Leeds to Liverpool horse-drawn canal cruise is first for 68 years

Sue Day with Bilbo Baggins by the canal. PIC: Mark Bickerdike
Sue Day with Bilbo Baggins by the canal. PIC: Mark Bickerdike
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A journey from Leeds to Liverpool takes about 90 minutes by car or rail.

Sue Day is taking three months.

Not only is she travelling in meandering style along the Leeds-Liverpool canal by narrow-boat.

She’s rejected the internal combustion engine and has reverted to the canal’s original power source, a horse.

The journey is very much a symbolic one for Sue, who refuses to divulge her age and admits only to “pretending to be young but getting ancient”.

She is promoting horse-drawn boating as part of Britain’s heritage and for educational purposes. She is one of only five operators of horse-drawn craft in Britain, and in 2001 helped set up the Horse Boating Society.

Ms Day is linking the journey to the Olympics and jubilee celebrations.

She also has support through Britain’s World Heritage celebrations.

Along the 128-mile route Ms Day is picking up and delivering “cargoes” with historical significance to communities she passes through.

For example, she has a piece of cloth she collected from the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

“It’s a caparison – the cloth used by jousting horses,” she said.

“It has the Tudor rose on, which symbolises the unity of the roses of York and Lancaster.

“The Leeds-Liverpool canal also symbolises unity.”

As part of the Olympic link she sees the journey as a relay between communities along the route and on either side of the Pennines.

She has her own relay baton which will be held by people in each community visited.

The the baton is a shuttle from a textile loom.

Her vessel is named Elland, and her horse is Bilbo Baggins, after the Lord of the Rings character.

“He’s brown, earthy and has hairy feet,” she said.

Accompanying her on the journey is canal enthusiast and friend Adrian Lovett, who looks very much the part of the bargee with his knotted red neckerchief, and the couple sport nautical caps.

Canal travel can be arduous, especially operating locks – and Leeds-Liverpool canal includes Bingley’s Five Rise lock “staircase”.

Daily help comes from young volunteers from Seacroft’s David Young Community Academy.

For information, contact: www.horseboating.org.uk

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