I was browsing the jumble sale at Victoria West Church this morning and came across this interesting book titled “Building Britain’ Canals”. It brought back my childhood memories of living near the Grand Union Canal. This canal ran from London to Birmingham a distance of 145 miles. The British Waterways canal system was begun in 1760 and amazingly was still operating in 1948 when I lived in Hemel Hempstead, near London. I was fascinated by the old barges that meandered those ancient waterways. I spent hours sitting by the tow path watching a barge slowly moving along the canal pulled be a horse. I watched as the lock keeper flooded the lock and raise or lower the barge. Lock keepers usually lived in a small cottage beside the lock. Whole families lived on the barges including children and their pets. I often wondered how the children went to school, or if they did go at all. I was eight or nine years old and thought I’d like to live on a barge. The cargo was mostly coal and the barges were usually grubby and covered in coal dust. The living quarters were at the after end of the barge and a bit cleaner with colourful curtains in the cabin windows. I never realised back then, but I was witnessing the end of an era, the steam trains and road transportation were fast replacing the much slower barges. Today many canals have been restored and are maintained and the old barges are now luxury homes, businesses, restaurant etc. They are no longer dependent on a horse to pull them along the tow path, having been replaced with modern diesel engines. Some of the more adventurist owners travel the canals while others remain tied up along side as homes. The barges are brightly painted with a variety of very stylish interiors. One could wonder what those old bargemen would think if they could see their barges today. Nevertheless, a wonderful, if a somewhat sad memory of a way of life now lost forever.
God Bless and keep reading.