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Sowerby Bridge


Route Highlights:

Three canals cross the Pennines, each with its own character, but all showing the determination of two centuries ago to get goods moving across the hills and build prosperity. Today you can see their history all around as you travel, but also how the West Riding is adapting to 21st century life. Our base among the old warehouses of Sowerby Bridge Wharf is ideally situated for exploring all the northern waterways. Click for suggested routes.

The sample routes below are merely suggestions. The age and nature of our unique waterways means that there may occasionally be a need for planned or emergency restrictions or closures and therefore it cannot be guaranteed that every route will always be available.
Sowerby Bridge Map

Short Break Route Suggestions (3 & 4 nights):

Relaxed route: Hebden Bridge, Stubbing Wharf and Return - 14 miles, 20 locks, 11 hours total
Relax in Hebden Bridge and take two amazing walks. As part of your instruction and handover, we take you up through the first three locks, including the deepest one in the country. You then sail off along the side of the valley to Luddenden Foot (pubs with food, one Indian; playground and good moorings). The next two locks take you to Mytholmroyd – pubs with food, Aux Délices restaurant and two convenience stores. Mytholmroyd is the birthplace of Ted Hughes. You can see the outside of his birthplace, stand under the bridge where he wrote The Long Tunnel Ceiling, and look out for Hawk by Kenny Hunter just beside Lock 7. The canal carries on through Fallingroyd Tunnel to Hebden Bridge. You can moor in the centre of town. There's a good choice of pubs, restaurants and cafés. There are really good butchers, bakers and fruit and veg, plus a variety of whole and exotic foods. And book shops, crafts, kitchen ware.... There are farmers and craft markets. The Tourist Information Centre next to the dry dock is a mine of local insights, from staff really plugged in to the Hebden Bridge story. Hebden is a good base for two amazing walks. One goes up to Heptonstall, a village on the tops which is completely real and untouristy, with Sylvia Plath’s grave in a romantic ruined churchyard, and an octagonal Wesleyan chapel. The other is along Hardcastle Crags, a steep wooded valley with winding paths (ideal for your children to lose you), a stream at the bottom, huge ant hills, and a National Trust tea at the end. Leaving the centre of Hebden Bridge, keep on through the town and gradually wind up the valley, with woods, crags and the Calder running alongside. Turn below Lock 12 before stopping at our boater’s favourite pub, the Stubbing Wharf. This trip gives you plenty of time for walks, the pub or simply to sit and unwind, especially if you go Monday-Friday.

Intermediate route: Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Return - 20 miles, 34 locks, 16 hours total
A stress-relieving stay in the Calder Valley, visiting Todmorden, home of Incredible Edible. Follow the route above to the Stubbing Wharf. Go on up the valley, its sides closing in with crags and trees, and views of the moors high above. A stream runs alongside, and the locks are set among woods or stone cottages. The Pennine Way crosses at Callis. So to Todmorden, completely untouristy yet with much to enjoy: fine Victorian buildings, especially the Town Hall, a lively market and many places to eat and drink, all dominated by a curving railway viaduct. Along the towpath see improbably-placed fruit and veg, grown by public-spirited locals for anyone to take – Incredible Edible. Make your way back. This trip gives you plenty of time to explore the area - or just relax.

Active route: Wakefield and Return - 42 miles, 52 locks, 27 hours total
Travel down the tree-lined Calder Valley, culminating in a visit to the acclaimed Hepworth Wakefield. Sail down the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to Elland, with two canalside pubs. At Brighouse, an interesting town with useful shops and good pubs and places to eat as well as the eponymous brass band, you leave the canal and drop down into the River Calder. Pass under a towering motorway viaduct, a reminder of the frantic world you left behind. The river winds on its timeless way, until you arrive at Shepley Bridge, where The Ship will refresh you. Continue through wide river sections and narrow cuttings to Wakefield, finding good moorings just by the celebrated Hepworth Wakefield gallery, and not too far from the bright lights. Return the way you came, but see how different everything looks.

