Monday, 17 March 2008

Canals

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Canalside cottages and narrowboat at the canal basin in Brecon town. What a fabulous display of flowers. We had a lovely day out here last summer, walking along the canal bank.


The Montgomery Canal, which I was driving past on my way up to North Wales and Beyond a couple of days back, has been recently restored, having been abandoned around the Second World War after part of it was breached in the 1930s. It was not considered economically viable at that time. Now the restoration of all but a short stretch which is privately owned and dry, has enabled the canal to be used for recreational purposes (mainly boating). Downstream:




The view upstream:

The canal was initially started after 1794 and by 1797 a 16 mile stretch had been constructed. It eventually stretched from Llanymenach (where there was a large limestone quarry) to Welshpool and differed in purpose from most canals, as it was primarily used to bring lime, which was necessary for agricultural purposes to improve the land in the North Shropshire area. Indeed I noticed and photographed the small lime kilns beside the towpath at Buttington Wharf. There are long rows of these on the Brecon canal too. Lime could be a dangerous cargo, as once mixed with water, it became caustic paste and capable of causing nasty burns. Hence the need for it to be processed close to the canal so it was in a safe condition to be carried on elsewhere to farms. The limestone would be broken up by heavy hammers and layered with coal, into the lime kilns, where it would be burnt in what essentially was a large furnace and the lime which issued from the bottom of the kilns could then be safely transported. The top of the kiln was level with the edge of the canal so that the lime could be easily manouvred into it. During 1841, up to 58,000 tons of limestone were carried along this canal, and there were a total of 92 lime-kilns along its length.



One of a long line of larger lime-kilns at Brecon:



A beautiful canal-side garden at Brecon:



The Brecknock and Abergavenny canal carried different cargoes: coal, lime and limestone, iron and timber. Building stone, hay, farm produce and manufactured goods were also carried. At Llanfoist, near Abergavenny, the canal was linked by a tramroad to the ironworks at Blaenavon. At the height of the Industrial Revolution in Wales, the canals were the quickest method of transport, as the roads were so bad. With the advent of the railways, however, the canals seemed very slow by comparison. Conditions in winter were bad however and the conditions which Dickens wrote of, when the Thames froze over and Ice Fairs were held, affected the Welsh canals, which also froze, and special ice-breaking boats were employed to create a route through. It was linked with the Monmouthshire canal near Pontypool.

This link gives an excellent overview of the locks and aquaducts which were a necessary part of the canal system: http://history.powys.org.uk/school1/brecon/levels.shtml



http://history.powys.org.uk/school1/welshpool/lime.shtml

is a good link, as is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_Canal

4 comments:

MammyT said...

Another very interesting post. I really love these photos. The canal-side garden is really nice.
Nancy

Bovey Belle said...

I think it was lovely too - he had all sorts growing there - from vegetables to sweet peas and roses. Beautiful. I think you only get a feel for a town when you go through the little back streets and the bits the "locals" know. The Brecon folk use the canalside walks of course.

Rowan said...

It's really good that so many canals are being restored. Oddly enough our talk at WI this month was about the restoration of the Chesterfield canal,the difference in the before and after pictures was astounding. All the work is done by volunteers too.

Bovey Belle said...

Ah deja vu Rowan. In looking up the Montgomery Canal, I came across a website which had step by step pictures of the restoration of various lengths of the canal - very interesting - and someone put a lot of hard work into setting up the website and presumably helping with the restoration too.