June Walk: The Bradley Branch and surroundings

This walk was dedicated to the memory of Ian McKim Thompson MBChB, a much missed friend of the BCN and BBHT.

What is now the Bradley branch was originally part of Brindley’s Main Line (now called ‘The Old Main Line’) of 1772.  When the line was straightened with the building of Coseley Tunnel  it became the Bradley arm and a new section was also built with 9 locks taking it down to the Walsall Canal. It is currently navigable as far as the Bradley workshops, from there it is a restoration project. Dave Pearson, the local IWA branch deputy chairman and BCNS representative kindly accompanied us on the walk, explaining the restoration along the way.

Before heading for the canal Paul and Kathy presented us all with a map of the canals/lost canals in the area which helped immensely in understanding all the loops and arms, some of which can still be seen, and interesting details of the walk. They also set the challenge of finding as many different makers marks on clay capping stones as possible (with prizes).

We joined the Bradley Canal at Glasshouse Bridge, part way along the navigable section of the canal. A few years ago it was a struggle to boat here because of weed growth. Much work has now been done to improve it, dredging (including lifting out a flattened, but complete Ford Escort), clearing the banks, installing Nicospan on the offside and seeding with wildflowers behind it to create an attractive bank and improving the towpath. Mooring rings are also planned to be installed. In the heyday of the canals this whole area was full of industry—Paul had counted 12 iron works and 128 coal mines and shafts! There is now much new housing and redevelopment in the area.

Contrast of the old and new at Glass House Bridge—the further end of the factory site is also earmarked for housing
Looking in the opposite direction, the canal is completely lined with new houses  

After passing under Pot House bridge, a blanked off section of canal can be seen  ahead, this was the original line of the canal, a loop which served Wilkinsons Ironworks, which was subsequently straightened. Beyond this section Bradley Pumping Engine stood. This pumped water from local mines into the canal, electric pumps still do this, a mutually beneficial agreement with the successors of the NCB.

A coot’s nest at the bottom of the parapet of the blocked off loop with an unusually large brood of chicks. The BCN is becoming a haven for wildlife  

Immediately after Bradley workshop is the major obstacle of restoration. Across a busy road, on the line of the canal stand large factory units owned by CRT. The lease is nearing the end on these so there is the possibility of knocking these down and restoring the original route of the canal. Failing this there is an area of open land to the side which the canal could be diverted through, however this would entail building an embankment which would be very costly.

The factories across the road from the Bradley workshops which stand on the line of the canal  

From the back of the factory the line of the canal runs through what is now an open green area, although it has previously been an area of mining, industrial wasteland and a council tip. It is known to be contaminated, another problem for restoration. Here there had been another loop in the original main line, we followed the later  straightened line to the top of the 9 locks which led down to the Walsall Canal.

Bradley top lock then………… ………..and now

The top flight of 6 locks can’t be seen but were simply buried and are thought to be in quite good condition, prior to restoration the chambers would have to be dug out, inspected then filled in again to maintain stability whilst awaiting water and lock gates.

Another problem in this area is local resistance to the restoration as some residents have ‘extended’ their gardens into the canal corridor.

After these locks is a partly buried bridge, which carries a busy A road. This has recently been inspected, it is fairly certain that the abutments are still good and the arch may be serviceable.  Below the bridge the canal is overgrown but intact, with the bottom three locks intact and culverted.

The buried bridge
One of the three bottom locks with safety rails  

This final section of the Bradley Arm is tree lined and feels surprisingly  rural, it joins the Walsall Canal at Moorcroft Junction. After a bit of clay capping stone inspection by the more competitive members of the group we set off south towards the Gospel Oak branch.

Looking for makers names on the capping stones  

The Gospel Oak branch leaves the Walsall on the offside and is still in water (not navigable) for the first part of it’s length. It is hoped that residential moorings can be provided on this length. A path then follows the approximate line to the branch end through a green corridor. This brought us out close to the Gospel Oak pub where we stopped for an amazingly generous lunch deal.

Heading down the Walsall Canal The start of the Gospel Oak Branch

Happily replete we headed back to the Wednesbury Oak loop and then retraced our steps back to the start of the walk, seven out of the possible eight capping stones having been found along the way.

