

Its an area I would recommend everybody to visit, thanks for sharing it with us. 


'Bokeh' Competition entry:-

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 12:22

Another super blog.  Great pics and an interesting narrative.  My fave is the last one - the packhorse bridge.

Thanks for posting.

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 12:46

Hi John,

a great blog full of information of (and passion about Wink ) cultural and technical history. Nice to see that this history is kept alive. The blog is a really good mixture of photos and text.

I have a small problem with some of the photos e.g. 3, 5, 6 and 7. They look extremely soft on my monitor. Perhaps it's just the MFP settings or different tastes buit have you ever tried to make them a bit harder?

Mögen alle Lebewesen wohlauf und glücklich sein
Verehrung Ihm, dem Erhabenen, Heiligen, völlig Erwachten!

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 13:04

nice blog. I enjoyed both the photos and narrative, thanks for sharing you day out with us.

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 13:25

Excellent blog! Very informative and interesting for those of us who do not reside in the UK! It is amazing to realize what our ancestors accomplished with basically their bare hands. I wonder how many pairs of shoes Thomas Bourne went through in his lifetime! We have no concept of what work is...

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 14:41

Excellent blog.

I've recently discovered the advantages of cycling the canal towpaths (no hills, no traffic, no hills!) so you've inspired me to try a little further afield. This canal is a bit too far to get to easily, but the next one a bit further north is within reach, so given a good day I'll probably try that, could even get as far as Halifax, though as a Lancastrian, that feels like taking my life in my hands!

Alan - Parky54

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 15:02

Great blog again John, some smashing shots and great narrative, thanks for taking the time (twice!!) to share with us Smile xx

gallery ;


still checking on you all every now and again !!!


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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 15:29

Wow!! Superb shots and a top class blog, if there were prizes you'd wind 1st, hands down!!

I love what you've done with the images, they're superb.  And the narrative is so interesting and informative.  Well done you; I've faved this so I can go on the trip again and again.

Thanks for all your hard work and thanks for sharing.


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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 15:36


Nice one John. I've been there a few times but never been down the tunnel. There's another path that runs parallel to canal by the river Colne. One day I should post the blog. I second what Jim Miller has said about the area. Fantastic moorland walks around there.

Only 3 years and 7 months before I retire...

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 17:00

  Another wonderful interesting photoblog of your places of visit John. Just love reading and viewing your photos. I noticed you posted a couple while I was on holiday and have commented on those too. Thanks for sharing. Alison  Cool

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 17:15

Well done, John. Caught my interest and kept it all the way through with information and fine images. Many thanks.

Best Regards,


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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 17:26

As everyone has said John, a great blog which I have really enjoyed.  Your images are excellent and really enjoyed the text - you keep coming up with places for my 'must visit' list - I shall have to retire!  Many thanks, Celia

Please visit my photoblogs - comments welcome, Hurtigruten is my favourite!

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 19:50

Interesting informative blog John. Well done. Mike

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 20:07

Great shots of the canals, locks and basins.  Facinating blog. 

Strange but very few Marsdens come from Marsden, most are from Derbyshire?

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Date Sun, 29/05/2011 - 21:22

I love canal blogs John and this is a cracker.All the shots are great but my favourite is the one inside the tunnel.


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Date Mon, 30/05/2011 - 00:21

nice one John lovely country side great colours, super blog if only i could visit all these places,

Tim Truscott

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Date Mon, 30/05/2011 - 14:08

Great informative blog!  Really very interesting, & lovely pictures too  Smile

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Date Thu, 09/06/2011 - 19:03

Somehow missed this one!!

Great blog, love canals and the tunnel shot in particular caught my eye. Super green foliage and the stone work is impressive as always on the building over there.

PS We'll more than likely get a good thumping on Sunday... but you never know Wink

They're playing at Bishop Monkton, book us some good weather please, it's a long way to come for rain!!


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Date Thu, 29/03/2012 - 12:54

Very nice blog,John!


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