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Canals, & Waterways

Wonders of the UK Canal Network

12 Wonders of the UK Canal work, they are listed here in alphabetical order. I know that even though this is the official list you may feel that there are others that should be added and some of these not included. Your thoughts and photographs as welcome.


Anderton Boat Lift often referred to as the 'Cathedral of the Canals'; was built in 1875 and was the first boat lift in the world. It is located on the Trent and Mersey Canal close to its junction with the River Weaver. It raises and lowers boats 50 ft (15.24m) to link the canal with the river.

Barton Swing Aqueduct carries the Bridgewater Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal. It was originally the site of the first stone arch aqueduct over the River Irwell, built by James Brindley. When the River Irwell was canalised to make the Manchester Ship Canal ('Big Ditch'), the aqueduct had to be rebuilt to allow for larger boats to pass underneath. The solution was to build a swinging aqueduct, this was unique on the waterways. The aqueduct can still be seen operating on a daily basis.

Bingley Five Rise (staircase) Locks on the Leeds and Liverpool canal consist of five locks together without intermediate pounds. They are the steepest flight of locks in the UK with gradient of approximately 1:5, a rise of 59 ft 2inches (18.03m) over a distance of 320 ft (97.54m). The intermediate and bottom gates are the tallest in the country. Due to the compexins of working a staircase lock, and because so many boaters (both first-time hirers and new owners) are inexperienced, a full-time lock keeper is employed.

Burnley Embankment known locally as 'The Straight Mile' is almost a mile (1609m) long and in some places it is up to 65 ft (19.81m) high, it carries the Leeds and Liverpool Canal through Burnley.

Caen Hill Lock Flight on the Kennet and Avon canal is a flight of 16 successive locks is one of the most impressive on the UK's waterways and forms part of the Devizes flight of 29 locks.

Crofton Pumping Station was built in 1807 to provide water to the summit of the Kennet and Avon canal, Wiltshire. It houses two Cornish beam engines both in working order. In 1812 a 42inch (1.0668m) bore Boulton and Watt engine was installed and is the oldest working beam engine in the world still in its original engine house and capable of the doing the job for which it was installed. In 1846 a Combine Cylinders engine constructed by Harvey of Hayle was installed.

Falkirk Wheel links the Union Canal and Forth & Clyde Canal and was opened on 24th May 2002. The Wheel has an overall diameter of 115ft (35m) and consists of two opposing arms. Two diametrically opposed water filled caissons (tanks), each with a capacity of 80,000 gals (63687litres) are fitted between the ends of the arms. Despite its enormous mass it rotates through180 degrees in less than four minutes taking just 22.5 kilowatts to power the electric motors which consume just 1.5 kilowatt-hours of energy in four minutes roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water.

Foxton Inclined Plane is on the Grand Union Canal and by 1897, the Grand Junction Canal Company had acquired several of the canals comprising the Leicester line, and was keen to meet demand from carriers seeking to use wider beam 14ft (4.27m) craft, rather than the traditional narrow beam boats, which were the only type the locks could accommodate. Their solution was to build an inclined plane to the side of the locks. It had two caissons (tanks) each capable of holding 2 narrowboats or a barge. The caissons were full of water and counterbalanced each other, and having guillotine gates to give a watertight seal. The lift was pwered by a stationary steam engine.

Harecastle Tunnels are two parallel tunnels on the Trent and Mersey canal, the first was built by James Brindley and completed in 1777, being 2880yards (2633.47m) long. At the time of its construction it was twice the length of any other tunnel in the world. Due to growing demand a second tunnel was built by Thomas Telford and was completed in 1877, this was 2926 yards (2675.53m) in length. This tunnel is till currently in operation.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal is the highest aqueduct in Britain. It was built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, and is 1,007 ft (307m) long, 11 ft (3.4 m) wide and 5.25 ft (1.60m) deep. The cast iron trough is supported 126 ft (38 m) above the river on iron arched ribs carried on nineteen hollow masonry piers (pillars). Each span is 53 ft (16m) wide. It carries the canal over the River Dee from which it originates at the Horseshoe Falls.

Sapperton Tunnel was the biggest engineering feature of the Thames & Severn Canal, and the longest tunnel of any kind in England between 1789 and 1811, but has now unfortunately fallen into disrepair. The tunnel in the middle of the Thames & Severn Canal, was first used over 200 years ago on the 20th April 1789. At the time it was the state of the art in canal technology and the longest tunnel ever dug in England, 3,817 yards (3.490m). Trade flourished, and despite problems with the construction and water supply, the canal and Sapperton Tunnel remained in use until the early 1900s.

Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield narrow canal is the highest, longest and deepest canal tunnel in the UK, stretching for 3.25 miles (5,029m) through hard millstone grit. An engineering marvel worked on by Thomas Telford, the tunnel runs from Marsden in Yorkshire through to Diggle in Lancashire.



Published 16/03/2010