This is a fascinating area, full of history and we were very fortunate to have two such knowledgeable guides in Paul and Dave.  It would be nice to see more boats venturing onto the arm, which with the recent improvements should be an absolute doddle compared to a few years ago. Even better would be to travel down a restored link to the Walsall canal which we hope to see come to fruition. Hopefully this would also lead to improvements along the Walsall canal, which has a surprisingly green and well kept towing path but suffers badly from weed growth in the channel.

Many thanks to Dave for accompanying us for the day and being a font of knowledge and to Paul and Kathy for their organisation and detailed research of the area and making the day so interesting.

Dave Pearson talking to the group
 

Bradley Canal Walk Saturday 1st June

Walk majoring on the Bradley Branch Canal                        10.30am start

OS Landranger 139     Explorer 219 (Wolverhampton & Dudley) (Old Pathfinder 912 Wolverhampton (South) (SO 89/99) Godfrey Edition maps 62.16 (Bilston), 67.04 (Bradley), 68.01 (Wednesbury)

The walk takes-in parts of Brindley’s Old Main Line, most of the Wednesbury Oak Loop/Bradley Branch, a bit of the Walsall Canal and all that’s left of the Gospel Oak Branch.


This is a six mile circular walk: 3½ miles before lunch, 2½ after lunch.
It comprises, roughly-speaking: ⅓ operational canal, ⅓ line lost but obvious, ⅓ line lost and subject to guesswork and/or imagination.

Start 10.30 am in Bath Street, SO 951962, WV14 0ST: a straight road on the eastern perimeter of Morrisons supermarket in Black Country Route, Bilston, WV14 0DZ (the dual-carriageway A463).

Travelling west on the A463 from Oxford Street Island, there are signs for Brooklands Sheds & Fencing and Meadwood Industrial Estate. Turn left immediately before the Morrisons supermarket building and keep left into Bath Street. Park here – there are no yellow lines.

Bilston bus station and Bilston Central Metro station are on the north side of the Black Country Route and easily accessible to both the town and our start point.

Anyone wanting to come by boat could moor close to Glasshouse Bridge, the point where we begin our walk on the canal. No doubt C&RT at Bradley Workshops can advise.

Lunch will be taken at 1.00pm at the Gospel Oak, 1 Bilston Road, Tipton see https://www.gospeloakpub.co.uk/

It’s a big Marston’s pub with a large seating capacity, inside and out. Range of ales by Marston’s and Banks, ciders & lagers.

Extensive menu (note, sandwiches on the Lunch Club menu). In order to be as efficient as possible, the pub will appreciate an advance order. If you are coming and plan to eat at the pub, please let the Nibletts know your choices before Saturday 25 May.

Regardless of whether you wish to order food, if you are planning to come on the walk, please ring Kathy & Paul Niblett on 01782 641967 (answerphone available), any time before the 29 May.

Stout shoes etc as usual. We don’t expect mud: most of the route is on towpath, public footpath or street pavement.

The Nutbrook Canal Walk 6th April 2019

Another Benjamin Outram canal, the Nutbrook, which fully opened in 1796, was an independent branch of the Erewash built by local businessmen to carry coal and ironstone. 

The 4½ mile long canal ran from the Erewash Canal near Stanton Lock, just north of the point where the M1 crosses the Erewash Canal, to Shipley Wharf near Ilkeston. It was built with 13 broad locks capable of taking Trent barges, in reality though it was mainly used by narrowboats. 2 reservoirs were built near Shipley to supply water for the canal, this supply was also used to feed the boilers at the Ironworks. With short branches off the canal, many linked to tramways to serve the many mineral works in the area.

Even in its heyday this was never a busy canal, with an average of just 9 boat movements per working day. As well as competition from the railways it also suffered from subsidence and leakage and was informally closed in 1896. Just the bottom section from the Erewash to Stanton Ironworks remained in use and Stanton Ironworks eventually became the owners of the canal. The last boat left this section of the canal in 1949.

Given it’s early closure it’s amazing that it’s still possible to walk a good part of it’s length, that some of it is still in water and remains of locks can still be seen.

A very large group of us, including several new members, met approximately halfway along the canal at Straws Bridge (previously Moor’s Bridge), where there is a large public car park next to a lake. With Mick Golds kindly accompanying us as guide we set off to explore the southern section of the canal.

