Monday, 13 November 2017

The Kennet & Avon Canal

Begun in 1724, the Kennet & Avon Canal is 87 miles long, and has a total of 105 locks. It incorporates some fine examples of early engineering skills.

The Caen Hill, Wiltshire stretch of the canal, has the longest continuous flight of locks in England. It was begun in 1794 and took 16 years to complete. There are 29 locks built in three distinct groups which have a rise of 237 feet, and cover a 2 mile stretch of the canal. 
On the first section at the lower level there are 7 locks spread along the canal for ¾ of a mile - the next 16 locks painstakingly climb up Caen Hill in a gradual ladder until reaching the top. These 16 locks are followed by the final 6 locks which then convey the canal through the town of Devizes and beyond. For a canal boat to negotiate all of these locks it takes a minium of 5 - 6 hours.
Moored at the bottom of Caen Hill, and awaiting their accent are two canal boats, but it was late afternoon, the lock keepers gone home, so no more boating activity until morning.

The canals are a haven for waterfowl - a flock of Canada Geese along with a male and female Mallard

and a flight of swans overhead
At the top of the hill

and dusk is rapidly approaching.

The swans fly off into the sunset,
and the boats that climbed Caen Hill during the day, moor up for the night, before proceeding on their journey. 

38 comments:

  1. What an evocative post. Beautiful. Would love to walk along that stretch of canal although I’m not sure I would wish to negotiate all those locks in a boat. Exhausting! B x

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    1. The walk along this canal towpath is lovely and very fascinating too.

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  2. Hello Rosemary, What an amazing stretch of continuous locks. I am fascinated by the canal era, and to a degree collect early photos and documents relating to it. I try to limit the search to the U.S. and Canada, but I would love to find some 19th century photos of the Caen Hill locks.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I had a look on the internet but sadly could not find any old prints or photos relating to this Caen Hill stretch of the canal.

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  3. Canals and their locks do intrigue me Rosemary, because we never see them in Australia. It all looks so picturesque and the birds are beautiful. I was surprised to see the Canada geese, and love the flying swans.

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    1. I believe that Canada geese were introduced here, and there are now hundreds of flocks all over the country. They are not very popular as many live in parks with lakes and make a terrible mess!!! all over the grass.

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    2. They are not very popular here in Canada either, for the same reason - making messes.

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    1. I know that you have lots of canals in the Netherlands too, but not going up hills!

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  5. That looks a nice canal system, captured well in your photographs. I think I watched that one on Great Canal Journeys with the West's as Caen Hill looks familiar. Always loads of interest along canals and its my default setting if I run out of ideas for day trips- walk or cycle along my local network. Never lets me down for variety or unexpected new things happening.

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    1. My husband loves walking along the towpaths too, and as you mention there is always so much to see going on.

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  6. That is some rise 237 feet. I think I would enjoy walking along that route more than riding through those locks on a boat! It must be a terribly slow ordeal.
    I love hearing and seeing the Canadian geese flying over my house. I do hate to go over the my neighborhood park & lake thanks to the mess they leave.

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    1. It is slow getting through the locks, but at the same time it is fascinating to see the boat enter the lock at a low level and watch the boat rise up as the waters enter it thus enabling the boat to pass at the higher level, so that it can enter the next lock.
      Yes, Canadian geese are not very popular here mainly because of that.

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  7. That canal would have been dug by hand, too. Just think of the backbreaking labour that went into it!

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    1. Yes, you are right Debra, and the only assistance that they would have received would have been via horses and carts.

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  8. Absolutely stunning photos. We always enjoy walking along the canals and looking at the boats. But I've often thought that traveling in a narrow boat looks like more work and than play.

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    1. Thank you very much for your kind comment and I am pleased that you liked the photos.
      It is my impression that the canal boat lovers do not mind all of work that is involved negotiating the locks etc. as they are all such great enthusiasts.

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  9. It must be quite an experience to encounter so many locks in one day! It looks so beautiful as dusk falls. Sarah x

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    1. Even though I knew there were 29 locks there, the impact was still stunning.

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  10. Oh wow what wonderful photos! I especially love the swan photos xx

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    1. That is such a generous comment Lyn, thank you very much

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  11. Beautiful colour of the sky and those swans are rather awesome, well captured Rosemary.
    Don't think I have ever seen so many locks as in your photos.

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    1. The sky was an unusual shade that evening - may be because it was the night of a Harvest moon sometimes called a Hunters moon when the moon is very large and golden instead of the usual silver.

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  12. I'm not sure what the technıcal term ıs but I have a fear of being on canals - don't mind cycling by them or looking a pictures of them though and love rivers.

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    1. Definitely no canal boat rides for you then!

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  13. I have passed through river locks...which usually make me feel a bit claustrophobic. Amazing that this canal was dug so long ago and is still there. Colorful canal boats. I wonder if they pay a fee to pass through each lock?

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    1. Like owning a car, the canal boats require a license and insurance. I don't know how much a license costs, but I think that it comes with a special device that enables the boat owners to unlock the gates. Some of the locks, such as Caen Hill, have a lock keeper, but I think that his renumeration is included in the license fee.

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  14. I think I would like a short holiday on a canal boat, as long as I didn't need to operate the lock gates! A lovely way to see the countryside.
    Impressive photos. Rosemary.

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    1. I have only spent one afternoon on one, but holidays on them are very popular.

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  15. Hello, Rosemary! Fantastic photography, as always! The idea of water transport would have been universal since the old times if only there are waterways but British canal system looks to me one of the most British things, so unique and distinctive. When the canal was once busy for transporting industrial materials, I wonder how was the wildlife. Now it looks so idyllic. The view of the swans flying off into the sunset in formation is so moving. I’d like to watch them till becoming specks in the sky.

    Yoko

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    1. To have dug and built these canals from scratch including working out the mechanics of providing a way for the long boats to travel up hills was an amazing feat three hundred years ago. I don't know about the wildlife then, because as you suggest they were extremely busy transporting industrial materials all day long.

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  16. Beautiful shots. It's certainly a process that can't be rushed!

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    1. Yes, you wouldn't need to be in a hurry to get anywhere!

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  17. This is a fascinating post, Rosemary. All those locks so close together. What a feat of engineering. The birds overhead are lovely.

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    1. It is an inspiring piece of 300 year old engineering.

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