The Grand Union Canal


I wonder if anyone reading this blog know of or lived near the Grand Union Canal? I have always had a wonderful fascination with this canal from the days of my childhood. Just after the war we lived near Hemel Hempstead which is north of London .Our house was across the road from what was known as the common. A little further on was the railway embankment and on the other side the canal. I also often watched the Royal Mail trains racing north to Scotland, saw the Flying Scotsman more than once.  These were the days when boys collected train numbers and car license plate numbers. We had books in which we could reference the engine number to the train names. A similar book was available for the cars, the license plate number would tell from which county the vehicle came. I guess in those long ago times we amused ourselves very differently from today’s children.  The canal began in London and ended in Birmingham, the total distance was 137 miles with a total of 166 locks along the route. I would spend hours during the summer school holidays sitting by the tow path watching an endless stream of horse drawn barges meandering by.  I often wondered where they were going and what it was like to live on a barge. Most were painted with fancy designs and the living quarters at the rear of the barge always had neat colourful curtains in the small windows. Many of the barges had children and they either played on the barge or the tow path. Again my curiosity was aroused, how did these boys and girls go to school?  The old horses were so used to this work they seldom needed a person to lead them. They just plodded long the tow path to the next lock, there they could rests for a few minutes. They were wonderful times from a different world, candy and sweets still required ration stamps, new cars were still very scarce as was many other items in post war England. I was about 10 years old ,and having lived through the war years I suddenly found a world at peace so very different. I remember the owner of the farm we lived on, he managed to buy a shinny new car a big sleek black Riley. I had never seen such a marvelous machine before, most vehicles were ex-military cars and trucks, even a few jeeps. None were shinny, mostly painted in army drab olive green. Paint also was in short supply back then. On the common across the road was a big oak tree, from one of the limbs hung an old piece of rope. Probably it was once a swing  but that was never an accepted theory among my circle of friends. We claimed it was the rope used to hang Dick Turpin! not one of use knew he’d been hanged in York so believed our story had to be true.

The photo shows a 1949 Riley 1.5 Litre RMA. Not the one in my story but the same year and model.

God Bless and keep reading

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About irishroverpei

Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.
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