Crossing the A609, we were soon on the line of the canal, here Hunloke’s Arm, which served the ironworks and pits of West Hallam, went off to the right.

Shortly after we encountered locks  6 and 5, one wall of each remains, the footpath runs through lock 5 while there an now a lake to the other side, this didn’t exist when the canal was operating and appears to be an amenity area for the surrounding modern housing estate.

Walking through lock 5

We were soon walking on the towpath with the visible line of the canal on one side and the Nut Brook (which runs close to the canal for much of the length) on the other. The canal goes under the A6096, once Little Hallam Bridge, now culverted with modern houses above, this was originally the site of Bridge House, the company’s very impressive headquarters.

Little Hallam Bridge, now culverted, with modern house beyond
Little Hallam Bridge, the large building to the right of the bridge was the company’s headquarters

After the remains of lock 4, which is reasonably intact, water started to appear in the canal and we reached a weir in the Nut Brook. This is a later feature built to provide a source of water for the lower part of the canal and Stanton Ironworks after the rest of the canal closed cutting off the water from the reservoirs. From here the canal is properly in water.

The weir in the Nut Brook, in the foreground is the canal feed, the weir beyond fed the Ironworks
Beyond this point the canal is fully in water

A little further on are the abutments of what was once a fine stone bridge, but now has a flat concrete deck. Sow Brook (or Lord Stanhope’s Arm) left the canal on the offside just after this, then the remains of lock 3, which has two rather unusual sluices in a weir at the top.

Inspecting the unusual sluices at lock 3

Then the canal suddenly stopped and we emerged onto a rather desolate area that used to be the huge Stanton Ironworks. This was the part that had been kept open after 1895, the canal had run straight through the Ironworks and included a toll house, 2 locks and 2 bridges but in 1962 was partly filled in and eventually completely obliterated.

The canal suddenly stops
The site of Stanton Ironworks

We turned at this point and headed back, now following the railway track of  the Great Northern Railway.

Lunch had been planned at the Bulls Head at Ilkeston. However, a message came a few days before the walk that the landlord and chef had walked out, understandably causing our organisers something of a panic. However all was well, by Saturday a new landlady was in situ and as there was no chef we were allowed to eat our sandwiches in the pub while enjoying the excellent beer.

After lunch we explored the Northern stretch of the canal. This section is crossed several times by railway lines and we were soon puzzling over a strange affair at the side of the path where pieces of railway line surrounded a clump of trees with what appeared to be a seat in the centre. Mick explained that this was a buffer stop for a siding, with a heavy piece of forged rail holding it together.

The buffer stop

The first railway crossing is now a mound that you have to walk over, but the second one, albeit narrowed, is still in situ. There were two more locks to examine on this section and another stretch in water, this time with the type of rough towpath that you expect to encounter on a disused canal.

The narrowed railway bridge
Nearing the end of the Northern section

Emerging from this tree lined section the canal came to an abrupt halt, here a large area of opencast mining has completely obliterated the line of the canal.  Ahead there would once have been the last 3 locks and Shipley Wharf. Beyond that Shipley Reservoir is now part of Shipley Country Park and marked on current maps as a lake.  We turned again and returned to the car park.

Thanks were given to Mick for imparting his extensive knowledge of the area and making sure we didn’t miss any features, and to Dave and Izzie for providing such a great start to our 2019 programme.

Next time out  Saturday 1st June:  The Bradley Arm on the BCN

The Nutbrook Canal Walk 6th April 2019

The Nutbrook Canal was a branch off the Erewash Canal; apparently it was never officially abandoned however, most of it was closed by 1895 but despite this there is still a surprising amount to be seen including a navigable looking stretch and several lock remains. 

Running mainly parallel to the canal line is a Sustrans route mainly on the course of long abandoned railway lines (there were many in the Erewash valley) and today’s walk is basically a figure of eight using both these routes.  The full length is some 6-7 miles but there are opportunities to cut it shorter at some points, even to just do the morning as we will pass the cars after lunch.  We have managed to get Mick Golds to accompany us and share his extensive local knowledge of the area.

