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It’s Grand on the Canal

Grand Junction mile post

The Monday Photo

This cast iron sign is on the towpath of the Grand Union canal, at Woughton on the Green, Milton Keynes. But what does G. J. C. Co. stand for?

This was the Grand Junction Canal until 1929, But when the railways took away much of the canal trade in goods transport, It was taken over and became part of the Grand Union canal, in a merger of several other canal companies.

This stretch was built at the end of the 18th Century. It ran from Braunston in Northants, down to the Thames at Brentford in West London.

Canals follow the hill contours, so you might think that canals take a very indirect route. But it’s not much further to Braunston from here than the same journey by road, at 36 miles instead of 32. As the crow flies, it’s under 28 to the junction at Braunston.

Boaters can get a good idea of how long a canal journey will take. To work it out they assume an average speed of three miles an hour, and add to that ten minutes for every lock.

At three miles an hour those 36 miles to Braunston will take you twelve hours. The 21 locks you’ll pass through on the way will take you 210 minutes, or three and a half hours.

Altogether you’ll be looking at a total of sixteen and a half hours; a two day journey if you don’t stop.

By the modern road you could easily get there in an hour, but it would have taken a lot longer by road when the canal was first built, especially in the winter.

I wonder how long it would take to do the trip now, by bicycle along the towpath.

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