Join Sue and Bilbo as their barge heads along canal this weekend

Sue Day and Bilbo pull the barge Vixen on the Rochdale Canal at Summit, near Todmorden
Sue Day and Bilbo pull the barge Vixen on the Rochdale Canal at Summit, near Todmorden

Passengers are invited to join the horse-drawn boat on Saturday, August 30, going from the Stubbing Wharf pub in Hebden Bridge to Sowerby Bridge.

Featuring Sue Day and her horse Bilbo Baggins, the rides are aboard the horse-drawn barge Vixen.

To join the boat for an hour or two, or to enjoy Vixen as crew or passenger, visit and email or phone 07711-121-056 for more details.

This is a one-way trip, so if you are interested you will need to return by foot, car or bus an so on. The cost is from £10.

Sue said that also passengers can book a seat to descend Britain’s deepest lock at Tuel Lane, Sowerby Bridge, on Sunday, August 31, and be poled through the tunnel. No horse will be present on the Sunday. The cost for this is also £10.

She said: “In September, the boat will be gradually worked from Sowerby Bridge to the Summit over several travel dates. She will take part in the annual canal festival, for her fifth consecutive year.”

Sue explained something of the history of how the trips came about. “Calder Valley Cruising was set up in 1980s with a motorboat to pull an unpowered boat. In 1987 it was decided that the passenger boat should be horse-drawn in daylight.

“A wonderful situation arose from this.

“Nowhere else in Britain has ever offered a boathorse contract to different people and horses over the years. Very sadly Calder Valley Cruising ceased to be horse-drawn in 2004, and was sold as a motorboat concern, and horses were lost from the towpath.

“One of the main reasons was that British Waterways took over management of the canal and allowed other boats to moor anywhere they chose, including on the horse-drawn boat main plying limits. It is incredibly difficult to operate horse-drawn with a towing line which must be passed over all the moored boats, or disconnected. The line must also pass over any belongings stored on the roof of a boat.

“In 2008, I bought a small passenger boat from Foxton in Leicestershire where it had been horse-drawn. This was from another business which had closed down, for similar reasons, leaving only four operators of horse-drawn passenger boats in Britain, with none in the north.

“So Vixen arrived on the Rochdale Canal in 2010 to be operated for occasional public trips and charter trips.”