Meet at Straw’s Bridge car park on the north side of the A609 west of Ilkeston at 10.00am. Post code is apparently DE7 5FG but we haven’t tested it to see if Sat Navs work with it! Otherwise SK454418 should work and the car park is marked on OS maps.

Lunch will be at the Bulls Head, Little Hallam Hill, Ilkeston – yes, it’s uphill to the pub!  There’s the usual pub fare including “2 meals for £10”. 
https://bullsheadilkeston.co.uk/menu-2/ The landlord requests orders in advance please which will much help proceedings!

Please let Dave and Izzie know if you’ll be walking. Food orders please by 30th March. 
iturner@coddington.org.uk  01636 708781, 07733 655279. Email is probably best for bookings


New members: Eating at the pub isn’t compulsory! Some prefer to bring sandwiches, please feel free to do whatever suits you..


Waggon completed

We finally have a complete waggon after Brian Greaves, the floating blacksmith who has been at the basin during Christmas and the New Year,  forged and installed the gate. We are extremely pleased with the result.

A true story of life in Bugsworth in the early 1900’s

BBHT have a supply of the wonderfully written story of a life spent in Bugsworth (pre Buxworth) from early 1900 left to us by the author Hannah Rose Swindell.

The title ‘EXCEPT THE LORD BUILD THE HOUSE’ appears to be a misnomer for it is not in any way religion related.  Names of villagers come thick and fast as does the way of life which has now long since gone.

The book can be bought at the Bugsworth Basin shop or from Ian Edgar MBE, at Top Lock House, Lime Kiln Lane, Marple, SK6 6BX. (0161 427 7402). Cost £5.00 plus P & P if applicable.

All proceeds go in to BBHT for the upkeep and continued restoration of the Basin.

 

 

 

Summer – Autumn 2018

Last Saturday brought some more unusual visitors to the basin as two steam engines came down from the First world War commemoration that was taking place in the village.

But the summer months saw far fewer boats than usual visiting the basin. In May CRT re-opened Marple locks having completed the works on lock 15, however restrictions and then closure soon came again with lock 11 failing. With the Peak Forest canal effectively cut in half and boats unable to do the popular Cheshire ring  in particular this impacted on the number of boats visiting  Bugsworth.

As the hot dry summer progressed and the grass at the basin turned brown the feeder reservoirs dropped drastically.

                           July – pretty empty with the grass turning brown

On 13th August Bosley locks were shut through lack of water, cutting off the summit level from the rest of the canal system. At the same time, with no feed coming in from the Black Brook, all boats were advised to move out and CRT put stop planks in at the basin to help maintain level in the summit pound and we waited to see if the level of the basin would drop—or rather, how much it would drop.

Initially the level did drop 8” but fairly soon the weather cooled and rain showers kept topping up the basin.  However, after Pablo lined the lower basin arm stop planks with plastic the level of the arm dropped drastically.

Sealing the stop planks on the lower basin arm

3 leaks in the arm were soon apparent, unfortunately we also found that water was leaking into the arm through one of the walls, probably running from the wide. This was referred to CRT who have investigated and we await developments.

The basin was re-opened a few weeks ago after heavy rain raised the level of the Black Brook and started feeding into the basin again.

During the summer, as usual, work centered around keeping the basin tidy.

Work has now turned to tidying up where needed and construction of the new accessible picnic benches, planters and seats.

         Cleaning up the cobbles down to the middle basin

 

                                     Cutting old lock beams into planks for the first picnic table

Having cut some of our stock of redundant lock gate beams into planks the first picnic bench is now well under way. This will be the easy access picnic table, which we hope to have in place early next year.

50 Years on

On 14 September 1968, the Inland Waterways Protection Society received permission from British Waterways to commence restoration of Bugsworth Basin. The IWPS, a splinter group of the IWA, had been formed 10 years earlier, they had visited and reviewed several class C waterways including the Stratford on Avon, Dearne and Dove, Chesterfield, Pocklington, Macclesfield and of course the Peak Forest where they ‘found’ Bugsworth Basin.

                                                    Bugsworth Basin in 1966                                                                  

The main aims of the IWPS became the restoration and operation of the Basin. Initially led by the indomitable Bessie Bunker, she believed that as the canals had been built by hand, they should be restored by hand. Ian Edgar took over in 1974, thankfully he didn’t share this philosophy or we might still be digging today!

