Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Gears & Levers

Train Parts
I love anything mechanical. Give me gears, cogs, levers and any sort of engine and I love it. I love cars, motorcycles, boats and trains. If it moves with an engine I like it. So when we discovered a museum of transportation here is Glasgow, it was on my “must-see” list.

Glasgow has always had an image problem, seen as a working town with its neighbor Edinburgh being the “interesting”  city. As a result Glasgow is trying to improve it’s image for visitors. One way it has done this is to make most of the city attractions free. Most of their museums do not charge to visit them.

A wall of cars
The Riverside Museum of Transportation is one of the best and most interesting museums I have ever visited. It is in a beautiful setting right on the River Clyde in a beautiful modern new building. Although a ways from our hotel, it was on our "Hop-on-hop-off” tour bus route, so getting there was easy.

The most interesting thing about this museum was how they presented things. For example I have visited many excellent car museums with impressive collections of vehicles, but here the cars were displayed on a wall or parked on an incline two stories long. In addition there was a special display of a Mini, an Anglia, and an Imp There was a whole room devoted to engines including a Beetle that children could climb under to see the engine. There was a display of a new Mini used in safety testing and a Ford Cortina that was sold as original, but was really two cars welded together.

South African Steam Locomotive
There was a wall of motorcycles, four massive steam locomotives including one that had been built in Glasgow, shipped to South Africa, returned to Scotland 100 years later and restored, A tiny trailer where hippy protesters of Nuclear war lived, a presentation on the first ship sunk during WWII, a room about subways, a revolving carousal of model ships, a number of displays about bicycles and many other different topics and displays. Outside docked on the river was a three masted tall ship also open for exploring.

Although I walked through the entire museum and saw everything (I think . .), I did not have time to spend the amount of
Part of a steam engine
time I would have liked with all the displays. I spent a lot of time with the old steam engine from South Africa, and I spent a lot of time on the wall of motorcycles, but the police pursuit vehicle could have used more time, as could the Hillman Imp.

You can see why this museum appealed to me, but Regis also said it was the most interesting one she has visited as well.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Glasgow is not Chester

The New Glasgow
After spending a week in the quaint city of Chester, arriving in Glasgow came as a bit of a shock. Our Hotel is right in the city centre, and is old but very nice. However when Regis asked for a “City View”, she did not realize that the view from the front of the hotel mostly consisted of two derelict buildings. Our first walk around the area was not any better.  Finally finding a pub called “Hootenanny” (Seriously . . . in Scotland?), we discovered good beer
Glasgow Streets
and food and friendly people. We met a couple of locals from Italy and Poland (Yes they did live and work in Glasgow) who’s advice of things to see in Glasgow was the train to Edinburgh.

Regis and I however always find the best in any city or situation. The next day, after wading
Making the Old Look New
through hoards of runners (The Great Scottish Run), we found the tourist information centre and set out to explore Glasgow. By the end of the day, our hiking shoes had about five more hours of wear on their soles, and we had explored another cathedral, visited the necropolis, climbed to the top of a lighthouse (In the middle of a city), discovered a really cool art deco architect, rode the subway, and had supper in a pub in the catacombs under the city.

We Also Visited a Brewery
As we normally find, once you dig a bit you can find the soul of any city and there is usually lots to see and do in any city. Glasgow was an industrial city. The Lucitania, the first Queen Elizabeth and many of the early Cunard ships were built here, and the city’s shipyards are currently building the next generation of British warships. Some of the best steam locomotives were shipped all over the world from Glasgow. It never was a “Quaint” city it was always a gritty merchant and industrial city, and is very interesting as such. It has a rich history in Industry, business and architecture, and explored with this in mind it is fascinating.
The Inn Deep Pub

We spent the day today at the Riverside Museum Of Transportation (I feel a blog post coming on . .), and loved it. There is lots to see and do here. Oh BTW, on our city tour today we discovered that those two derelict buildings across from the hotel are a priority to renovate, restore or replace.

Glasgow is not Chester, it is however, a cool interesting city to visit.

Visiting the Dead

Walking up to the top
Arriving in Glasgow we decided to take a city tour to give us a better idea of what to see and do during our days here. We quickly had doubts about the tour operating today however, because the city was filled with runners. No one told us about the “Great Scottish Run”, and many areas and roads were blocked for this event. Sure enough, finding the tour office we discovered that indeed there would be no tours today. Another “Go to Plan B” day.

