Noah was a brave man to sail in a wooden boat with two termites. - Unknown

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

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15 June 2010
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A visit to Britain - May 2010
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Some British waterways

On a recent visit to our son in Bristol and our daughter in London, we managed to visit several British waterways and look at some interesting vessels. However, the first vessel we saw on the trip was an Irish one, on its way to Wales. While queueing for the ferry at Rosslare Harbour, we spotted a wooden boat on a trailer; we were told it was a newly built Wexford or Slaney cot, destined for the Mon & Brec (Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal) and the rivers Usk and Wye in Wales. Its 82-year-old builder had worked by eye and this would probably be his last boat.
The Fourteen Locks
Crossing southern Wales, we turned off the M4 at Junction 27 to visit the Fourteen Locks on the Mon & Brec. There is a visitor centre (with café and car park) just minutes from the motorway, and it's a good place for a break from driving. Restoration work is under way on four of the locks [www.fourteenlocks.co.uk and a blog on www.fourteenlocksetr.co.uk] but there is access to the other ten.
The Mon & Brec was originally thought of as two canals, the 33-mile Brecon & Abergavenny Canal (finished in 1812 and now fully restored) and the Monmouthshire Canal (finished in 1799). Thomas Dadford Junior was the engineer for both.
Ardnacrusha drops boats about 100 feet in two locks; it was built with twentieth-century technology, lots of concrete and German engineering. The Fourteen Locks drop boats 155 feet over half a mile, using eighteenth-century technology, stone and Anglo-Welsh ingenuity. The fourteen locks include five pairs, one group of three locks and one single, and there was a very elaborate system of side ponds to make best use of the water supply.

The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation
We stayed in self-catering accommodation near Maldon in Essex. The house was beside an old mill — and Beeleigh Lock on the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. The navigation was built between 1793 and 1797 to link the town of Chelmsford to the sea. It is about 14 miles long, with 13 locks. It was never nationalised and continued to carry freight until 1972. Recently, the Company of Proprietors of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation Limited [www.cbn.co.uk] agreed that Essex Waterways Ltd, a division of the Inland Waterways Association, should take over the day to day management and maintenance of the waterway. Much work is done by volunteers from the IWA and the Chelmer Canal Trust.
Some small boats are kept in a marina on the summit level in Chelmsford, but the main inland boating centre seems to be at Paper Mill Lock, with many canal craft, kayaks and rowing-boats, tea-rooms and many people enjoying themselves looking at the boats.
There is a basin at Heybridge, with a sea lock giving access to tidal waters. Outside the basin, two sailing barges had taken the ground; boats on a small pontoon had their own holes in the mud and, on the other side of the lock, a former fast attack vessel, now called Defender, was undergoing renovation. Inside the basin, there was a mix of seagoing and inland craft, with a trip-boat and rowing-boats for hire; a small area was blocked off as a boatyard.



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Last Updated ( 05 December 2010 )
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