Prior to closure in 1927, for over a hundred years Bugsworth Basin had been a thriving inland port, the largest and busiest on the narrow canal system and the only one to survive intact. Linked to limestone and gritstone quarries by the 6 mile long Peak Forest Tramway it was a large industrial complex with    warehouses, limekilns, wagn tipplers, cranes and a stone crusher.

                                                   Middle basin                       

                                    Upper basin with warehouse and tramway wagons

By 1968 it was silted up and overgrown. Of the many buildings only part of the warehouse in the middle arm (locally known as the monastery garden) and the base of the stone crusher remained, along with some of the limekilns and setts from the tramway. The stone from many of the structures had been taken and used elsewhere.

Alongside the re-excavation of the canal, there were many stone retaining walls to repair and the horse bridge to re-build. Stone had to be sourced and brought back to the Basin, this coming from various locations including Chinley railway station, Broken Banks Farm and Rose and Crown Farm.

                   Volunteers at work on the Lower Basin

                          Walls in need of re-building in the Upper Basin

Various hurdles were overcome – the proposal of turning the basin into a marina, thus ruining the historical site, was followed by the major threat of the A6 bypass being built through the basin. Ancient Monument status was applied for and granted protecting the basin and forcing the bypass to be diverted around it.

A major problem was leaks (the river course was altered during construction of the basin and as this area is built up on glacial drift it is quite unstable). The basin was opened and closed again twice before finally re-opening in 2005 after a large part of the bottom of the channel was lined with concrete.

                Boats finally return to the basin in 2005

The role of the volunteers now changed to management, maintenance and providing information and interpretation of the site for the many visitors. The name was changed in 2014 to the more appropriate Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust.

When Bugsworth Basin was an industrial area there was hardly a tree to be seen, now there are an abundance of plants and wildlife around the Basin. In 2016 the Peak  Forest Canal from Marple aqueduct to Bugsworth gained Green Flag status. Our wildlife volunteer monitors wildlife around the basin, she is also creating an interactive display for children and planning wildlife watches.

The downside of all the trees that now populate the area is that their roots damage the infrastructure, so keeping walls and the limekilns free of trees takes up a lot of volunteer time. Access in some places can be quite tricky and sometimes specialist equipment is needed. However some jobs are too big for the Trust and we then have to call on CRT, with whom we have a good relationship. So when large trees were cut down last year volunteers cleared the debris and when CRT installed a new feed in the middle basin arm to provide more water for the Peak Forest Canal BBHT sourced and planted new indigenous trees and bushes on the disturbed land.

Re-planting disturbed land with indiginous trees and shrubs

A safety harness is needed to cut back trees on the retaining wall

Leaks are still a constant concern, the lower basin arm wasn’t included in the 2005 scheme and has to be stanked off.  Holes which appear alongside the arms regularly have to be plugged with clay.

On the historical side the trust installed a heritage trail around the basin, with interpretive panels and a diorama showing the basin in its heyday. The utilities building was constructed and what was originally intended to be an office became a small shop. Ideally, we would have a building with exhibitions of the history and restoration of the Basin, along with a shop and café. Over the years proposals have been put forward to rebuild one of the warehouses for this purpose, unfortunately this turned out to be too complex. Another idea was for a new building on land at the bottom of the roadway where the containers housing the workshop, equipment and mess room are. British Waterways wouldn’t allow this due to the close proximity of the high retaining wall which separates the Basin from the Black Brook that runs alongside.

Reluctantly the Trust had to shelve the idea of a permanent integrated building and make the most of ‘container city’. One was turned into an exhibition space, another has recently been fitted out as a cinema room which will have a running display of historic images of the working basin including some glass plates, the Restoration by volunteers and a CRT film of canals in general. As CRT now have a welcome station at the basin this will key in with their activities. The exteriors have been painted and timelines attached along with a panel of artwork, based around the basin, produced by pupils of Buxworth Primary School.

Timeline and cinema room in ‘container city’

Using redundant balance beams volunteers are making benches and planters, which will be filled with edible plants, for the area alongside.

Being unable to rebuild any permanent historical structures attention has turned to removable artefacts/structures. Recently installed on original tramway lines in the lower basin is a replica Peak Forest Tramway wagon which has been constructed by our volunteers. Following the success of this, further projects are in the pipeline, subject to the necessary approvals.

