TUNNELS, TOLLS & TURTLES

Eight fas­ci­nat­ing facts from the world’s canals

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Discover | Canal Walks -

The Panama Canal cuts the two-week trip be­tween At­lantic and Pa­cific via Cape Horn to a ten­hour cross-coun­try jaunt. Tolls must be paid in cash based on ton­nage, so in 1928 Richard Hal­libur­ton paid 36 cents to swim its length, while re­cently a su­per-sized con­tainer ship was charged $829,000. China’s Grand Canal is the world’s long­est man-made wa­ter­way. Started in the 5th cen­tury BC, it has been added to over the cen­turies to reach 1115 miles in length. At 5500 yards, or over three miles, Stand­edge Tun­nel on the Hud­der­s­field Nar­row Canal is the long­est and high­est in Bri­tain. Be­fore en­gines, boaters would ‘leg’ their nar­row­boats through, ly­ing on their backs and push­ing with their feet against the tun­nel roof. The word ‘navvies’ for the men who dug the over 2000 miles of Bri­tish canals comes from ‘nav­i­ga­tors,’ the labour­ers who built the canals, or nav­i­ga­tions. Canal navvies in­cluded Ir­ish and Scot­tish mi­grant work­ers, lo­cal farmhands and sol­diers de­com­mis­sioned af­ter for­eign wars.

Mac­cles­field Bridge on London’s Re­gents Canal was de­stroyed in the early hours of 2nd Oc­to­ber 1874 when a gun­pow­der boat – the Til­bury – caught fire and ex­ploded as it passed un­der the bridge. The re­built bridge has been known as ‘Blow-Up Bridge’ ever since. All Aboard, a silent, two-hour BBC Four doc­u­men­tary filmed in real time from the bow of a nar­row­boat trav­el­ling the Ken­net & Avon Canal, at­tracted half a mil­lion view­ers in 2015. Since the 1980s Teenage Mu­tant Ninja Turtles craze, canals in the south of Eng­land have be­come home to red-eared ter­rap­ins (above) that were dumped when they be­came too big to keep as pets.

The long­est flight of locks in Bri­tain is at Tarde­bigge on the Worces­ter­shire and Birmingham

Canal. Thirty locks raise the wa­ter­way 220 feet over a two-anda-quar­ter-mile dis­tance. Walk­ers look­ing for a bit more ex­er­cise could of­fer their ser­vices to pass­ing nar­row­boats as a ‘hob­bler,’ the name for a ca­sual worker who tra­di­tion­ally helped boats through locks.

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