Sunday, 21 October 2012

Walking the Caen Hill Flight

The seagulls rest on a boom set across one of the pounds to the side of the locks at Caen Hill.  The booms are in place to prevent the big fish going into the pounds and gobbling up the little fish.  Janet and I enjoyed a long walk down the muddy towpath beside the locks, and when we reached the bottom, we found a seat on which to sit and admire the view of this wonderful flight of the locks, the second longest in the UK and the "Third Wonder" of the waterways system.

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The flight of 16 consecutive locks at Caen Hill.
The photo above shows our view of the 16 locks, which during the last century, were lit by gas lamps at night, to enable  barges and fly-boats to carry cargoes 24 hours a day.  It was a slow journey taking wares by barge from Bristol and Bath and to the smaller towns that lay beside the Kennet & Avon canal.  The canal joins the River Thames at Reading, from which point you can travel to Oxford and the midlands or to London and the southeast of England.   
When Isambard Kingdom Brunel began  the construction of  the "Great Western Railway" from London to Bristol in 1833, he used canal barges to transport the materials for the building of the railway line.   The first trains used the tracks in 1838, and this enabled goods to be carried  between towns and cities at speed.    Rail transport meant that the canal lost most of its trade almost overnight, and during the following years, the canal started to fall into disrepair.  
At one stage many canals were abandoned and almost filled in, but in 1946 a number of UK canal enthusiasts formed the "Inland Waterways Association," and the gradual restoration of many canals in the UK began, which now forms the present network of waterways.  This great leisure resource provides enjoyment  not only for boaters, but for walkers, long distant ramblers, cyclists and fishermen. 

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