Visitors to the Basin are full of praise for the restoration and on-going work of the volunteers, as one visitor wrote in the book ‘Fantastic, wonderful what you have achieved here’

Stop planks go in at the Basin

CRT arrived at the basin this morning to insert stop planks into the gauging narrow.

Dropping the stop planks into place

The stop planks will remain in place until we have some significant rainfall and  feeder reservoirs start to recover. This will provide us with the opportunity to monitor leakage from the basin and should the water level drop low enough ascertain the amount of silt that has accumulated since the basin was re-watered in 2005.

We await developments

The Huddersfield Canal East

We started the walk on the Huddersfield Broad Canal (originally the Sir John Ramsden canal as the Ramsdens owned the area at the time) at the locomotive lift bridge. When the canal opened in 1776 to link Huddersfield with the Calder and Hebble navigation there was a swing bridge here, or turn bridge as it was known locally, the road approaching it being called ‘Turnbridge Road’. This is somewhat confusing these days with the bridge now being a lift bridge. The very impressive and unique locomotive bridge, built by the London and North Western Railway Co,  replaced the swing bridge in 1865 and is a scheduled ancient monument. (Thanks to Gerald for the information on the Huddersfield Broad and the Locomotion Bridge).

Locomotive Lift Bridge

Having admired the bridge we moved on to our first stop at Aspley basin where goods coming over the Huddersfield Narrow would have to be transshipped to continue on their way due to the shorter, wider locks on the Huddersfield Broad. The A629 dual carriageway runs next to the basin and was one of the culverted blockages hindering the restoration. This was rebuilt during the major works of 1999-2001 (more of that later) although boaters beware – the headroom is pretty limited.

The new bridge under the A629, linking the Huddersfield Broad with the                                                            Huddersfield Narrow

On the other side of the bridge is an attractive stone warehouse, complete with crane. After this it appears as if an arm runs off to the left, but old maps show that it was a goit bringing water from the nearby River Colne to serve Shorefoot Mill, situated at the end of an arm on the opposite side of the canal, and to feed the canal. Only a small section of the mill arm remains but a crane is still in situ.

On to lock 1E and the start of the Huddersfield Narrow.

Work started on the Hudderfield Narrow in 1794 with Benjamin Outram as engineer.  Plenty of trade was anticipated due to the many woollen, worsted and cotton mills along the route. As they would all need water Outram proposed 10 feeder reservoirs for the canal. Progress was slow, partly due to Outram having too many commitments and being ill for a long period. Other setbacks included severe flooding in 1799 which damaged earthworks and various reservoirs, partly devastated the village of Marsden and destroyed two aqueducts, and the Black Flood of 1810 when Diggle Moss reservoir gave way, again flooding Marsden plus much of the Colne valley, wrecking houses and factories and killing five people.

Finally opened to through traffic in 1811, Telford having taken over construction of the tunneln the  canal has 74 locks and the 5,700 yard long Stanedge tunnel, the longest and deepest on the system.

The canal saw moderate success but by the start of the first world war very little trade was left and in 1944 it was abandoned. Most of the locks were filled with rubble and concreted over to form a cascade, eighteen bridges had been culverted and nearly 2 miles of the canal filled in.

In 1974 the Huddersfield Canal Society was formed and they presented the local  council with a comprehensive plan for restoring the canal providing solutions for all the blockages. With the local textile  industry in decline the council agreed to protect the line of the canal recognising that the future of the area may be in tourism.  The society was very active, attracting many members and much publicity for ‘the impossible restoration’. However,  BW wouldn’t let work start until funding was found to maintain the restored lengths which eventually Greater Manchester county council agreed to do at Uppermill. Progress was slow until job creation schemes came into being, this speeded up the restoration and in 1988 the abandoned canal status was removed so navigation could return to the canal. However there were still several significant blockages hindering full restoration. With grants being given by the Millenium Commision and English Partnerships totalling almost £28,000,000 contractors moved in and the restoration gained pace, finally re-opening in 2001 but with only 2 of the original 10 reservoirs in use.

