Canals and Waterways
Welcome to Canals & Waterways: Roots & Routes, the website dedicated to the history and routes of Britain’s Inland Waterways. Almost every British canal, whether navigable, derelict or under restoration is described here. Many river navigation’s (including all of the Norfolk Broads waterways) are also included.
Please Note: This site is not intended to be an up-to-date news site nor is it a guide to navigating the canal system. I regard this website as a historical archive. I very much hope you enjoy reading the history and descriptions but please do not email me with recent developments. There are many other websites covering recent canal news.
WHAT’S IN HERE?
Each page contains a chronological history of the waterway in question, tracing its roots from its initial promotion through to c2000.
Each waterway also has a detailed description of its route. Where possible I have included up to date instructions on where to find interesting features along the waterway. Brief descriptions on how to reach these features are often included.
WHO CAN MAKE USE OF THE INFORMATION?
Everybody! If you wish to look up a particular waterway at a certain date then it could not be easier. You can also print the pages out for your own personal use.
The route descriptions are of most use to walkers, cyclists and people who generally enjoy scrambling along muddy footpaths for entertainment! Because I visit most canals by car the information almost always includes road numbers and street names. I use the Nicholson Guide To The Waterways series of books and a very good road map, Philip’s Navigator which, although expensive compared to most road maps (at around £20), shows every navigable canal, river and lock as well as some derelict waterways.
I have not included public transport details but I am (slowly but surely) including access points and some car parking info. I don’t use OS Maps myself but I am (also equally slowly but surely) adding OS ref numbers throughout every route description.
My route descriptions are usually written as though a walk is taking place, starting at one end of a route and following the line to the opposite end. Please do not assume that this means there is actually a footpath following the whole route. Most canals have tow-paths but a lot of rivers have no path at all or have paths which are severed in places. I have not walked every inch of every route but I try to give walking details whenever possible.
WHERE DOES THE INFORMATION COME FROM?
The main reference books I have used when researching the historical information are Charles Hadfield’s Canals of Great Britain and Ronald Russell’s Lost Canals of Great Britain though many other sources of information are also used. More recent information comes from various books, leaflets and the canal press.
Where possible, route information comes from my own findings. Each year myself and my trusty assistant (the wife) add to our “research” by visiting many of the routes described.
Route descriptions of completely lost canals come from Ronald Russell’s Lost Canals of Great Britain.
At the moment this is a developing series. If the waterway you are interested in is not here, please come back soon, it may not be far away!
Please note, I cannot accept responsibility for you getting lost, injured or drunk while following one of my descriptions. If you have not been on a canal walk before I suggest you go well prepared. Good walking shoes and thick clothing are always advisable. Be careful where you walk when on derelict routes. NEVER climb into a canal lock or into the cut itself unless you can see for absolute certain that it is bone dry. Always respect private property, leave gates as you find them and don’t feed the bears.
HOW DO I FIND THE WATERWAY I WANT?
Use the buttons at the top of this page to navigate the site. Waterways are listed in an alphabetic list as well as by area. Every good canal book attempts to split the UK waterways network up into regions and areas. These areas are always very debatable and I have to admit I have not made things any clearer! Sometimes it is difficult to decide which is the right area in which to put a waterway – especially if its a long route. If a canal passes through two or more areas, then it will be listed under both areas in the area index. If you know the name of the canal you are looking for – use the alphabetical index!
Below is a Chronological list of historic events concerning the creation of man made navigation’s and inland waterways. The list does not cover every event, but it attempts to give a flavour of what happened, and when. Part 1 deals with world canal history in general but also includes more in-depth information on British waterways…
Here in Britain we like to sing the praises of our canal system. We talk of Brindley and Telford, we talk of the birth of the Industrial Revolution and of the canals which were built at that time, without which the “modern world” may not have started when and where it did. But were we responsible for inventing canals? A lot of people that I talk to think we were – but they couldn’t be more wrong.
Part 2 concentrates mostly only the developments in Great Britain. Other major world events relating to waterways are also listed below, especially the goings on in America which, as the century began, was still a British colony…