Monday, 23 September 2013

A spectacular achievement

The glorious Dundas Aqueduct from the river
What bold and inventive engineers the great canal builders were. I think this every time I reach some massive tunnel, huge flight of locks or soaring aqueduct. But rarely is the evidence more obvious than on the handful of miles between Bradford on Avon and the edge of Bath, where we are now.
Two elegant aqueducts, a water powered pumping station to feed the canal from the river Avon below it and a canal route that winds precipitously around the edge of a steep and tree filled hillside. Accompanying us for the day was our local 'guide', Canal Boat editor Nick Wall on his local, and favourite, stretch of canal.
And if the engineering isn't enough to admire then the views certainly are, houses and villages clinging to the hills, distant views along the valley and all that beautiful stone architecture.
And Dundas from the canal above
At times, though, it was hard going. The Avoncliff Aqueduct, which features blind 90 degree turns into and out of it was a traffic jam of boats trying to manoeuvre, life not made any easier by knots of canoeists paddling between us all.
The stretch mixes distant views
Dundas Aqueduct was wider and easier: we moored here and took a walk down to the river valley which is the only place you can see the full glory of Rennie's architecture. It's so much more than a functional piece of canal engineering with its fluted columns and decorative edges. We walked down the surviving arm of the old Somerset Coal Canal which joined the K&A here too and had an excellent snack at the busy Angelfish Cafe in Brassknocker Basin
The canal water levels were low everywhere and we were regularly scraping the bottom as we wound along the hillside from here toward Bath past regular signs warning 'No mooring, danger of falling trees'. More than scraping at times. Once the boat banged and rocked violently from side to side as we went over some massive unseen obstruction that was quite possibly one of those dead trees.
with tight and shallow tree shrouded stretches
Last night we pulled up a mile short of Bath itself, with views of the city in the distance. We're at Bathampton where generations of transport come close together - the River Avon, the main line railway, the motorway and the canal, all within less than half a mile. Its succesors may be faster but none catch match the elegance and style of John Rennie's canal.

Boat jam at Avoncliff Aqueduct

1 comment:

  1. They still work, they look good to and have been there for years. Not sure all the modern transport trappings will stand the test of time nor look as attractive. I wonder just how long those wind turbines that are multiplying everywhere will actually remain standing...cannot see it being a 100 years.