20th anniversary of the reopening of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal

Yesterday (01st May) marked the 20th anniversary of the reopening of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to through traffic

The Huddersfield Canal Society had hoped to mark the event this year but current pandemic restrictions make celebratory gatherings impossible.

The society are instead aiming to mark the reopened canal’s ‘Coming of Age’ on the 21st Anniversary on May 1st 2022.

Mayor of Kirklees in 2001, Cllr Ann Denham who officially reopened the waterway. Credit: Huddersfield Canal Society.

The reopening in 2001 enabled boats to cross the Pennines once more by the shortest route and traverse the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in the UK. It was officially reopened by the then Mayor of Kirklees, Cllr Ann Denham who cut the tape on the approach to the new Bates Tunnel.

The canal had officially been closed during the Second World War and the last known passage was in 1948 when an intrepid crew made the journey from Ashton-under-Lyne to Huddersfield in.

The Huddersfield Canal Society, formed in 1974, gradually gained the confidence of local and navigation authority partners and started to restore sections from the 1980s onward. Although significant progress had been made on reconstructing 62 of the 74 locks by the mid-1990s, it took major funding from Millennium Commission and English Partnerships to open the remaining blockages.

The first boat to make a full passage after reopening. Credit: Huddersfield Canal Society

At first, British Waterways took on the operation and maintenance of the 20 mile long canal as part of the national network and from 2012 it became the responsibility of the Canal and River Trust.

Both organisations have made improvements in the navigability of the canal. It is now an established part of the network and on many boaters’ bucket-lists. As well as transforming the centres of Stalybridge and Slaithwaite it has encouraged regeneration and new businesses in the Tame and Colne Valleys.

Standedge Visitor Centre also opened in 2001 and since then it has given many visitors trips into the restored Standedge tunnel.

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