The Tallest . .richest?
Instead we decided to walk to the “Old Section” of Glasgow and visit the Cathedral and the Necropolis. It was a bit of a walk but after all we had a day to waste.

I have visited the “Cities of the Dead” in New Orleans, and the “City of the Dead” in Cairo, so the Necropolis sounded interesting. It is a cemetery built on the top of a prominent hill. Built in 1832 to solve a serious overcrowding problem in church graveyards, the Glasgow Necropolis was built as a business and a for-profit burial ground. Over 50,000 people are buried here but most have no markers. There are however over 3500 stones and monuments.

The hill is behind the cathedral and is accessible via a raised walkway crossing a road to a very ornate entrance. From there pathways in a garden-like setting wind up the hill to the top and gravestones and markers line the pathways.

Cast Iron . . Really?
Now, Glasgow was an industrial city with many self-made merchants, who wanted to be well known, and so the more important you thought your family was, the bigger the family plot and monument was. As you walk up the hill, you notice that the bigger grander monuments sit proudly at the crest of the hill, with the tallest and grandest for a man named John Knox, who was actually buried here in 1825, before the Necropolis was built. Most of the old monuments still stand proudly but it is kind of sad to see some fallen over and neglected. And there was one who ordered his memorial to be made of cast iron; I guess he had not heard of rust . . .
Fallen & neglected

There were lots of common names such as Miller and Brown all over the Necropolis, and I was surprised at how few “Mac . . .” and “Mc . . .” there were, although I did find one “Hill”, but it was on the way up, not at the top.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

So Many Pubs . . .So Little Time . . .

A good English Brew!

England knows how to do beer. They therefore have also figured out how to serve it . . . the answer is simple . . in pubs.

All along the canals we explored during our first two weeks, there were pubs strategically placed at junctions, towns or beside the locks. Anywhere the boatsmen would have had to stop was a good spot to put a place to get a beer. We did manage to try out a few on our canal trip.

Here in Chester however they have taken the pub scene to a whole new level. There are over 50 pubs within walking distance of
A lie . . . these two do not know Beer
the apartment. There is one right next door, two up the street, and two immediately across the bridge. During our walks around Chester I am constantly finding new and interesting pubs.

The names of course sound like old English Pubs.
Bear & Billet
Cross Keys
Old Queen’s Head
Pied Bull
Brewery Tap
Liverpool Arms
Pitcher & Piano
George & Dragon

The Brewery Tap
700 Year Old Cellar
My intent was to work my way through them, but OMG there are too many. I went to the Falcon on a recommendation of someone I met and the owner gave us a tour of the 700 year old cellars, and I saw the 200 year old oak barrels that he pulled my Ale from. I also had a pint in the Brewery Tap which claims to be 600 years old, and today on the way back from visiting the ruin of the original Chester Cathedral we stopped at the Cross Keys for a Green Monkey Lager in what they claim to be the 6th oldest pub in the world. Ok, I am getting the idea that age here in Chester may be a relative thing . . . 

How am I ever going to be able to enjoy the Mic Mac Tavern with its ancient 6 month history?

Another Cathedral

For someone who is not at all religious I seem to end up in a lot of churches and cathedrals on my travels. If there is some hidden significance in that I am not sure what it is.
Yup that makes me want to attend church

Here in Chester the Cathedral is a significant landmark, and it stands above the town center, visible from almost anywhere. After walking the City Walls, and visiting the Chester Rows (the downtown two storied shopping areas) the Cathedral was next on the list of things to see.

It is not hard to find or get to. Walk downtown and you arrive at the cathedral, like most cathedrals, it is pretty much in the center of the city. On first sight, this one looks like most other cathedrals, made of stone and partially covered with scaffolding for restoration. Entry to the cathedral is free, but once inside you are heavily encouraged to book the “Chester Cathedral Height” tour which takes you up the main tower of the cathedral.
Beautiful tiled floors

I started out by simply wandering through the vast open spaces inside the cathedral. Unlike some of the fancier cathedrals I saw in Europe, which are finished with plaster, paint and brightwork inside, this one is mostly unadorned stone, This makes it dark and the beautiful stained glass windows only allow so much light inside. Fortunately my camera does a great job in low light, and my pictures actually show more detail than you see in person. I love finding interesting details such as the Magistrates room, or the old doors and locks everywhere.