Weekly Route Suggestions:

Relaxed route: Stanley Ferry and Return - 48 miles, 54 locks, 30 hours total
Leaving our historic canal basin, your journey begins with the excitement of a new tunnel and the deepest lock in the country. The canal gradually climbs through woods, fields and small stone towns to Hebden Bridge. This old mill town nestles in a fork in the hills, houses piled tier upon tier. Hebden has excellent shops and is full of surprises - everything from horsey clothing to hand-made pottery. Untie, and go on up the valley, its sides closing in with crags and trees and views of the moors high above. A stream runs alongside, and the locks are set among woods or stone cottages. The Pennine Way crosses at Callis. So to Todmorden, completely untouristy yet with much to enjoy - fine Victorian buildings, especially the Town Hall, a lively market and many places to eat and drink, all dominated by a curving railway viaduct. From here the going gets serious – more Alpine than Pennine. Pass the Great Wall of Todmorden, and go under a splendidly overdone Gothic railway bridge. Turn at Lock 32, below below the summit. On your return trip, go down the Calder Valley through the woods to Brighouse. Good shopping, including a Sainsbury's with its own moorings, plentiful pubs and time to relax. Finally, make your way back to base.

Intermediate route: Walsden, Shepley Bridge and Return - 42 miles, 64 locks, 30 hours total
Discover the Calder Valley, including quirky Hebden Bridge and riverside Brighouse. Leaving our historic canal basin, your journey begins with the excitement of a new tunnel and the deepest lock in the country. The canal gradually climbs through woods, fields and small stone towns to Hebden Bridge. This old mill town nestles in a fork in the hills, houses piled tier upon tier. Hebden has excellent shops and is full of surprises - everything from horsey clothing to hand-made pottery. Untie, and go on up the valley, its sides closing in with crags and trees and views of the moors high above. A stream runs alongside, and the locks are set among woods or stone cottages. The Pennine Way crosses at Callis. So to Todmorden, completely untouristy yet with much to enjoy - fine Victorian buildings, especially the Town Hall, a lively market and many places to eat and drink, all dominated by a curving railway viaduct. On your return trip, go down the Calder Valley through the woods to Brighouse. Good shopping, including a Sainsbury's with its own moorings, plentiful pubs and time to relax. Then carry on as the valley broadens out, through Mirfield (proper shops including an ironmongers) to Shepley Bridge, where The Ship awaits you. Finally, make your way back to base.

Active route: Selby and Return - 96 miles, 68 locks, 40 hours total
Cruise meandering rivers to Selby with its interesting Abbey and market. Take the route above to Stanley Ferry, then go on to Castleford, a Roman river crossing (you can buy stoneground flour at the café in Queen’s Mill), and keep on the main line of the Aire & Calder Navigation towards Knottingley. At Bank Dole you leave the main line and its electric locks, to drop into the Aire as it winds through farmland, stopping occasionally at pretty brick-built villages. And so to Selby, where you can discover the ancient Abbey and market, before taking the train to York – you could have time for a full day there.

Fortnight Route Suggestions:

Relaxed route: Walsden and Brighouse - 37 miles, 76 locks, 30 hours total
Soak in the atmosphere of Hebden Bridge and the Calder Valley. Leaving our historic canal basin, your journey begins with the excitement of a new tunnel and the deepest lock in the country. The canal gradually climbs through woods, fields and small stone towns to Hebden Bridge. This old mill town nestles in a fork in the hills, houses piled tier upon tier. Hebden has excellent shops and is full of surprises - everything from horsey clothing to hand-made pottery. Untie, and go on up the valley, its sides closing in with crags and trees and views of the moors high above. A stream runs alongside, and the locks are set among woods or stone cottages. The Pennine Way crosses at Callis. So to Todmorden, completely untouristy yet with much to enjoy - fine Victorian buildings, especially the Town Hall, a lively market and many places to eat and drink, all dominated by a curving railway viaduct. From here the going gets serious – more Alpine than Pennine. Pass the Great Wall of Todmorden, and go under a splendidly overdone Gothic railway bridge. Turn at Lock 32, below the summit. On your return trip, go down the Calder Valley through the woods to Brighouse. Good shopping, including a Sainsbury's with its own moorings, characterful pubs and time to relax. Finally, make your way back to base.

