There’s no towpath for your horse, and no engine in your boat, so how do you get your narrowboat through the long tunnel into the vast limestone caverns? You have to get out and push! Two men would lie across the narrowboat and ‘walk’ along the tunnel walls, pushing along tons of boat and its cargo. They called it ‘legging’; it was incredibly hard work, but it was the only way to reach the limestone mines which were opened in the 1700s. By the 1850s over 40,000 boats a year carried limestone from the mines, to be used in iron production.
Today you can undertake the journey in a little more comfort in a powered boat -although you’ll be able to see how legging was done – and the boat takes you into a vast underground complex of tunnels and caverns. The caverns are spectacular and well-lit. There is even a video projected onto the cavern walls showing the history of limestone mining. Enjoy sound and light shows as they show how the area developed to become the home of the Industrial Revolution and see how Singing Cavern, the awe inspiring cavern became a fitting backdrop for early music and firework spectacles. Revive the art of Legging as you move the boat yourself through the tunnel.
Enjoy the peace and tranquility of the basins which nature is slowly reclaiming whilst getting an understanding of the many thousands of tonnes of limestone these abandoned mines shipped out across the world. Back on land learn more by visiting the award winning BIFFA Gallery and see how a bunch of local children rescued the tunnels and brought them back to life for all to enjoy.
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