Amazing Wood Carvings
In the center of the cathedral is a beautiful separate area done in wood that was amazing. I am sure that this room has some special name and purpose, but I just enjoyed the amazing carved woodwork. The wooden seating surrounding the pulpit were all carved with dragons, birds, snakes and very odd people. Looking closely, some of these were a bit creepy and disturbing. A dragon eating a man’s head, birds fighting snakes, grotesque looking people. The religious significance escaped me, but the work involved drew me in. What was most appreciated about this area, was that although I was asked not to “touch”, the area was not roped off, and I was free to explore and examine the individual woodwork.

After exploring he main cathedral, we decided to pay for and take the Tower Tour. It is advertised as Climb 216 steps, 125 feet, through 1000 years of history to look out over two countries, and five counties. Although that is a good description, you also get a tour of the
Horsehair in the walls
bells and get the see the Pipe Organ from above. The Bell Tower was especially interesting. The bells have been moved to a modern building next door (the guide described it as “The Rocket Ship”), because the constant ringing of the massive bells was actually vibrating the masonry of the tower apart. To reinforce the stone, and solidify the masonry, horse hair was once added to the mortar, and as you climb the narrow circling stairs your hands brush this hair protruding from the walls. That could be a bit unsettling if you did not have the explanation. The now unused bell ringing area is now set up as a demonstration are to explain all about the bells.

I think that is Beeston Castle on the hill
Our tour guide was a friendly young girl who seemed to take pride in her job and her city. She was a wealth of information, and knew the answer to most questions from all three of her visiting tourists on the tour. Did you know that the Curfew bell was rung every evening warning any visitors (Meaning he Welsh) to leave the city or be shot. Apparently anyone conversing in Welsh was considered to be plotting revolt so was open to being shot on sight. My heritage is English and Irish . . . . wonder what they did to the Irish? 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Subway . . Really?

Regis waiting for the Subway
During our travels, we try not to have to depend on having a car. We like to rent places where we can use public transportation such as trains busses and Metro systems. We found the Subways in Japan amazing, the underground in London excellent, and enjoyed the historic Metro in Budapest. If there is an underground system where we visit, we always make use of it.

Normally, subways are only in the largest cities around the world. Halifax does not have one, and even Ottawa functions without a underground system, so we were surprised to see a sign pointing down a set of stairs to the “Subway” here in Chester. This is not a large city, so we certainly did not expect this.

Here was a stairway in the sidewalk leading down under the streets. We decided to have a look and headed down the stairs. As we descended the steps, the expected “Subway” sounds came up the stairs to greet us. We could hear the trains.

Subway Art
At the bottom of the stairs we were greeted by the expected underground “Subway” corridors. There were interesting paintings on the walls and exits lead in three other directions. They all led up to four other street corners. Nothing lead to an actual subway train. In the middle were four large fans making the “Subway Train” noises.

Chester’s Subway is simply a way to walk under one major intersection. It looked like a subway, it sounded like a subway, it was called a subway . . . but there were no actual subway trains. I guess it is actually a “Subway” . . . .

Walking the Wall

Walking the Walls

There is our canal again
Chester is a very old historic city. The most significant feature of the city is its almost intact city wall, built over 2000 years ago by the Romans to keep out the evil Welsh barbarians to the West. As well, because of the walls, space in the inner city was limited so a two level shopping district developed where there are not only shops along the street, but also shops overhanging the streets on a second level.

It is recommended that your first activity in Chester is to walk the old city walls. This takes you completely around the old city and gives you a good orientation of the area. Since we had a couple of hours to kill before the apartment was ready, we decided to do as we were told and take a walk around the city walls.

Chester Cathedral
It wasn’t difficult; crossing the bridge that the cottage sits beside, you come to the main city gate and you can climb stairs to the wall. Although there are a few gaps in the wall where roads have been inserted, or sections are under repair, the wall mostly does go all the way around the city center. We had to stop for a walk signal on one road intersecting the wall, and we were forced to descend to street level where one section was undergoing a major repair, but most of the way you can walk on top of the old wall. In sections the wall is not very high, but it is built on steep embankments, but other sections the wall looks down on the canal system outside and the city on the inside.
This will keep those Welsh out!

From the wall you can see the River Dee, the Shropshire Union Canal, the Chester Cathedral, and the inner-city pedestrian shopping streets, so it does give you a very useful introduction to Chester.

