Wednesday, 25 September 2013

From the train window

My journeys to and from West Wales are enlivened not just by the on-train announcements but also by the glimpses of the waterway network caught through the carriage window (always assuming I can get a seat that lines up with a window of course),
Almost immediately after leaving Lancaster station we cross the Lancaster Canal and it can be seen several times on the way to Preston.
At Wigan there's the Leeds & Liverpool, crossed near the bottom of the 21 locks after which we run briefly alongside the closed St Helens Canal with remains of some of the locks clearly visible.
If you know where to look you can just discern the line of the Bridgewater Canal near Preston Brook then after Warrington, come the Manchester Ship Canal and the Bridgewater again.
The Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union runs under the line north of Crewe, from where I have a choice of routes.

The" Marches Line" is the most direct and the most scenic, although waterway interest is limited at firsto. The Shroppie main line crosses near Nantwich but that's it for"active" waterways. At Shrewsbury we do pass close to the terminal of the old Shrewsbury Canal, although you wouldn't know it, whilst at Hereford the long-gone Herefordshire & Gloucestershire passes under the railway by means of Aylestone Tunnel, which is still in water despite having been out-of-use for 150 years.

Nothing then until Cardiff and a very brief glimpse of the old Glamorganshire Canal just outside the station, but interest picks up at Neath where the still-in-water Neath and Tennant Canals are crossed in quick succession.

The canals get more obscure as you go west and when I walk to my mum's house from the local station I cross the line of the Llanelly & Kidwelly Canal, which never reached either of those towns and turned itself into a railway in 1867. The original Canal bridges however are still in place and when what is now a footpath/cycleway floods, as it often does, it's easy to see that it was once navigable water.

For total obscurity however you need to walk to the end of the road that leads to mum's house where you will see, if you know what you are looking for, the terminal basin of the Pembrey Canal, a tub-boat canal that operated for a mere 20 years before being superseded by the Llanelly & Kidwelly in 1840!

There's an alternative route back north, with different canals and I'll tell you about that in my next post.

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