Beginning in 1975, the Tameside Canal Festival was initially set up by members of the Huddersfield Narrow Boat Society.

With the support of the Inland Waters Association (Manchester Branch), North Cheshire Cruising Club, and the Peak Forest Canal Association, boats came from far and wide, to celebrate all things canal based.

Its purpose was to raise funds for the badly needed restoration of its canal that stretches for over 20 miles between Huddersfield and the junction of the Ashton Canal at Whitelands. Significant work and money were required in restoring its 74 locks and clearing the waterway, for future navigation.

Live entertainment, refreshments, and various craft tents exploring traditional skills were on offer to a growing audience over the years, and boat rides were a huge draw to the visiting public.

In 2000, a water-borne pageant entertained the crowds with narrow boats and accompanying fireworks and special effects. A competition for the best-decorated boat became a regular affair from that point on. In fact, the festival was such a success, other areas began to hold their own carnivals, such as Rochdale.

2009 proved to be the final year of the event. That year, a horse-drawn boat named Maria travelled around the British Isles and along the Ashton and Rochdale canals. It was the oldest surviving wooden narrowboat built at Marple Locks in 1853.

The Horseboating Society showed how this form of transport used to travel along the canals, taking a week to travel the 33 miles of restored canal from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire to its conclusion at Castlefield, Manchester.

This couldn’t be achieved without the aid of the horse, in this case, trustworthy Bilbo Baggins.