And a horse race - Who Knew?
The other thing you see from the wall is the Roodee Chester Racecourse, a beautiful facility for horse racing. It is the oldest horse race track in England, and on our first day we happened upon the last horse race of the season. What is nice about this, is although the race course has lots of internal seating and facilities for people to watch the races, you can see perfectly well by just finding a spot on the wall. On race day, they close the streets to vehicle traffic and a carnival atmosphere develops. If you want a beer, or wish to bet on a horse you must actually pay to go into the grounds, but if you just wish to watch the horses, you can do it for free. A really nice attitude, and the race course does not seem to be suffering by letting people watch for free – the grandstands were full and the general admission spots along the sides of the course were packed. We enjoyed seeing one of the races from a spot on the wall. Would have liked to have put money on number 8, he won with 7 – 1 odds. . . .

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Chasing Swans

A swan family on the canal
As you cruise through the canals of England, it is common to run into families of swans. They live all over the canals, and are completely at home there. You can be gliding along through the country, or gently sliding between brick walls in cities and towns, and a group of swans will come out to greet your boat. They obviously get fed by people in boats and when they see boats coming along the canals, they come out to see if food is offered.

The swans are not afraid of the boats, they swim right towards them and easily swerve out of the way if they get too close. They look elegant and regal, but they are not friendly; reach down towards them and they will bite.

After two weeks on the canals, you get pretty used to seeing swans, and although they are
Swans are everywhere
pretty special in many places, they are common on the canals. We had a bit of a different encounter with swans on our last day with the boat.

We went down on the Anderton Boat Lift, then came back up and decided to spent the rest of the afternoon cruising further up the canal. There was another tunnel we could do; not as long as the Harecastle Tunnel, but an experience worth exploring. This tunnel was only 500 meters long, so you could peer in and see the other end, and know if another boat was coming through the other way.

After stopping for lunch at a lovely mooring spot after the tunnel, we turned around to come back to Anderton through the tunnel the other way. I again looked into the tunnel and signaling Bill that all was clear, and we proceeded through. About a third of the way through I realized that there was something else in the tunnel with us; I could see the heads of swans swimming well ahead of us. The family of swans we had seen on the canal earlier was swimming through the tunnel. This was a mother, father and four young swans. Now this time of year the young swans are still grey, but are almost full-grown and as big as their

As we approached half way I realized we were going to catch the swans before the end of the tunnel. Sitting in the front of the boat, I could see the swans clearer than Bill who was driving the boat so I told him to slow down. Even at a slower speed we still were gaining on the family of swans. Bill slowed a bit more but was concerned about loosing the ability to steer the boat; we had been warned that going too slow would cause you to hit the sides of he tunnel.

The swans realized that this was not a good situation. They wanted to stay in front of the boat, because falling beside the boat they could get crushed between the walls and the boat. They frantically tried to speed up and were able to pull ahead for a while, but tired and we caught them again. Bill tried to inch to one side and one of the young swans fell beside the boat on the wider side. The mother was desperately herding the young ones to the safer side while keeping herself between the boat and the family, while the father led the way and pushed ahead encouraging the family to greater speed.
Finally as the end of the tunnel came into range, Bill slowed a bit more and the swans put forth another final burst of speed, finally pulling out of the tunnel inches ahead of us. Even the one that had fallen behind was able surge forward into the sunshine. A happy ending for all.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Heavy Lifting

Anderton Boat Lift
With nice sunny days and good weather on the canals, we have made very good time, and have arrived back in Anderton on Thursday afternoon, so we had time to schedule a trip down and up the Anderton Boat lift.

The boat lift was an engineer’s answer to how to move boats from the River Weaver which was used to bring cargo to and from the ocean ports, and the Trent & Mersey Canal which ran almost beside the river. The problem however was that where rivers tend to flow through the lowest part of the land, the canals were always higher as they were man made and built on a level plane between the low and the high, with cuts and tunnels through the hills, and embankments over the low areas. The result was a 50 foot difference between the canal and the river. The other options were an expensive and water wasting flight of locks, or an inclined plane which was expensive to build and run.

Entering the Lift
The boat lift is pretty simple; you build a metal tower supporting two watertight chambers (Caissons) that would hold two narrow boats each. You drive boats on one caisson at the river height and drive boats on above at the canal. The weight of each caisson is the same so it took very little power to utilize hydraulics to pump water from the bottom caisson which caused the top one to drop and then natural hydraulics took over, making them exchange heights. A huge engineering feat for it’s day, but it worked perfectly from 1875 to 1908, when the hydraulic system broke down and was replaced with a system of electric engines and heavy counterweights. This worked until 1983 then the whole thing jammed and was shut down. Unfortunately it sounds like the lift was operated originally with very little routine maintenance, and this caused problems. Fortunately dedicated volunteers rebuilt the whole thing and restored it back to the original hydraulic system only using oil rather than river water.

