because raising a large family isn’t for the faint-hearted

Wonders of the British Inland Waterways

I’ve written before about why we love our canal boat holidays so much and even my trips on the Llangollen Canal, the Montgomery Canal and the Cheshire Ring Circular Canal Route.

But this post is about my canal bucket list!

You see, there are many incredible and wonderful feats of engineering on the canals, especially when you consider they were built by hand over 200 years ago. Incredible structures like the Pontcycllte Aqueduct, the Anderton Boat Lift or the more modern Falkirk Wheel.

Yet, even with so many incredible feats of engineering. There are several who stand above the rest. Seven of which have been named as the Wonders of the Inland Waterways and my bucket list is to see them all.

The Wonders of the Inland Waterways

Over 50 years ago, Robert Aickman, the co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association published a book entitled “Know your waterways“. In this book, he listed the seven features of the canal that he believed were the Wonders of the Canal.

In 2002, an updated list was created after British Waterways (now Canal and River Trust) conducted a poll to create a Seven Wonders of the Inland Waterways for the 21st Century. The new list saw the Burnley Embankment being replaced by the Falkirk Wheel. Canal Cuttings Website also lists twelve wonders, which they state is created by combining those two lists. I have narrowed their list down to 10 as two of their choices, the Foxton Inclined Plane and the Sapperton Canal Tunnel are no longer in use.

These wonders are;

1. The Pontcysllate Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal

canal boat crossing the pontcycllte aquaduct high in the sky
A canal boat crossing the Pontcycllte Aqueduct, high in the sky © Copyright Brian Deegan –

2. Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Canal

the entrance to the standege tunnel
The portal of the 5686-yard tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal which opened in 1811. © Copyright Stephen McKay

3. Caen Hill Lock Flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal

two narrowboats coming out of a lock with several locks visable going high in the sky behind them
Two narrowboats descend the Caen Hill Locks.
These sixteen locks form a steep flight in a straight line up Caen Hill. This flight of locks was engineer John Rennie’s solution to climbing the very steep hill and was the last part of the 87-mile route of the Kennet and Avon canal to be completed. © Copyright Russel Wills

4. Barton Swing Aqueduct on the Bridgewater Canal

a picture showing the swing aqueduct and the control tower which carries the bridgewater canal over the manchester ship canal
Manchester Ship Canal, Barton Swing Aqueduct
A view from the road bridge, showing the island and control tower for both bridge and aqueduct. © Copyright David Dixon

5. Anderton Boat Lift on the Trent & Mersey Canal

Picture of Anderton Boat life
Anderton Boat Lift taken when we visited in 2015

6. Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

picture showing the staircase locks at bingley which is 5 locks opening into the next lock
Bingley Five-Rise Locks, The Bottom Lock
Looking from the towpath, towards the lowest of the locks in the Bingley Five-Rise Staircase. © Copyright David Dixon

7. Burnley Embankment on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

a picture showing a straight stretch of canal with houses to one size and the canal level with their roofs
Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Burnley
The Burnley Embankment, known locally as “The Straight Mile”, carries The Leeds and Liverpool Canal 60ft above the town. © Copyright David Dixon

8. Falkirk Wheel built in 2002 connecting the Forth & Clyde Canal with the Union Canal

the odd shaped falkirk wheel halfway through a rotation
Opened in 2002. The Falkirk Wheel in motion. Each of the circular ends carries a gondola full of water on cogs so that it remains horizontal as the supports rotate. The wheel is very energy-efficient because the weight of the downgoing gondola balances that of the rising gondola. © Copyright Anne Burgess

9. Crofton Pumping Station on the Kennet & Avon Canal

a picture of a tall chimney next to a builing behind the canal
Crofton pumping station was used to pump water to the summit of the Kennet and Avon canal Caen Hill locks, with Wilton Water acting as a reservoir. The pumping station has been restored and is a popular visitor attraction. © Copyright Nigel Brown

10. Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal

The entrance to the Harecastle Tunnel and the rusty coloured water

My Bucket List.

This list is in the order that I have visited these wonders. One day I hope to list all 10!

