Memories of the Grand Union Canal
I love the Grand Union Canal. A lot of boaters find the heavy gates on the double locks a bit daunting, but find another boat to work a flight with, or better still, start with two boats, a hotel boat pair, say, and the GU is a dream - a canal super-highway between Birmingham and London.
There are some terrific Lock flights on the GU - Knowle is short and sweet, only 5 locks, but the views across open countryside as you work up the side of the hill are smashing. Of course every boater knows about the Hatton flight of 21 locks, or the stairway to heaven as it’s known. You can see the church on the hill in Warwick from the top. and locks aren’t even a bother. On Snipe and Taurus, our fastest time from into the top lock to out of the bottom was 1 hour 21 minutes (bottom to top 1 hour 51 minutes - locks take longer to fill than empty!). I bet even working boaters of years gone by wouldn’t find that too shabby.
The Stockton flight is compact, wooded and lovely but DON’T GO THROUGH BLUE LIAS BREASTED! That’s the bridged next to the Blue Lias pub - you cannot get two boats through that side by side, so don’t even try! And of course, the las lock in the flight is Itchington Bottom Lock - I challenge you to find a more humorous name for a lock anywhere else in the country!
Then there is the lovely little flight at Marsworth, with the reservoirs stretching away along side, affording boaters some fantastic views, especially if you can time your trip through at sunset.
And there is my favourite lock flight in the country, the Hanwell locks. It’s only a short flight, just 6 locks, but they are an oasis. Set in a park, the lock flight runs along side the exterior wall of the old Hanwell Pauper and Lunatic Asylum (Now St Bernards Hospital). You can’t see over that wall though most of the old buildings remain and you can see some of them from the canal. But the best bit is the wall itself. The wall tells the story of how the Canal and the Asylum were connected. An artist called Edward Moody designed the information boards that are next to the flight and an accompanying leaflet for BW in 2001.
There is a lovely story in the leaflet from a chap called Sam Holt. Sam remembers that his father, Arthur, delivered coal into Asylum Dock, where they might arrive late in the evening. The family would start unloading straight away because ‘however late it was, it paid to unload the boats so you could get off with an early start for the next load in the morning.’ At the asylum they shovelled out twenty-five tons. ‘My dad had shovels with cut-down handles so my brother and sister could use them.’
When the unloading was done, Arthur sometimes used to take his horse up to the pub, where the landlord would give the horse a bucket of ale! You can still see the bricked-up arch way that was the entrance to Asylum Dock where Arthur Holt delivered his coal. Perhaps that is why it’s my favourite flight in the country, because you can see the story in the wall, but you can’t see what’s hidden beyond.
Guest post by Corinne Thomsett
Your Virtual Assistant
Corinne used to run a hotel boat business and is now a virtual assistant offering administration, social media marketing and business blogging services. If you like the idea of running a business on the canals check out this 70ft trip boat for sale.
Image credit: Edward Moody leaflet from Edward Moody Design
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