Intermediate route: Bingley and Return - 110 miles, 118 locks, 55 hours total
Head for the Bingley Five Rise, one of the seven wonders of the Waterways Sail down the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation past Brighouse, and through wide river sections and narrow cuttings to Wakefield, where there are good moorings near the Hepworth Wakefield, and not too far from the bright lights. Then on to Stanley Ferry to see the famous aqueducts and popular pub. You are now on the Aire & Calder, with a wide channel and enormous locks you operate with a pushbutton. Sail past the regenerated waterfront into the centre of Leeds, and moor by the railway station, with the faint sound of the announcer telling everyone else to rush off somewhere. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal quickly escapes along its own way through fields and woods, with spectacular views of old West Riding industry - particularly Sir Titus Salt's Italianate mills and model town at Saltaire, with its Hockney museum. There are several staircase locks along the way, which culminate in the Five Rise Locks at Bingley.

Active route: The South Pennine Ring - 71 miles, 197 locks, 80 hours total
Cross the Pennines twice, including England’s longest and highest tunnel.
Cruise down the Calder & Hebble Navigation past Brighouse, with a short river section to Cooper Bridge, where you take the right turn into the bottom lock of the Huddersfield Broad. This leads you up through the outskirts of Huddersfield right into the City centre. Go through the University, a weird but satisfying juxtaposition of sixties high-rise and nineties mill conversion. Soon, a steel-truss railway viaduct frames the start of your journey up the Colne valley into the hills. At Slaithwaite the canal has been put back on its original track. You will enjoy exploring the village. Then go on up the valley, to the summit, 644’ 9” above sea level. Walk down to the village of Marsden, whose Mechanics Institute is the home of Mikron Theatre (though they will be away touring). The Standedge Visitor Centre gives an insight into the lives of the tunnellers who blasted their way under the Pennines, and the leggers who took the boats through 3 ¼ miles of pitch dark. The very short summit pool makes the entrance into Standedge Tunnel all the more dramatic by its understatement. You will be guided through the tunnel by friendly CRT staff or volunteers. After the tunnel, the canal descends quickly through the Diggle flight, then into Uppermill, with weavers’ cottages, and genuine charm as well as craft shops. The centre of Stalybridge has been transformed by the construction of a new canal. You enter Ashton by passing under an ASDA. The Ashton Canal takes you down, past the site of the Commonwealth Games, into Manchester. The city is full of life and things to do, such as the Lowry and the Bridgewater Hall. Next morning, pass through the edge of the city, tunnel under a vast interchange on the M60, and suddenly you're back in greenery. Slattocks locks take you up to a good mooring. Then it's through the canal's eponymous home town, past Clegg Hall (Grade 1 listed), and time for another assault on the Pennines. Pass between tall mills with the moors looming overhead, and arrive at the Summit - Inn to hand. Soon you're back in Yorkshire, and after you go under a splendidly overdone Gothic railway bridge, the Great Wall shows you are about to arrive in Todmorden, completely untouristy yet with much to enjoy.
The Pennine Way crosses at Callis, and soon you arrive in Hebden Bridge. This old mill town nestles in a fork in the hills, houses piled tier upon tier. Hebden has excellent shops and is full of surprises - everything from horsey clothing to hand-made pottery. On your home stretch now, the canal gradually descends through woods, fields and small stone towns to the deepest lock in the country, which brings you finally back to our basin.

Navigation Note:
this trip needs careful planning (explained in your Information Pack). It is suitable only for experienced crews, all of whose members want to make this exciting journey, and will be resilient to overcome any problems along the way – these canals are still being improved following reopening.

Suggested Guidebooks