Friday, 6 April 2012

Caen Hill in Springtime

Nesting swans beside lock 42 at Caen Hill
Springtime has arrived, and the swans are busy nesting on the Caen Hill flight of locks.  The place is a hive of activity at this time of year, with birds nesting, and hire boaters taking family holidays on the waterway.  Caen Hill consists of 29 locks, sixteen of which are consecutive, with large side  pounds to conserve water.  The whole flight is a wonder of canal construction, and John Rennie the engineer must have scratched his head and wondered how to bring the canal up the side of a steep hill.    Hiring a mooring place in one of the many  canal marinas is expensive, but boaters can moor on the towpath side for 14 days before having to move on.  Many boaters are "continous cruisers" meaning they spend their lives cruising around the waterway system, a very nice way to spend your retirement. 
Narrowboats moored at the top of Caen Hill.
The photo above shows chevron mooring at the top of Caen Hill, complete with a water point and pump out facility.  These moorings cost around £3,000 per annum.
Lock signage making boaters aware of the hazards of using a lock.
The sign above warns boaters to keep forward of the cill in the lock, and complete with a diagram of what can happen to a boat if you don't!
The Quaker's Friends Meeting House at Sussex Wharf near lock 50.
This is the site of "Sussex Wharf" one of the old wharves in Devizes.  Barges  arriving from Bristol, Bath, Newbury or Reading could unload their wares here, and a crane would life heavy goods from the holds into warehouses.  Many beautiful buildings in Devizes date from the opening of the canal 1812, when it became possible to bring Bath stone building blocks up to Devizes by barge.

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