Wednesday 21 June 2023

Dundas Wharf

Today's Canal : Kennet and Avon

We set off in good time, with the sky still quite overcast although by mid afternoon it was again  right and rather hot.

We almost immediately passed under Limpley Stoke Bridge. Although only a B road, it is fairly busy. We have been over this way several times in the past few weeks, to and from the clinic in Bath that Christine has visited. It is not the main route from Devizes to Bath but this way not only avoids the centre of Bradford on Avon but also links in with the southern side of the city, not far from Bath University.

The next section is a picturesque wooded route with nit many boats moored. However, there is a bit of an underwater shelf which makes for problems with other than very shallow boats, even though the edge is still very well defined.

After about half an hour we arrived at a very sharp left hand bend which takes the canal onto the famous Dundas Aqueduct. There were numerous boats moored , even double  moored, on the immediate approach to the crossing, mostly on supposed 48hr moorings, and the sun was in the wrong direction to take any usable photos! 

At the opposite end we pulled onto the service mooring at the original Dundas Wharf. We were not in urgent need but took advantage of taking a look around.

A plaque tells us that this building was a toll house. When originally built, canals were private companies and made their money by charging tolls on the goods that each boat carried. Toll keepers were a vital part of the system.

The canal makes another sharp turn to begin its entry into Bath. At the opposite side of the basin a lift bridge guards access to a short restored section of the former Somerset Coal Canal. This was originally built at the height of the canal era to take coat from the Somerset coalfields to a much wider market. Alas, once railways arrived the canal became redundant and fell into disuse.

Originally there was a stop lock at the entrance, to prevent the Coal canal from 'stealing' water from the K and A. The restoration was able to eliminate the need for this and so boats now, once they have negotiated the lift bridge, can cruise straight through.

Once we had finished with the services we were in two minds what to do. At least there was an internet signal here. Should we reverse back over the aqueduct where we knew there was room to moor, or risk going on and not finding anything convenient. In the end we took the latter and were quickly rewarded by finding a space just large enough for us.

Christine has another appointment at the clinic tomorrow morning and we knew that there are no convenient bus routes from anywhere near the canal. Whilst the water tank was filling, she had walked along to the Visitor Centre at the end of the Coal Canal and checked out that it wold be possible to meet a taxi there. One of the staff in the boatyard was helpful in passing on several taxi company phone numbers.

After mooring, time to book a taxi. Alas, the numbers given were not helpful as they all declined the booking, some were too far away. In the end, with help of `Google, we did find a company that could do the return fare. As a result we stayed where we were moored until tomorrow!

Later, Mike took a walk along the Coal Canal to the Visitor Centre. The company had been quite inventive - at once place where they needed to raise the level of the canal quite a bit, they had three attempts. Initially, they developed a moving caisson system, building a prototype which they demonstrated to the then Prince of Wales/ Although it worked well at first, unfavourable ground conditions quickly meant that it became an expensive liability. Next came an inclined plane but eventually they settled on a tried and tested conventional lock flight.

The main use of the restored section today is to provide much needed safe long term moorings as well as a boatyard at the end. A car park and cafe attracts visitors who want to walk along to view the aqueduct.

1.6 Miles - 0 Locks

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