Looking WAY Down
The lift is not quick; it took us over two hours to go down, turn around and come back up. It is however a pretty impressive experience to drive your boat into a container of water and be lowered 50 feet down inside a big black metal structure. We went down in a caisson by ourselves, but coming back up we were with two smaller power boats out for a weekend on the canals. 

The lift is lovingly worked and maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers who keep it working smoothly. There is no cost to use the lift unless you wish to reserve a specific time and then it is only 5£ per trip. I am glad we got back in time to experience it

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Living On A Narrowbaot

Misty Morning On the Canal
There are distinct “classes” of people in boats on the canal. In many cases, those of us who are renting boats for a holiday are the bottom of the list, getting in the way of the “serious” boaters as we learn our way around their canals. Narrowboating has become very popular and judging by the cars in the parking lots of the fancy new marinas along the canals it is also very profitable.

There is however another group of people on the canals, those who actually live on their boats. To them, the boats are not a weekend recreation, they are their homes. As you motor along the canals, you will often see boats moored alongside the canals in areas away from the normal 24 hour or 48 hour spots. These boats do not always look as pristine as some on the canals, they look a bit worn, a bit faded, well actually what they look like is “Lived in” which is actually what they are. You will see stacks of wood on the roof, or bags of coal, and often bicycles or even baby strollers, and almost always plants, sometimes entire gardens decorate the roof and front and back areas.

At one stop where I was waiting for Bill to pull the boat up to get water, I could see another boat pulling into the water spot. This boat was piloted by a young woman and the boat looked a bit worn and “Lived In”. As it pulled up, two dogs stuck their heads out of the front, and a boy of about 12 – 14 jumped out of the back with the aft line in his hand. When I
asked if they would pull as far forward as possible, he jumped to untie and move his mooring spot. The young woman piloting the boat needed to give him no instructions, he knew exactly what to do, and when Bill maneuvered our boat in behind, he immediately jumped to help tie us up as well.  As his mother packed a cart with washing and recycling, she told him to fill the water tank.

As I waited for him to finish (He tried to hook our boat up as well as his, but it would not work), he and I chatted. He told me about his two dogs. He told me about trying to fix the broken water tank cap (“You know how much they want for one of these ? 18 quid . . . . ridiculous!”). He asked where we were from and I asked him about living on a boat. He knew how to do anything on the boat, and his mother obviously trusted him to do it, as on one of her trips back and forth, she told him to move the boat if someone needed the water spot.

Moored by the Bridge
While he was filling his tank and helping me fill mine, he took both dogs for a walk, rode is bike to get a circular saw from someone he knew that he thought he could fix, and kept me completely entertained while I was filling the water tank.

I am enjoying this narrowboat vacation, but this stop for water gave me a completely different perspective of life on the canals. I enjoyed my brief visit with Alfie, and I developed a great deal of respect for the life he leads. My time filling the water tank with him added a great deal to the trip. Thanks Alfie!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Day Off

Rain Clouds Moving Away

After days of travelling on the canals and working the locks as we go, we have stopped for a

day at a town called Audlem. The weather was calling for lots of rain overnight and today, and we were ahead of schedule (Regis was driving the boat, and you all know how she drives . . .) We tied up just before the bridge to town at Lock 12, and had lunch at the tavern at the Bridge; yup, the pub is called “The Bridge”. This morning braved the rain, and moved the boat two locks, to moor just below the town where we could refill out water tank, and we are staying here for the day.

Sitting in the sun on the canal.
Although it rained all morning, this picture is where I am sitting writing my blog. The boat has two small sitting spots on the bow, and when we came back from sampling the lunch offerings at another of the town’s pubs, the sun was shining again and it is lovely. The folks in the boat moored ahead of us are a lovely British couple who we met at the water spot and they are doing the same as us, spending the day here. Across from me sits the “Autumn Mist” and as you can see it’s owner is also enjoying the lovely British day.

Our Neighbour
The rain has stopped the dark clouds are rolling off to the West, and there is lots of blue sky. I can hear the water leaking out of lock # 15 ahead of me, but it will have to wait for tomorrow, for the birds are singing and I can sit out here in my sweater enjoying the afternoon. People walk by on the towpath on my right with a friendly greeting, and the occasional boat slowly putters by on the left either heading up to Lock 14, or down to Lock 15 and the driver invariably gives us a wave or a friendly “Good Afternoon”.

