Standedge Tunnel

Monday 20th June 2016

The Standedge Tunnel is the longest (3 miles and 418 yards), highest (645feet above sea level) and deepest (638 feet beneath the summit of the Pennines) canal tunnel in Britain. It is considered one of the 7 wonders of the waterway world (click link) and today we get to traverse it.

Awoke this morning to rain just pelting down on us. We needed to move the boat closer to the entrance of the tunnel as we needed to put on some water. We were told it is good to have the water tanks full to keep the boat low in the water. The dimensions of the boat to get through the tunnel are very important as the tunnel is very snug. So snug that prior to diesel motors men use to leg the boats through the tunnel. Amazing feat when you think of it. It takes 1 ½ hours to go through today but there was a record set way back of them having legged it through in 1 hour and 37 minutes!

We got absolutely drenched filling up the water tank and then moving the boat back behind M+W’s boat. Three boats came through from the other side whilst we are waiting. There is only traffic through the tunnels on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with East to West in the mornings and West to East boats in the afternoon.


Getting ready to go through – note the pissing rain


The entrance is rather underwhelming


Thomas Telford was the IT guy when it came to construction of the canal systemIMG_6703

The induction team.

We saw M+W start through at 12.45 and then we left ¾ of an hour later. There are actually four tunnels in total and they all run very close to one another. The first tunnel built was the canal one in 1811 which makes sense as canals were the first form of transport for goods. Then they built a rail tunnel 1849 followed by another single rail tunnel in 1871 and then a final double track tunnel in 1894. Only the double track rail tunnel is in use for trains.


Fras finally gets to wear a high viz jacket

After our induction by John and the measurements of the boat having been taken to ensure it fitted within the tunnel criteria, we set off. Fras had the delight of wearing a high viz jacket and a hard hat plus a buoyancy vest. He was joined on the back of the boat for the entire passage by John. Di opted to remain inside the boat with the dogs securely fastened on their leads to the furniture. Things were going relatively well until the boat started hitting the sides of the tunnel. Each time this occurred the dogs got more and more spooked and by the time we came out the other side they were both quivering messes. What upset them was that it was dark outside the boat and they did not know when the bangs were going to come and some of them were significant. We were in full light within the boat as this light is required to help illuminate the insides of the tunnel but just the suddenness and the sound of the bangs terrified them. They are not normally easily spooked as fireworks do not phase them or even being close to fast moving trains. We now understand why they said they wanted them secured within the boat – makes sense now.

In the old rail tunnel that is closest to the canal tunnel they had a vehicle driving along beside us who were in radio contact the whole time. There are a number of adits along the length of the tunnel so we could actually see the car at times. There was also the double track rail tunnel to the other side of us and we could hear the trains as they whizzed past. The tunnel is 3 and a half miles long and the lining inside changes significantly depending on the rock that they had to drill through.


The tunnel at the other end.

The safety aspects that were employed during our transit were very significant and reassuring. Besides being in radio contact with the car they were also in contact with their headquarters at the other end of the tunnel.

We popped out the other end to sunshine which was a welcome relief after the rain on the other side. So effectively we have been right under the Pennines which is considered the back bone of the UK.

We had decided that traversing the tunnel for the day would be enough and as it was getting late we moored up close to the exit of the tunnel. We had a little wander around the town of Marsden which has a distinct Yorkshire look about it. This is the area where All Creatures Great and Small and Brassed Off were filmed.

The third England soccer game is on tonight so W+M and Fras went to the local pub to watch it. Di decided to stay behind to catch up on blogs and do some reading.

Joke of the Day – best delivered with a broad Yorkshire accent.

We are now in Marsden and truly in Yorkshire.

Apparently at the local church behind the altar there is a golden telephone that you can use to ring god. Best part is that it only costs 3p a minute as it’s a LOCAL call!



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