Canals

A Low Point for the Canal

_IMG2824The towpath hangs out over the edge of the aqueduct.

The Iron Trunk, the aqueduct that carries the Grand Union Canal 40 feet above the Great Ouse, is the third one to be built here.

The first one collapsed, the second one was temporary, and the one we have now is 210 years old. The canal company changed the course of the river and the shape of Buckinghamshire to build it.

Here’s the timeline.

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Iron and Water

Cosgrove aqueductThe Iron Trunk aqueduct.

Canals take a wriggly path, following the contours of the land as much as possible.

But sometimes that’s not practical, as the engineers of the Grand Junction Canal realised when they came to the Ouse Valley.

A one mile embankment carries the canal across the valley, with a cast iron aqueduct over the Great Ouse. The aqueduct is known locally as the Iron Trunk.

The Aqueduct is a great piece of engineering. It’s about half a mile from the road and the nearest parking spot, but well worth a visit. It’s a nice walk, too.

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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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It’s Quicker Via (this) Canal

Soulbury bottom lock 24

The Monday Photo

In 1805, it became far more practical to bring goods to London from the factories in the North and the Midlands when the Grand Junction Canal was opened; we know it as the Grand Union Canal, and this is Three Locks, not far South of Milton Keynes.

Before that year, the only way to London by water was via the Oxford canal, joining the Thames at Oxford then going downstream to the capital; it was much further and depended on how the Thames was running. These routes both still exist.

But how much quicker was it when the new route opened? On the older route via the Thames it’s 172 miles each way and and modern estimates reckon it will take you 151 hours of travelling to go there and back.

For the same starting and finishing points but via the Grand Junction Canal it’s just 101 miles each way, and the modern estimate is 102 hours for the round trip. So the new route cut a third off the return journey time and was more reliable, since none of it was on the river.

The new canal did well, but competition from the railways from around 1840 meant the canal struggled to survive, though it continued to take commercial traffic right up until the 1950s, one of the last canals to do so. Now it is mostly used by leisure craft and people who live on boats, and has now been open to traffic for 215 years.

The photo shows the bottom lock of the three, which together raise or lower boats just over twenty feet, and the end of the Greensand ridge.

I don’t know what sort of speed the 18th Century horse drawn boats could average, does anyone know? I suspect they’d be slower than a modern boat with an engine. But the time advantage of the new route is obvious.

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In Locked Down Milton Keynes

Social Distancing Project 67A woman takes a child to school, past posters in a Church Street window.

The Distance Project 8

I’ve been having a look around the railway town of Wolverton for the project. There’s a cluster of houses on Church Street where most of the houses have lockdown posters in the windows, and nearby a shop has a big painted design, though it’s closed under the rules. The town is quiet, and just a few shops are allowed to be open.

I’ve also got three shots from other places in Milton Keynes to show you.

This week’s photos were taken a little over two weeks ago, but I’ve held them over to cover two events, or rather the absence of those events, in Stony Stratford. That is, Stony Live, and Folk on the Green.

In the project I'm photographing what people are doing differently under lockdown. You can see all the other Distance Project photos I’ve put on the North Bucks Wanderer here, but there’s many more from this project that I haven’t published. 

Some would not come over well on the NBW because the photos are rather compressed here; they lose fine detail. Some are too similar to pictures already published on this blog, but I took them to make as complete a record as possible.

The project continues.

(Edited, September 2021)
This is just one of many posts from The Distance Project. That link will take you back to the very first posts, but if you want to see them in reverse order, just click on the link in the categories list that's on every page. The project ran from April 2020 to September 2021.

Social Distancing Project 66On what would normally be a school day, the car park at the Radcliffe School is almost empty.

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April Days

(Edited) My apologies, but I somehow managed to leave the first sentence off this post.  I've just put it back, and so the post should make rather more sense. The Wanderer

Always carry a camera! I try hard to do this so I have a choice of different cameras, according to what I’m doing that day.

There’s the Pentax outfit. It’s big, it’s heavy, and very versatile. When I’m just going out to take photos, it’s the weapon of choice. My K3 is out of production, but there’s now the Pentax KP, and the 16-50mm lens.

The Sony A6000 and 16-50mm lens does most things, and it’s a great daily carry. It’s fairly compact, light, and easy to carry. It fits into a coat pocket or, I would guess, into a large handbag.

The two 16-50mm lenses are different. The Pentax lens gathers between two thirds as much again and four times as much light, depending on the zoom setting, than the Sony lens. But it's also much bigger and heavier. 

The Canon G9 is outdated, worth little, and is far better than I thought it would be. I use it when I’m doing other work that’s not photographic or blog related, and it just goes (in its case) into the tool bag. The case has a belt loop so I can wear it while doing other things.

It’s a notebook camera and you wouldn’t be interested in my photos of old bits of electrical machinery, so there’s no photos from this camera here. But I have used it for blog photos in the past, when I’ve spotted something of interest.

Canon have modern G series cameras. One is the Canon G9 X.

Newport PagnellSaturday 6th April. Cloudy. Next time you are in your local High Street, look up above the shop fronts and see what’s there. You might be surprised. This nice timber framed, early 17th century building is 38 High Street Newport Pagnell; it’s 400 years old! You can also see the gable end of the brick built number 40-42; it’s not quite so old, but still 17th century.
Sony A6000 and 16-50mm lens.

Washing dayWednesday 10th. Warm, sunny. A great day for drying clothes and for colour photography. I had been eating lunch in the back garden and noticed I had blue t-shirts, blue jeans and a nice blue sky. I popped back into the house, grabbed the Pentax and took a long series of photos, including this one.
Pentax K3, 16-50mm lens.

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