Sunday, 12 May 2013

Waterways in the Skies

Our recent minibreaks seem to have developed a Canal theme.

Last month we were in Wales and I finally got to see the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct near Llangollen. Built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop between 1795 and 1808, it remains today the worlds highest navigable aquaduct and now deservedly part of a UNESCO world heritage site. 

My vertigo precluded a picture from the centre so we scrambled down to the river level for this view:


The quality and tenacious problem-solving engineering required to suspend this canal 126ft in the air is all the more remarkable in that it crosses not a dry valley but the raging torrent of the River Dee.

This week we are in Cheshire and today visited the Anderton Boat Lift near Northwich, another remarkable feat of making water go where it doesn't want to.

This amazing construction was built in 1875 to take narrow boats 50 feet from the Trent & Mersey Canal directly into the  River Weaver below. It was in daily use until 1983 when corrosion closed it down but it was restored and re-opened in 2002 as a demonstration visitor centre. £7 million had been raised to make the lift work under hydraulic power again (it had been converted to electric power in 1908).

It was most noticeable in the last few miles of the drive to Anderton how much of the route was lined with the decaying empty husks of 19th and 20th Century industrial buildings. The visible signs of long term recession were everywhere and a shock to a Southerner whose concept of recession was seeing a pub closed or a card shop become a charity shop.

Of course we now have 21st Century transport infrastructure to admire - the Eurostar for example is I suppose the best example. Crossrail is a marvel of technology underway as will be the HS2 if it can find its way through Nimbyshire.

I can't  help feeling that these projects don't have the human scale of the pioneering canal projects which were bold, extravagant yet technically fathomable by the public. Just like nobody can service their own car these days.  If it ever gets finished, one wonders if the carriages of the High Speed rail link will be filled with bankers, tax accountants and curators of  the past. We seem to be better at  "curating" the past than managing the present.


15 comments:

Mike and Ann said...

We've had two narrow boat holidays. One along the Llangollen Canal and one along the Kennet and Avon Canal. Enjoyed both, but it took me a couple of days to get used to life at 3 miles per hour.

Mike and Ann said...

Going over the aqueduct that you illustrate I stood on top of the boat to take photographs (I wasn't steering at the time) and got some good ones.

dinahmow said...

Lovely little ramble, Rog. Thanks.
I've only ever seen that aqueduct from below.I could do it in a boat, but not on that pathway...

I don't think Nimbyshire had been mapped in the IR heyday.;-)

Rog said...

Mike: what a daredevil! Sounds like a 3mph Bond movie chase.

Dinah: I could have done it INSIDE a boat with my eyes shut. I think Nimbyshire extends across most of the country now.

Mike and Ann said...

Just been checking the old photo albums. Steered the boat back across the aqueduct on 30th May, 1988.

Nota Bene said...

I too have vertigo these days, but your picture makes me want to swim across...I wonder if it's ever done?

Sir Bruin said...

You have vertigo? I thought it was only down the road from where you were staying. Boom boom!

John Greenwood said...

I went across that in 1976, but couldn't get into Llangollen due to the drought!

Rog said...

Mike: We need to see said pics!

Nota: Swimming across, absailing down a pillar, white water rafting across the Dee. Iron Man triathlon!

Sir B: I heard that clanging from a considerable height!

John: Blimey. The pubs in Wales closed on a Sunday in those days as well.

Pat said...

Way back in the seventies three of us had a canal holiday booked there but one of us had a heart attack and we never mad it.
We might have bumped in to John G.

gabriellebryden said...

Wow, that aquaduct is very impressive - nowadays everyone would say the project is too expensive and blah, blah, blah ... In our recent floods it was notable that the older steel bridge survived unscathed and the much newer bridge was completely taken out of action!

Roses said...

Lawrence has threatened a canal boat holiday.

Hopefully, during a summer (i.e. not this year).

It looks amazing. The expertise and engineering that's gone into making the aqueducts and the weirs amazes me.

Zig said...

Ooo I was on Mig's narrow boat last week and it was wonderful. They have promised to take me over the viaduct when their boat is moved to the Llangollen canal. I will have my Zaphod glasses on.

Rog said...

Pat: not a good place for a collision. Or a heart attack.

Gab: yes you're right, the older stuff is often more resilient. That's what I'm hoping about me:-)

Roses: I've done 2 long weekend trips and it is fantastic with the right people - and relaxing.

Zig: they are great aren't they? I thought you need 2 heads for Zaphod glasses?

mig bardsley said...

I love your definition of the lift.