Friday, March 16, 2012

England Canal History

After spending some time on the UK canals, I am totally fascinated with its history.  The Roman influence is what started the canal system here as they were the original great canal architects and builders. Thousands of miles of canals were built totally by hand, here in the UK Between 1700 and 1830.  It was much more efficient to move large amounts of raw materials, building supplies, and even fragile materials, on the water even before a motor was built.  A single horse could pull a 50 ton barge on a canal, slow but steady.  After the rails and trains came to England and every other country, the canals just couldn't compete. British Waterways govern the use and upkeep of the canals and locks.  A lot of donations and volunteer hours go towards keeping these canals open. All boats on the water have an annual license whether it's a full time live-aboard or used as part time recreation.
The top historic picture shows a canal boat being pulled by one horse which was the common way to move barges back then.  The split bridge photo that I took is a simple way to slack the tow rope and drop it  through the bridge not having to untie any lines at all.
The bottom historic photo shows the technique of "legging".  This was the most efficient way of moving barges through tunnels without any horse power.  The longest tunnel built in England was the 3,800 yard Sapperton tunnel.  This took the legger's 4 to 5 hours to get through, all done by walking along the ceilings or walls.I am exhausted just looking at the picture.

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