Our next stop on the walk had been one of the major blockages; just past the site of the original lock 2 the buildings of Bates and Co had been built across the canal. The solution to this was to lower the channel by 3 metres taking the canal through a tunnel under the building and relocate lock 2 upstream. The old lock and new deepened section of the canal being braced with beams.

Beams brace the deepened section of canal leading to Bates & Co allowed a                                                 tunnel to be built under the mill

The existing bridge where the canal has been deepened leading to a narrow                                                          tunnel under Bates & Co.

As there is no towpath through the tunnel we followed the well signposted diversion on the roads round the Mill. On returning to the canal we looked back at the new lock 2 then crossed the road to what had been another major blockage.

Sellars Engineering had occupied the area of the former wharf and canalside warehouses. In the 1999-2011 works the canal channel was moved south of the original line, a new lock 3 built upstream and a 300 metre tunnel was built under Sellars. However in 2011/12 this changed. Sellars moved to a new site, the tunnel was opened up and lock 3 moved back down channel, closer to the original. The area around is being redeveloped with buildings for Kirklees College and Huddersfield University.  The former tunnel section of canal remains a narrow.

Approaching the latest lock 3 with the new college/university buildings canalside.

Our original plan had been to carry on walking up to Milnsbridge but towpath improvements had shut most of the section from here to Milnsbridge so we returned to our cars and drove to Milnsbridge Wharf. Here emergency works had just been completed on lock 9 and CRT had provided us with the following information:

‘The problem with all the locks on the HNC is that water is leaving the chamber into the lock quadrants. Over the years  this had washed away the fines within the quadrant and left voids’. The repairs involved ‘removing stone setts, digging down to a firm level, lining the void with terram, fill with pea gravel and re-laying the sets’.

Having examined  lock 9 there was just enough time to look around Milsbridge wharf, where flats have been built that sit well next to the old stone mills that line the canal.

                                                          Milnsbridge Wharf

Then walk down to the interesting lock 8 where the towpath closure ended. Here a cameo of mills buildings surround the canal, the bridge below lock 8 has been widened and the bottom balance beams now protrude over a highish wall making lock working interesting, the iron lower bridge parapet is original and shows the earlier road line and there is an unusual bywash outfall below the lock.

The outfall below lock 8 with the original parapet above

Another short drive took us to Slaithwaite for lunch at the wonderful lock 22 café where we all sat in the sun to enjoy our substantial lunches before sampling the first ice-cream of the day.

The canal alongside the café had been infilled and covered with grass and cherry trees, just downstream lock 22 had been buried for 30 years under a car park. During the restoration this was re-instated. The channel is narrower than originally but this 600 metre section which runs alongside the main road through Slaithwaite is now a very attractive feature of the town, and popular area for visitors.

Next to the main road in Slaithwaite. Looking down towards lock 22

At the top end of this section the bridge below lock 24 had been widened leaving no space for balance beams, the solution here was to install a guillotine gate, this has presented some problems in recent years but is now back in working order.

The guillotine gate at lock 24

From here the canal progresses through attractive tree-lined sections with elegant stone bridges.  Between  locks 26 and 27 was the dam for Shaw Carr Wood Mill. At some time this has been breached through to the canal and causes problems with siltation in the canal.

Attractive tree lined section of canal above Slaithwaite

The route then emerges into glorious open hill scenery with the occasional stone built house and the remains of mill races running parallel – providing plenty of interesting diversions.

                                                            Heading into the hills

Sparth reservoir also runs alongside the canal. Because the canal was due to close due to water shortages two days after our walk, we had expected the water level in here to be spectacularly low, but this wasn’t the case and several swimmers and sun-bathers were taking advantage of the warm weather and beautiful location.

                                    Sparth reservoir, alongside the canal

We finally arrived at lock 42E, the top lock on the east side of the canal, and next to Marsden Station. Here we split into two groups, one group carried on to the tunnel and visitor centre and those who had been before and therefore considered another ice-cream more of a priority dropped down into Marsden town centre for the ice-cream parlour.

With its restoration features, stone bridges and mill buildings, and the amazing views as it climbs into the pennines the Huddersfield Narrow remains one of my favourite canals. Walking the canal gives a different perspective to boating and it is well worth doing both if you have the chance.

By popular request  a walk on the west side will follow….