Sunday, 4 October 2009

Boring Bridgewater

The Bridgewater Canal has two claims to fame. It was the first 'modern' canal (a fact disputed by Liverpudlians and others who favour the Sankey Canal) and it entirely free of locks. Unfortunately it is, for most of its length, terminally dull!
It runs, like a Fenland road, embanked above surrounding land that has sunk away from it, in this case because of mining subsidence. So there it runs, wide, straight-ish and protected from bursting out onto the low ground by concrete sides and embankments beyond. The distant hills are pretty enough and the local 'flashes' or lakes caused by subsidence have their moments but, after a while you yearn for a lock, a swingbridge, anything!
There are points of interest, like the cranes ready to swing stop planks across the canal in case of emergency. And Worsley where James Brindley began his canal to take coal from the Duke of Bridgewater's mines is still pretty, with a handsome black&white house on the junction with The Delph that led via remarkable underground canals into the mines. But the only star turn is the amazing Barton Swingbridge aqueduct that takes the canal high above the Manchester Ship Canal. It really is a spectacular piece of Victorian engineering.
The only star turn until you get to Manchester, that is where we are moored tonight.

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