Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Thumper in Leamington

On a lovely sunny day i headed to Leamington Spa for some train thrash and a bit of canal walking. The main reason to go was to check out a preserved Class 201 diesel electric multiple unit which was running on a railtour from Hastings to Stratford-upon-Avon. I've never seen a "Thumper" (as they are nicknamed) before and certainly never thought i would see one in my beloved Warwickshire! You can see my railway related photos here. I must go on a railtour myself one day...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Walking Wootton Wawen

On a glorious Summer's day there is no better place to be in South Warwickshire, as i was on Saturday in the village of Wootton Wawen and walking along the Stratford Canal. Several years ago (2011 in fact) i walked up from Wilmcote past the Edstone Aqueduct as far as Changeline Footbridge 55 but turned back short of Wootton Wawen. In 2013 i walked up from Wootton Wawen as far as the Yarningale Aqueduct.

But there is a canal stretch South of the village i have not walked yet... well until now of course. I walked as far as Farm Bridge 56 and you can see the canal photos i took here and other photos from the lovely village here.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The London & Birmingham Canal

Looking at a modern canal map you might wonder why Birmingham and Coventry are not linked directly by a canal. You can get from city to city but only by a round-about way using the Birmingham & Fazeley and Coventry Canals. However in 1828 there indeed was a proposal which could have more directly linked the two cities.

The London & Birmingham Canal was an attempt to shorten the distance between the two cities. It was a proposed link from the Oxford Canal at Brinklow, passing through Coventry and then linking up to the Stratford Canal. According to a map of the proposed route (1), the canal would have been 18 miles long and as well as being a shorter distance for freight to travel between the two cities would also have reduced the number of locks that needed to be travelled through from 51 to 15!

This was an important consideration as the existing canal network was not designed with trade between Birmingham and Staffordshire to London in mind (2). The number of locks that needed to be navigated through, especially at the already overloaded Farmer's Bridge Locks between Birmingham city centre and Aston (3), was considered an impediment in trade and progress and could be greatly reduced by the new canal (4). The new canal could also be the same width as the Grand Junction Canal to allow for the transport of larger goods.

The map unfortunately does not say exactly where the new canal would have joined the Stratford however it would have linked up to the canal at it's summit (5) so somewhere before Lapworth. The new canal would have passed the Grand Junction (now Union) near Knowle (but not had a link to the canal though that would presumably have been added at a later stage) which perhaps indicates the link to the Stratford Canal would have been at somewhere such as Dickens Heath. (If you know exactly where please let me know!)

The proposed canal project was rejected by investors as it was found to have little substance behind it (6). What killed the project off were objections from a land owner whose land the canal would have traveled though (7). A number of other proposals for a canal along this route for example one by Thomas Telford were considered but all came to nothing, probably because the age of canal building was ending. By 1828 the canals were coming under competition from the railways which were the "sexy" new technology which people were desperate to invest in (and often lose their investment), it may have been that if the canal had been proposed a couple of decades earlier the land owners' objections could have been overcome.

One interesting byproduct of the project was that although it came to nothing it did benefit the Stratford Canal. At the time they were being charged high coal tolls by the Warwick Canal for through traffic but the project was sufficiently threatening to the Warwick Canal company to push them to reduce the coal tolls (8).

Its a shame the canal was not built as the canal would have been a very useful link-up between canals in that area of the midlands.

Stratford Canal near Kings Norton
1) Stratford Birthplace Trust Record Office (SBTRO) DR 18/16/3
2) Cubitt W., Description of a plan for a central union canal which will lessen the distance and expense of canal navigation between London and Birmingham, etc., 1832, p3
3) Hadfield C. and Norris J., Waterways to Stratford (Newton Abbott:David & Charles, 1968) p99
4) Telford T. Life of Telford v1 Issue 1838 p268
5) Hadfield & Norris p99
6) Ward J.R., The finance of canal building in Eighteenth-century England (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 1974), p86
7) Telford p268
8) Hadfield & Norris p84

Monday, June 22, 2015

Walking the Aylesbury Arm

Its been ages since i last visited a new (to me) stretch of canal, in fact we need to go back all the way to last November and my visit to the Nottingham Canal. On Saturday however i visited Aylesbury for the first time and walked a good stretch of the Aylesbury Arm of the mighty Grand Union Canal.

A very nice stretch of canal it is too, very soon you are out of the town and into lovely countryside. Then you can have the somewhat surreal experience of being stared at by an entire herd of cows. You can see my photos here.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Rails to Aylesbury

Its always nice to go somewhere new and today it was Aylesbury, partly for a canal walk (of which more another time), partly to visit the county town of Buckinghamshire which is where my ancestral roots run deep (traced back to 1653CE or so) and also partly for the rail travel. I was not disappointed on the latter, starting with a class 68 light engine at Birmingham Snow Hill, a class 121 "Bubble Car" at Aylesbury, some good views of the maintenance depot and a nice trip along the sleepy branch line between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury. You can see my photos here.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Getting back into study

Its been well over a year now since i completed my History Masters, in fact its almost a year since my graduation. Busy with a new job and wanting a break from study after 9 years of work with the Open University i resolved to leave things for a bit. In the end it was probably a bit longer than i really intended but i have now finally signed up to a new course!

I am not going to pursue another degree or masters though, been there and done that and to be honest with the HE funding changes i can't afford even the OU anymore. So instead i intend to do a number of short courses in areas that interest me starting with the weather! My first (hopefully of many) courses will be SG089 Science : the weather. Last year i bought a book on meteorology but found it hard to get into, hopefully the course will help me with this and maybe soon i can be predicting the weather! There are a number of other short courses on historical subjects at other universities i am also interested in but lets try SG089 first...