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Seven Wonders of the Waterways

These seven wonders of the waterways are as listed by Robert Aickman (the co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association in 1946) in his book Know Your Waterways.

1. Devizes Locks The 29 locks at Caen Hill, Devizes, were opened for traffic on 28th December 1810 and provided the final link in the 75 mile route of the Kennet & Avon Canal from Reading to Bath. John Rennie, the engineer of the K&A canal. decided to take the canal up the side of this very steep hill where the locks are so close together that the normal arrangement of pounds between locks would not have provided sufficient water storage for the operation of the locks. Rennie's solution to this problem was to provide long side pounds beside the locks, these can be seen between locks 29 and 44. The locks became derelict shortly after the second world war and, after years of dedicated restoration work along the whole of the canal, were reopened by HM The Queen on 8th August 1990.

For more information on the canal see - Kennet and Avon Canal

 

 2. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct Opened in 1805 this 1007 foot aqueduct rises 121 feet above the river Dee as it takes the Llangollen Canal (originally called the Ellesmere Canal) across the valley. The Ellesmere Canal was built by William Jessop and Thomas Telford, who worked under Jessop's directions, although Telford has taken all the credit for the construction of this remarkable feat of engineering. A cast iron trough carries the channel on top of the aqueduct with a towpath on a cantilever over the channel so that the navigable width for boats is only about seven feet. On the towpath side is a railing that separates pedestrians from the considerable drop but on the opposite side boaters look out on an uninterrupted view as the iron trough only extends a few inches above the waterline.

For more information on the canal see - Shropshire Union - Llangollen Canal

3. Anderton Lift Connecting the Trent & Mersey Canal with the River Weaver this boat lift, opened in 1875, raised boats 50 feet from the river. Designed by Edwin Clark it consisted of two counterbalancing caissons each large enough to take a barge or a pair of narrowboats. Hydraulic cylinders controlled the movement and the main force powering the movement was gravity, the descending caisson having an extra 6 inches of water added to its load. A 10 horse-power steam pump provided extra power for the completion of the process. In 1908 the lift was converted to electric power, 250-ton counterweights added and the two caissons were made to work independently. In 1983 problems with the mechanism caused the lift to close. A grant was made by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the restoration of the lift, which reopened in 2002.

For more information on the canal see - Trent and Mersey Canal

For more information on the river see - River Weaver

4. Standedge Tunnel Situated on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal this 5,698 yard tunnel is both the longest and the highest canal tunnel in the UK. The tunnelling was started by the Huddersfield narrow Canal Company engineer Benjamin Outram in 1795 but was not complete when he left the company in 1801. The work was completed under the direction of John Rooth and the opening ceremony took place on the 4th April 1811. In 1948 Robert Aickman and Tom Rolt (both co-founders of The Inland Waterways Association) made what was probably the last transit of the whole length of the canal, including the three miles through the tunnel. From that time the canal was un-navigable and was subject to a long restoration programme which ended with the reopening of the waterway in May 2001.

For more information on the canal see - Huddersfield Narrow Canal

 

 

5. Barton Swing Aqueduct The original Barton Aqueduct was built by James Brindley in 1761 to take the Duke of Bridgewater's epoch making canal across the River Irwell. This early aqueduct was considered a marvel at the time of its opening although its design was often surpassed by later aqueducts. When the Manchester Ship Canal decided to use the course of the Irwell at Barton as part of their navigation channel it was necessary to demolish Brindley's aqueduct and replace it with a structure even more marvellous. The Barton Swing Aqueduct was designed by Edward Leader Williams and opened in 1893. The aqueduct swings open, full of water, to allow the passage of ships along the Manchester Ship Canal. The swinging span is 235 feet long and weighs 1,450 tons. Hydraulic rams are used to drive rubber seals into each end of the moveable tank.

For more information on the canal see - Stretford and Leigh Branch (Bridgewater Canal)

6. Bingley Five Rise Locks The five locks are a staircase flight, that means that the lower gates of one lock forms the upper gates of the next and there are no pounds between locks. These broad locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal were opened on the 21st March 1774 watched by thousands of people amazed and delighted by the spectacle of five laden boats descending the locks. Over two hundred years later these locks are still in daily use by the throngs of pleasure boaters who pass through them each year. Barry Whitelock has been lock keeper here for a good number of years and keeps an expert eye on boaters as he helps them through the five. At the top of the locks is over sixteen miles of lock free cruising through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.

For more information on the canal see - Leeds and Liverpool Canal

For an article on cruising the canal see - Pennine Passage

For an article on staircase locks see - Staircase Locks

7. Burnley Embankment Almost a mile long this high embankment carries the Leeds & Liverpool Canal through the centre of Burnley above the roofs of the buildings below. Designed by Robert Whitworth, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Company Engineer, and started in 1795 this embankment was finished well before the nearby Gannow tunnel which was completed in early 1801.

 

 

For more information on the canal see - Leeds and Liverpool Canal

For an article on cruising the canal see - Pennine Passage

 

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Related Books

  • Know Your Waterways by Robert Aickman , 132 pages, Published by Templeprint Intoductory guide to the Inland Waterways.

  • The Anderton Boat Lift by David Carden , ISBN 0 9533028 6 5 :180 pages, Published by Black Dwarf 2000 An excellent book on this unique waterways structure. Order now from Amazon.

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Jim Shead Waterways Photographer & Writer
Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
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