The Pontcycllte Aqueduct – Llangollen Canal

a view from the front of a canal boat crossing the pontcycllte aqueduct
Crossing the Pontcycllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in 2014

Even today, the Pontcycllte Aqueduct is a marvel to behold and people from around the world travel to this small sleepy village to gaze at the incredible sight of a canal boat travelling along, 127 (39m) feet in the air above the River Dee. Thomas Telford and William Jessop’s awe-inspiring aqueduct is a Scheduled Ancient Monument; a Grade I Listed structure – and in June 2009 became a World Heritage site, putting it on an equal footing with the Great Barrier Reef and Statue of Liberty. The aqueduct, taking the Llangollen Canal over the beautiful River Dee valley, is 1,000 feet long and 125 feet high. You can cross by boat or on foot – and although boaters have nothing but a sheer drop on one side of them, the towpath is mercifully protected by a set of railings.

We travelled over the Pontcycllte Aqueduct in 2006 and again in 2014 whilst cruising the Llangollen Canal.

Anderton Boat Lift – Trent & Mersey Canal

collage of photos from the anderton boat lift ride down the lift
Our ride on the Anderton Boat Lift

The Anderton Boat lift was originally designed and built by Edwin Clark in 1875 to raise and lower boats from the Trent & Mersey canal to the River Weaver. However, salt in the river from the factories caused damage to the lift. In 1908 Colonel Saner converted the lift to electricity.  In 1983 the lift was closed to boats as it was thought to be unsafe, but thankfully in 2002, it reopened after a complete restoration.

We visited the Anderton Boat lift in 2015 whilst cruising the Cheshire Ring.

Barton Swing Aqueduct – Bridgewater Canal

collage of images of Barton Swing Aquaduct

Crossing the Barton Swing AqueductOriginally an aqueduct was built on the site of the Barton Swing Aqueduct in 1761 to cross the River Irwell at Barton. In 1885 the River Irwell became part of the Manchester Ship Canal and to allow the much larger ships travelling along the new Ship Canal, the historic landmark of the original Barton Aqueduct had to be demolished. It was replaced by a unique swing aqueduct which opened in 1893 and was an even more daring structure that the original aqueduct. Barton Swing Aqueduct consists of a channel that can be sealed off at both ends to form a 235 feet long and 18 feet wide tank, holding 800 tons of water, that swings around on its pivot, situated on an island in the middle of the Ship Canal.

We crossed the Barton Swing Bridge in 2015 whilst cruising the Cheshire Ring

Harecastle Tunnel – Trent & Mersey Canal

Waiting our turn to enter the Harecastle Tunnel and the rusty coloured water

The Harecastle Tunnel is a memorable tunnel, not least because of the colour of the water which is caused by the local iron. At 1.5 miles (2.4km) it was once one of the longest canal tunnels in Britain. Originally there were two separate tunnels running parallel to each other, the Brindley and the Telford. The original tunnel, the Brindley tunnel was constructed by James Brindley between 1770 and 1770 and boats had to”leg” their way through. As this caused congestion because it took over 4hrs for a boat to pass through and boats could only travel in one direction at a time, a second tunnel was built. The newer tunnel was completed in 1827 and built by Thomas Telford (of the Pontcycllte Aqueduct fame). The Telford tunnel was wide enough for a towpath allowing boats to be pulled by horses and it was used alongside the Brindley tunnel with each tunnel taking traffic in different directions until a partial collapse and subsidence closed the Brindley tunnel. The remaining Telford tunnel is still in use, although the towpath has been removed and a giant fan, situated at the southern end, circulates air and allows diesel boats to use the tunnel without a risk of suffocation. The Telford tunnel is 2.926 yards long and 46 yards longer than the original Brindley Tunnel.

We passed through the Harecastle Tunnel in 2015 whilst cruising the Cheshire Ring.

To be continued…..


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Rachel (My Crazy Brood)

Parenting Blogger & Mum of 5

Hi, I’m Rachel, the poor mum of this crazy lot! We are; Dad (Bob), Ryan (17), Becky (15) Ruby  (14), Rhian (11) and Reese (7). We also have Gwen the staffy dog, 5 guinea pigs and 2 hamsters. Join us as we navigate the craziness that raising a large family with additional needs can bring.


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