The C&H is part-canal, part-river – originally the River Calder and Hebble Brook, though since the old branch closed into Halifax, it no longer uses the latter.
It seamlessly joins the wild Pennine countryside of the Rochdale Canal to the wide horizons of the Aire & Calder, with branches at Salterhebble (the stub of the Halifax Branch) and Dewsbury. The Huddersfield Broad Canal is little more than a branch to Huddersfield, where the Narrow Canal begins its climb.
Few boaters choose the C&H as a destination, more usually treating it as a transit to be endured on the way to the Pennines. In truth, some of the scenery here is very attractive in itself, and the upstream canal section from Brighouse to Sowerby Bridge is most appealing.
The locks are broad (14ft) but short (57ft 6in). Boaters with 60ft craft do occasionally attempt passage, but it requires great patience to align the boat diagonally in the lock, and is only recommended for the experienced. Several locks still require use of a traditional ‘handspike’ – a long piece of three-by-two wood – to raise the paddles. The locks are full of interest, from basic flood-locks where the canal cuts join the river (at most times you can breeze straight through) to the attractive spot of Salterhebble. Here there’s a rare guillotine-gated lock and the site of an old two-rise staircase.