Saturday, 5 January 2013

Semington to Trowbridge via the K & A Canal.

We took a walk along the towpath this morning from Semington to Trowbridge.  It was a pleasant walk, flat of course, and with few puddles and mud pits, because we deliberately stayed on towpath, track and paths.  The weather has taken a turn for the better, with NO rain, although the skies are still grey and overcast.    A record amount of rain has fallen on Great Britain this year, and the ground is completely waterlogged, with water overflowing the bore holes, becuase it has nowhere to drain away.   The canal level is raised, and the overspill weirs are working "nineteen to the dozen."

The boats along this stretch of the canal are moored against private land, and not beside the towpath.  The canal is managed by the recently formed "Canal and River Trust," which took over from "British Waterways" last year.  Boats moored towpath side are subject to  regulations that govern the time they can stay in one place.   Those moored against private land pay the landowner a mooring fee, a portion of which is paid to the C & R Trust, as the trust owns the water and the first metre of canalside.

Above can be seen narrowboats of various sizes.  Some are used for holidays, some for people who live onboard all year round.  The cost of mooring is based on the length of the boat, the smaller the boat, the cheaper the fee.  Boats need a yearly licence to use the water, plus boat insurance and a boat safety certificate.  It is recommended that boats carry carbon monoxide alarms, as when sleeping aboard, beds tend to be below air vent level, and several boaters die each year for poisoning caused by the fumes from wood burning stoves  which are not properly ventilated.  The gas is odourless, and difficult to detect without an alarm.

We walked past this imposing building, the main entrance of the old "Semington workhouse."  Built in 1838, to designs by HE Kendall,  the Melksham Union workhouse was built in the "Poor Law Commissioner's" standard cruciform plan.  It housed the poor and destitute, and included people of all ages, from children to the very elderly.   The inmates were separated, and lived in the different parts of the buiilding, with their own workplaces and exercise areas.  Even married couples were separated, but allowed to meet on Sunday.   Life must have been very difficult!

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