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Huddersfield Broad Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation
We moored in Apsley basin where there are 72 hour visitor moorings down the towpath and in-front and beside the pub. The local boat owners were a complete contrast to the two private owners we met earlier in the day and one offered to move his boat so we could moor on what we had assumed were pub or marina moorings. Priory moored right in front and we moored 50 yards away on rings at the end of the towpath moorings.
We were all pretty exhausted and settled down with a beer outside 'The Apsley' which was a bit glossy, expensive and without character and, worse still, had run out of Timmy Taylor's Landlord although there was still a choice of Marston's Pedigree and Moorland's Old Speckled Hen - we had Pedigree. We were told the best pub for food was the New Wharf but we had been cooking a slow-pot on the journey so we put together a comprehensive spread and decided we should spend the day we had made up by staying where we were in Huddersfield. The 21 locks and 5 miles had taken us from 1025 to 1700 reflecting the deep locks and poor paddle gear and, of course having to cycle every lock for the second boat.
It was very quiet overnight despite being next to a pub. We spent the next day round Huddersfield which has a large shopping centre and a Sainsbury with a stones throw of the moorings and a Halfords within walking distance. The small marina has a chandlery (110 amp/hr batteries £50.95) and washing machines and there is a fully equipped BW service block opposite with showers and pump out. Pete did some work on the 24 volt system and changed both fan belts and bought new batteries to fit when required. At about 1800 a Narrowboat arrived having left Marsden Tunnel End in the morning so it is possible to do the East side as well as the West in a single day. They were also complaining about the difficulty with the paddle gear on the locks from 11E to 4E and were disappointed they had not been able to complete the Huddersfield Broad and get to the junction with the Calder and Hebble in a day! We ate at the New Wharf and the mixed grills at £5.60 were as good as we had been told.
13th June 2007: The next morning we were off again on the Huddersfield Broad, also called the Sir John Ramsden's Canal after the original sponsor. It takes one down through 9 broad but short locks to the Calder and Hebble. Apsley Basin was a major interchange basin for goods brought over the Huddersfield Narrow in standard 71 x 7 foot narrowboats to the 57 x 14 foot deep drafted barges used on the Huddersfield Broad Canal. There were a few special 57 long Narrowboat used which could travel on both waterways but it was generally more efficient to transfer and maximise the loads being transported.
The first structure one meets when one leaves the basin is the well known railway lift bridge which lifts a road horizontally. The Huddersfield Broad was comparatively wide and deep and we could make good progress although we had to take care as Priory was close to the maximum length and only had just enough room to allow the front gates to be opened. The canal did not seem to get a lot of use and there was a layer of green weed on the surface of much of it and there was a lot of vegetation in the canal and locks. In some cases we had to clear it out of the way to get the boats in.
The Calder and Hebble Navigations are a mixture of river navigation and canal cuts, in several places there are flood locks which are normally open. One needs to check the levels if there has been heavy rain as not only can navigation be difficult but there is a risk of the flood locks being closed off. It totals 23.5 miles and 27 locks and was completed from Wakefield through to Sowerby Bridge in 1770 although extra sections were progressively canalised after that date. The Calder and Hebble has its unusual paddle gear worked by long wooden handspikes, we had one left on the boat from our last visit and Dugald had modified an old pickaxe hand to have a 3" by 2" cross section. The paddles are quite slow as you have to keep taking the spike out after setting the catch and then moving it round a couple of slots before the next 120 degree rotation, both up and down - they are however very unusual and historic. The locks are still wide but short at 57.5 foot and can catch the unwary as the platforms you stand on the lower gates to operate the paddle gear overhang the lock and it is easy to come up underneath them and catch the tiller, Corinna has the scratches to show it and some of the wooden platforms are badly damaged by previous impacts.
We joined it from the Huddersfield Broad about half way along its course from Wakefield and only went as far as Brighouse the first night as we were meeting up with friends there. We took just under 3 hours to reach the Calder and Hebble down the Huddersfield Broad and were moored at Brighouse two hours latter. We tried to moor between the two locks in Brighouse but the wall we were moored against was so high it was almost impossible to get on and off the boats which had been made slippery by the rain. We moved up and moored on bollards under the side of Sainsbury. We walked round Brighouse which was bigger than we had realised and has several supermarkets and a Wilkinson before we were joined by our friends and went out to eat at an Italian restaurant called Prego which was only a couple of minutes walk along the towpath.
14th June 2007: We left in rain at about 0930 and were very glad we had left the river section as the rain was the heavy, penetrating and unrelenting sort which leaves one cold and wet and brings rivers quickly into flood. The Calder and Hebble above Brighouse is fully canalised but still has a broadness, depth and clearness of water that makes it difficult to believe you are not on river as it winds through green countryside. Elland looked another interesting place to stop as the Barge and Barrel was canal side with mooring bollards and advertised Black Sheep as well as there own range of range of home brewed beers. Some of the locks have small and attractive lock keepers cottages and the final small flight of three locks at Salterhebble is especially attractive. There was also an interesting guillotine lock approached under a main road bridge with a side tunnel for crew to get to the lock from the lay-by.
We had some difficulty mooring at Sowerby Bridge as the moorings marked as visitors moorings on the left as we entered looked a bit rough even though they had rings and we were immediately investigated by a vagrant with bottle in hand. We found much better moorings on the entry to the Rochdale but they had a sign at water level saying private - we checked in the boatyard and it seems it is left over from earlier days so we moored there. It was still torrential rain so we did not even leave the boat when are friends joined us and ate the slow-pot beef which had been cooking as we moved - slow pots are ideal for long days when the engine can keep the batteries for the 240 volt system up.