This is my second post on the Trent and Mersey Canal. My first post took us from Sawley to Burton upon Trent. In today’s post, Peggy and I, along with her sister and brother-in-law, Jane and Jim Hagedorn, visit Burton on Trent and return to Sawley.
Josiah Wedgewood’s concern about his pottery was a driving force behind the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal in the 1770s. Too many of his fine dishes were being broken when they were transported over the bumpy, rough roads of the time. A canal would provide for smooth sailing, or, at least smooth boating, and every industrialist wanted one to connect his plant with growing markets. For a brief period of time in the early industrial revolution, canals were the in-thing. Hundreds were built throughout England and Europe— as well as in the youthful United States.
The painting reminded me of Erie Canal in New York state and one of the first songs I learned in elementary school. Here it is:
I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
We hauled some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal and hay
We know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo
Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, we’re coming to a town
You’ll always know your neighbor
And you’ll always know your pal
If you ever navigated on the Erie Canal.
It was one of my favorite tunes, right up there with Old Dog Tray. I was particularly enamored with the idea of having a mule as a pal.
We passed under several low bridges during our trip, but none made us duck. Fortunately, our journey didn’t involve any of the long, low tunnels located on other parts of England’s canal system. I read that the earliest tunnel on the Trent and Mersey Canal was so low that the boatmen would lay down on their backs and push the boat through with their feet, using the top of the tunnel for leverage— for a mile! The mere thought of this sent claustrophobic twinges through my body!
Railroads and modern highways made canals obsolete for transporting goods and would have spelled their doom except for the interest of historians, hobbyists, and the recreational industry starting in the 1950s. Recreation is booming today and numerous people have also discovered that narrowboats can provide the ultimate in an inexpensive, small house lifestyle for those with a gypsy nature. Sounds good to me. Most of these homes are uniquely decorated and come with interesting names like Belly Button, Idunno, and In the Mood. Others, such as Nomad Dreams, Sacagawea, and Gone Roaming, suggested the wandering nature of their owners.
Peggy, Jim, Jane and I explored Burton upon Trent, spent the night, and then began our journey back on the Trent and Mersey Canal to the Sawley Marina. Once again, we enjoyed the challenge of piloting our 65-foot boat around obstacles and through locks, while appreciating the beauty and peace of the British countryside. Our most exciting moment was when Jim decided to park our boat up on the bank…
SATURDAY’S POST: It’s back to blogging my book on MisAdventures. This time I hire the family pets to protect me from the dangerous ghosts that live in the graveyard next to my childhood home.
MONDAY’S POST: Peggy and I return to our before-Christmas adventure along Washington’s coast.
WEDNESDAY’S POST: A photograph essay on Scotland, which is where we went after our narrowboat trip.