If we owe the birth of the canals to the vision of wealthy industrialists and the graft of the navvies, we owe their revival, and in many cases their very salvation, to leisure and conservation groups. The authorities who labelled derelict waters as a blot on the landscape were in many cases ready for drastic solutions, until locals made their true feelings known.
The Bonded Warehouse, Dudley: a reminder of Britain’s industrial past.
The British love canals, or at least have learned to love them. Once the clang of commerce had died down, we began to see them not as places of toil, but play. Boating, cycling, country walks and, yes, fishing, became favourite pastimes of a prosperous nation with more leisure time than ever before.
Canal Network Uk Map Photo Gallery
On an ever-more crowded island, canals seem to have found an even higher value with public use. Problems aside, you might even describe the current age as something of a renaissance. The battle cry across counties nationwide is no longer ‘Fill it in! but ‘Save our local Cut!’
In fishing terms, our canal network represents arguably Britain’s most vast, untapped fishing resource. There are over 2,000 miles of canal still in existence, controlled by a huge number of angling clubs. The Birmingham area alone has more canals than Venice.
Feats of Wonder
• The Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal would take a ridiculous amount of ‘legging it’. At three miles it is the longest, deepest canal tunnel in the UK.
• The Falkirk Wheel is a more modern feat of wonder, opened in 2002. Linking the Forth and Clyde to the Union Canal, it is a unique, rotating boat lift. The only one of its kind, the wheel stands at 24 metres high, as tall as an eight-storey building.
• The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the Llangollen canal over the valley of the river Dee, is still widely regarded as one of the most magnificent feats of engineering in Britain’s industrial history. Standing at 38.4 metres with a spectacular nineteen spans, it was the world’s tallest aqueduct for some 200 years.