Opened originally in 1811, the Standedge (pronounced “Stannedge”, apparently) canal tunnel is a legendary boating experience at 5km (3.5m) long and hundreds of feet underground. I was lucky enough to join narrowboaters on a Pennine Cruise organised by the Huddersfield Canal Society as they went through this amazing tunnel.
In October last year, I produced a video documenting the restoration efforts of the Cotswold Canals Trust. One of the major projects they were facing was the need for a tunnel / bridge to let their canal go under a railway line at Stonehouse near Stroud. That was done over Christmas so I popped back for a quick update.
Having stopped overnight at the end of the Froghall arm, I turned the narrowboat and headed back the way I’d come, up to the junction where the Caldon canal had split into two. One very sharp left turn later and I was going down the Leek branch through heavily wooded sections and a very narrow tunnel indeed, emerging at the navigable end of that part of the canal.
Having stocked up with provisions at Endon I carried on down the Caldon canal, stopping briefly to empty the loo and top up the boat’s water tank then going to Denford where the canal splits into two branches. I took the Froghall branch which soon after runs underneath the Leek branch. It gets very dense, there are deep locks, a heritage railway and I bumped into Aussie Boater as well as going past a historic mill.
After several days at Yardley Gobion, during which time I had the boatyard opposite look at – and hopefully fix – the diesel leak, I carried on with my return journey up the Grand Union canal, going back through Gayton, up the Stoke Bruerne locks and up through Blisworth tunnel (no signs of any ghosts this time round).