England has a system of 3600 miles of canals and waterways that were first dug in the 1500's and used as a means of commerce up until the 1900's. The boats that plied these routes were called narrowboats, so named because their beam was only 7 feet 10 inches wide. Some canals are wider, and accommodate boats up to 12 feet wide, but these are in the minority.
Today, there is a whole community of folks who own narrowboats, mostly modern-built by boatwrights who specialise in creating these unique forms of transportation. They range from about 35 feet long up to a maximum of 70 feet (none of the locks are longer). Most of the locks are only 8 feet wide, so the wide-beam boats cannot get into these sections of the canals. The owners of such boats range from weekend "sailors" to live-aboard folks who spend all of their time plying the canals.
Saturday, we ran out to the Foxton Locks via car. This is an excellent example of a flight of ten locks that can raise or lower the boats about 100 feet in elevation using a series of sluices and gates to either flood or empty each lock. Considering that many of these locks were first put into operation in the 1700's, it's an amazing engineering feat.
The easiest way is to post a bunch of pictures! (In no particular order, of course.)
|The black vertical strip is a piece of cast iron. The grooves|
you can see in it are from the tow ropes. Horses pulled the
narrowboats until steam, and then diesel and petrol engines took
|These two little lambs greeted me each morning at|
Murcott Mill Farmhouse.
|A narrowboat in a lock...|
|The water level is dropping.|
|(Sorry it's sideways...this is a boat heading through a gate.|
|An engine in one of the boats...the plaques on either side of |
the door show what canals and locks the boat has been through.
|This is a holding pond, halfway up (or down) |
the Foxton Flight. If a boat has priority, or somehow
two just meet going in opposite directions, one (or a couple)
can wait in the wide spot for the other to pass.
|A statue commemorating the horses and boys |
that led them along the canals.
|Looking back along the top of the Foxton Flight of Locks.|
There was a festival starting up, so there were quite a few
"working boats" moored along the top of the flight.
|Not a large selection, but certainly a good selection of beer....|
Later than afternoon, we went out on the canal in Rodney's boat. It was definitely a leisurely way to spend an afternoon as top speed is about 3mph, and you must slow down when you pass moored boats so you don't rock them. That's impolite at best!
Here's a few references if you're interested:
The weather today, Tuesday 3 July, is again crappy. Gee, you'd think I was in Cornwall in the summer time or something! We headed over to Penzance (as in "Pirates of..." fame) to get some lunch and a pint or two, then do some shopping. Lunch was at Turk's Head Inn, the oldest pub in Penzance. I had a very nice crab sandwich and a Skinner's ale. We sat next to an older gentleman who told of of his trip to America...during WWII as a member of the RAF! He was sent from Manchester ("that's where you had to go to get your orders"), to Miami, Oklahoma, of all places ("stick a pin in it, and you're in the middle of nowhere!"). He told us they would hitchhike around to get places where there was something to do. Said the Americans were "lovely, treated us very well". It was certainly a very enjoyable lunch! We'll head out to Tinners Arms later on for a pint or two, then we're fixing pizza in tonight.