Two waterways both alike in dignity

When the canal first made it to Birmingham, the people rang the church bells as they foresaw the wealth that would follow. And Birmingham soon had more canals than any other British town, a network of loops, locks, wharves, branches and junctions.

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More miles of canals than Venice?

The industrial revolution flourished in Brum and the Black Country. But the canal’s main line, from the city centre west to Wolverhampton, was narrow, meandering, and congested.

So they got Thomas Telford in. Amongst other things, like naming cities after himself, Telford specialised in overhauling creaking infrastructure.  For example, he built the road from London to Holyhead, splicing together umpteen turnpikes, building bridges, and generally straightening things out.

In Birmingham, he built the nineteenth century watery equivalent of the m6 toll road – a smart, straight, wide alternative to the city’s congested main through-route.

This was the New Line: generally  parallel to the Old Line, twenty foot down the hillside, wider, and often with a towpath on either side. The two lines still exist today, peeping at one another through the trees, playing leapfrog on aqueducts, and occasionally linking tree-lined arms across a flight of locks.

Today, we took felucca from Birmingham town centre to Tipton, exploring these two wonderful waterways.

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The lines diverge at Smethwick Junction. We went left, down the New Line

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A branch of the Old Line passes overhead on an aqueduct

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Breathtaking cast iron bridge

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The Old Line's just up that embankment

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The Old Line nips overhead again. The m5 trumps that and bridges both canals at once.

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Staircase locks on the Gower Branch take us up onto the Old Line

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Gratuitous photo of some engineering and blue sky

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Now we are higher up, we look down on the New Line going underneath us!

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Weary traveller enjoys the sun at the Black Country Living Museum

Posted in Cruising log, History and traditions, Routes
One comment on “Two waterways both alike in dignity
  1. Jonathan says:

    I think some ironic planners named Telford after him in the 1960s.

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