The grass is green in the fields on either side of the canal, the leaves on the trees are just thinking about changing colour, the British Porter balanced on the gunnel beside me is delicious, and all is right with to world from my perspective.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What's In a Name?

The boat we are is called “Great Blue Heron”, and the last boat we had was the named after some other bird. All the ABC Boat Hire boats are named after birds. I already had Bill tell you about the boat named “Gandolf”. Not all the boats have names, but there appears to be quite the artistry in naming narrowboats.

Originally, when all the boats on the canals were working boats they were all painted serviceable black with only the small rear cabin being brightly painted. These cabins became true works of art, but the names on the boats were usually the names of the companies running the service. This of course was useful advertisement and fancy artistic lettering and bright colours would have been useful in attracting new customers. The restored narrowboats used for recreation on he canals today often carry on this tradition, although I doubt that the “Narrow Dog Trading Co.” or “L, M & D Light Transport” are actual companies trading or transporting on the canals, and I know that these boats carry only people out for a vacation on the canals.

As with many boats, the lady of the boat seems to get her name on the side, so there were lots of “Elisabeths”, Mary Ellens” or “Heathers”, but there were also male names such as “George”, “Tom” or “Alfred”. Of course cute names are always popular such as “Four Jacks (Carrying four Jack Russell Terriers), “Mixed Emotions”, or “Great Escape”. Some names however you have to wonder about. What is with the purple boat named “African Dream”; what is African about a Narrowboat? Or why paint your boat pink and name it “Trojan”? What is “Armadillo” “ish” about a Narrowboat? Also, Gandalf was not the only fictional character to get painted on a boat; Aslan the lion from C. S. Lewis also made the side of a boat.

Also featured on many boats are their home location. We did discover that you can actually put anything you want on here, so “Middle Earth” works as well as “Anderton Marina”, and if some farmer named “Henderson” rents out private mooring spots, the boats “location” becomes “Henderson’s Wharf”, so the whole process is pretty flexible.

There were some neat names. I enjoyed the “Blue Buzzard”, and looked hard to see if “Dorothy Goodbody” referred the body work on the boat or the boats owner.

How Narrow is Narrow?

Will we fit under here?
These boats are called “Narrowboats” because they are always only 7 feet wide. There are boats on the English canals that are wider, but they are limited in the canals they can use. Today we found out exactly why they are so narrow. The locks in this part of England are all single locks, and are just a foot or so wider than the boats, so it is tight sliding the boats into the locks. Our’s being a “hireboat” and rented to inexperienced and often inept folk form all over the world, it had plenty of scratches and scrapes from hitting the sides of the locks. One day we followed a boat that looked so perfect there were hardly any marks on it’s sides. I watch the lady driver slide that boat around a bend and into the lock with inches on either side without touching at all. I commented to her partner who was working the lock, “Wow, she is really good!”, and he proudly replied “Oh yea, she is VERY good!”. I cannot imagine even a day without scraping the bumpers of the boat on something, but their boat was pristine after weeks of use.

All the bridges are this narrow
Today my IPad map program warned us that there was a section coming up that was Narrow. This was through a section of rock where rather than build another series of locks to go up and then back down, or detouring a long way around the hill, they went through the rock, digging the canal. However, they did not make it the full width of most of the canals. Originally this section would have been wide enough for one boat to go through easily, but over the years, trees have narrowed it and weeds have obscured the sides, so it often looked like there was not room to put a boat through. You had to take your time and carefully thread your way through. To make it worse, one of these sections was so long that you could not see to the end, so oncoming boats could not see if anyone was in the narrow section. Travelling in September it is off-season, so the number of boats on the canals is much less than in the summer. We often go for a long time without meeting another boat, but approaching the end of this narrow cut, we saw two boats frantically trying to slow down before they entered the section as they saw us coming up. If you met another boat in this section of the canal, you would have to back up to a spot wide enough to squeeze by. The cut was designed with passing spots but the weeds and trees have claimed these spots in modern times.
Sliding through . .

Also very narrow are the bridges on this section of the canal. Apparently the wealthy land-owners insisted that the only way they would allow the canals to go through their land was if fancy tall bridges were built to show everyone that the surrounding countryside was owned by someone important. It appears that the canal companies appeased the land-owners, by building the bridges high and fancy, but made them extra narrow to recoup some of the extra cost. You have to squeeze through some of these with inches to spare on both sides, and the height of the bridges make them look even narrower.

Our boat has a few more Shropshire Stripes (that’s a NASCAR reference for those who don’t get it – Google up “Darlington Stripe”), but we made it through,