August 14, 2014


Much of English history is also the history of the Industrial Revolution. This is where it started and along with it came the need for easy transport of large loads over long distances. In those early days, the 18th Century, roads as we think of them today didn´t exist. Not to mention lorries, trucks, etc. The natural solution was boats, and a canalsystem covering pretty much all of the country. By the 1830´s, the system had expanded to around 6.400 km (4.000 miles)! The boats were drawn by horses as late as the 1950´s, but diesel-engines were also in use towards the end. By the 60´s, all transport had moved to the road and the canals were abandoned by the industry, instead adopted by holidaymakers and history entusiasts. These days, you can hire a canalboat and spend your holidays cruising through England in a very leisurely manner.

We have done some lovely canal walks on our trips, and once were even invited onboard to have a look at one of the boats. Cozy, but oh so cramped! Imagine in the old days, when the skipper lived on board with his family, and most of the boat had to be filled up with coal or whatever he was carrying! We saw a film not many years ago, "Young Adam" with Ewan McGregor, in which the story takes place onboard one of these boats. Claustrophobic, as I recall.

In Birmingham this summer, we visited the Gas Street Basin, and walked for a few kilometers along the Canal Walk, which was restored in 1996. We were even lucky enough to see a boat coming through the locks.

You can find more information here, and Wikipedia has a few articles as well.

"Road" crossing.

This is the usual division of labour (indicated by our observations): the man steers the boat and the wife operates the lock.

Onlookers give a helping hand.

I love how the guy gets his photograph taken while closing the gate!

I wouldn´t mind having a balcony over a canal. So peaceful in the middle of the city.

Boat people are a friendly bunch - this guy insisted on being photographed.

Underneath the railway tracks.


  1. Beautiful! A balcony overlooking a canal would be fun :)

    We don't have canals here. I remember watching one of the Inspector Morse mysteries in which he was trying to solve an old mystery while he recovered in the hospital. The canals played a big part in the story, and it was interesting to see those scenes.

    1. I remember that episode, too. It was on the other night, actually, and I can see those episodes over and over. I think it was in the next one Morse died, and not long after that John Thaw died himself. His wife, Sheila Hancock, has written a beautiful memoar of their life together, "The two of us".

    2. They do not replay those often here, so we have bought most of them on DVD. I love the series, the Inspector Lewis series, and I'm enjoying the "Endeavor" prequel series. That memoir sounds good. I hadn't heard of it.

    3. I see on amazon you can buy a used copy for 1 penny! I was so charmed with it I bought another book by her. She is also an actor, I saw her in "Sweeney Todd" when I was 12, actually, on my first trip abroad without my parents; it was one of those language course things.

      I am also a fan of the Lewis series - totally enamoured with sergeant Hathaway!