Tour of the English canal system
April 22, 2005 12:52 PM   Subscribe

On the revival of a forgotten piece of infrastructure: Britain's massive canal system was constructed in the late 18th century to move goods throughout the country and provided an extensive logistical network for the industrial revolution. Since the rise of rail and truck transport, the canals were left to decay for generations. Today many are being restored, providing revenue for local communities and acting as a catalyst [PDF] for urban renewal.

One group of fun-lovin' Brits has been touring these man-made waterways since the 1970's and documenting their journeys in copious detail. The canals traverse every conceivable type of landscape, and evince some pretty amazing engineering.
posted by pieisexactlythree (14 comments total)
Nice post, pieisexactlythree. Little Venice in London is one of my favorite neighborhoods. I'm a sucker for urban canals.

A friend in London regularly attends bachelor weekends that entail "hiring" a canal boat and travelling along the canals all the while consuming mass quantities of beer. Good healthy fun!

France also has an extensive network of canals that provide for interesting and scenic biking/hiking routes all over the country often far from the motorways and vehicle traffic. There are a couple of good books on this topic.
posted by shoepal at 1:06 PM on April 22, 2005

The 4th link mentions Tescos in Stalybridge reviving the local canal. In Reading (rock festival place) where I live the Kennet and Avon was brought back to life by the massive Oracle shopping mall, and a luxury apartment complex. Mind you, when it pissed down for weeks on end in 2000 the whole area was flooded and full of rats. Bleugh!
posted by somethingiswrong at 1:23 PM on April 22, 2005

Thanks shoepal! This is my FFPP (first front page post). I was inspired to post this stuff because, by coincidence, while I was re-reading Graham Swift's marvelous Waterland, I was asked by my employer to do some research on real estate development around reclamation canals in the western US. I found some cool stuff, btw.
posted by pieisexactlythree at 1:27 PM on April 22, 2005

I'd call the Anderton Boat Lift on being the only one in the UK. The Falkirk Wheel on the Forth and Clyde Canal was built in 2001. It's some very neat technology, and pretty, too.
posted by scruss at 1:39 PM on April 22, 2005

Nice, thanks!
posted by carter at 1:43 PM on April 22, 2005

God bless you, linux, I'd forgotten all about JKJ.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:33 PM on April 22, 2005

I always thought this canal journey planner was very cool. I still want to see the Falkirk Wheel.
posted by grouse at 3:21 PM on April 22, 2005

Reminiscent of "Greenways", 19st century railroad beds converted to pedestrian walk/bike paths, which I assume the adjacent tow-paths also afford.

In the 22nd century "concrete roads" will be converted to pedestrian recreational use. We can only hope.
posted by stbalbach at 8:24 PM on April 22, 2005

I worked at a Lunatic Asylum (seriously) in Surrey UK - a huge 5 or 6 storey multi-winged victorian building. All of the materials to build it (in about 1880) were transported there by these canals. The mind boggles. Astounding. Good FFPP pieisexactlythree.
posted by peacay at 8:42 PM on April 22, 2005

I'm hoping that, with the advent of teleportation technology, I'll be able to build my house on this piece of prime real estate.
posted by pieisexactlythree at 8:52 PM on April 22, 2005

Ahhh English canals...

2 feet of brackish near stagnant water filled with shopping carts, condoms, more condoms, more shopping carts, strangely persistent condoms, plastic bags, coke cans and condoms and the obligatory bike wheels with condoms attatched. Ahh the memories. Fishing in English canals was always rewarded with a surprise catch. I remember this one time I actually caught a fish. Of course, it was a dead fish, that had choked to death on a condom...

All joking aside it is a fantastic, underused, underrated way to see the real England. Its not very glamorous, but thats the point I guess... Great post!
posted by BadSeamus at 9:27 PM on April 22, 2005

Great post. I go cycling on the Leeds-Liverpool canal towpath quite a bit, and the Bingley 5 Rise lock system (the link under the word "amazing") a) requires quite a ridiculously low gear to cycle up and b) has a great cake shop at the top. You've just reminded me it's been a while since I visited there.
posted by handee at 4:23 AM on April 23, 2005

They're very beautiful and all, but I can't help but ask if there isn't a more direct way to spend money on urban renewal.

Tho' as a prospecting monolingual tourist, I think it's a good thing.
posted by Citizen Premier at 9:13 PM on April 24, 2005

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