The Canal

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which runs for 20 miles between Huddersfield in West Yorkshire and Ashton under Lyne in Greater Manchester, has a total of 74 locks.

Standedge Tunnel, at its summit, is Britain’s longest canal tunnel on the highest navigable waterway in Britain.

Standedge tunnel

Begun by Benjamin Outram in 1798 and completed in 1810 after his death, this is still the longest and highest canal tunnel in the country: 3 miles 135 yards long and 645 feet above sea level.

In 1799, after 5 years work, the canal was operational on both sides of the tunnel but the tunnel itself took a further 12 years to complete. In the meantime goods were transported on horseback across the hills between Marsden and Dobcross.

When the tunnel finally opened, in 1811, boats were taken through in 4 hours by leggers who would lay on their sides to push against the tunnel wall with their feet. A 480 ft. shaft brought water down from Redbrook Reservoir and helped to ventilate the tunnel.

The coming of the railways in the mid 19th century slowly led to the demise of the canal which was closed in 1944. The Huddersfield Canal Society was formed in 1974 with the objective of re-opening the canal. After many years’ work and with funding from various sources the canal finally opened again in 2001.

Read more about Standege Tunnel on the Pennine Waterways website

Canal reservoirs

These man-made lakes, for storing water to feed the Huddersfield Canal, are now important features of the landscape.

Redbrook Reservoir lies almost directly above the canal, and its water enters the canal through a 480 ft. shaft. There is now a sailing club here.
Black Moss Reservoir is situated on the Pennine Watershed, and its water can be directed either east or west.
Swellands Reservoir burst in 1810, while the canal was still being constructed, causing the ‘Black Flood of Marsden’.
Tunnel End Reservoir has an aqueduct to carry the river over the canal and railway.
March Haigh Reservoir was constructed in 1832 to improve the water supply to the canal.
Sparth Reservoir stores water from Green Hill Clough.