Life in the Highlands

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Great Canal

I visited my Sister in Law who lives in Lambhill, Glasgow last weekend and her house is close to the Forth and Clyde Canal.

The canal has a long history. The notion of creating a canal that crossed Scotland was first conceived during the reign of Charles II but it would be a 100 years before this was realised. Construction of the canal was started in 1768 with the canal finally opening in 1790. It is 35 miles long with a short branch 3.5 miles long leading to Port Dundas and was wide enough to accommodate sea-going vessels. It was one of the first man made sea to sea ship canals and constructed with no natural waterways included on its route.

The Monkland Canal joined the Port Dundas Basin in 1793, and the Union Canal from Falkirk to Edinburgh opened in 1822, creating a Lowland waterway network.

The Forth & Clyde was bought by the Caledonian Railway in 1867, and remained under railway ownership until nationalisation of the waterways in 1948. During the 1960s new roads blocked the waterway so in 1963 Parliament closed the Canal to navigation and it largely fell into disrepair with odd parts being used for leisure pursuits. In 1980 a report stated that the Canal was semi-derelict with little prospect of improvement. After funds were secured from the Millennium Commission, the huge restoration project started in 1999 on the canal which reopened in 2001 and with the accompanying restoration of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Union Canal (more simply known as the Union Canal), boats can once again navigate from Glasgow to Edinburgh.

I must say that walking along the old tow path which is now a walk and cycle route it is difficult to imagine that this Canal was once in a state of disrepair. Whilst walking along the banks the canal was teeming with wildlife, different fish spawning, tadpoles swimming near the edge and Dragonflies of all colours were darting in and out of the grass. There is an abundance of water lilies, irises and rushes. Part of the route goes past Possil Loch which is now called Possil Marsh Nature Reserve. There i saw a pair of magpies which i haven't seen since i was a child. The reserve lies adjacent to High Possil and Lambhill, bounded by the Forth and Clyde Canal and the A879 and has a circular walk around it.

On the Canal at Lambhill Bridge are what is known locally as the Old Stables or Lambhill Stables and the Lock Keepers House. Stable blocks were built at various points along the canal to allow horse drawn boats to change their horses regularly. The blocks were built to a standard pattern and were once handsome buildings which some, like this one at Lambhill, has sadly fallen into disrepair. Not shown in the picture is what is the Lock Keepers house and is attached to the stables. Lambhill Stables was and I suppose still is, an attractive Georgian building on the Forth and Clyde Canal at Balmore Road, built in the 1780s to provide stabling for the horses that pulled the canal barges of yesteryear.

These interesting looking access tunnels go into the side of the canal banking. When I looked inside I noticed a shaft with a ladder going down at the end of the short tunnel. I wondered what it is was for as it looked as if you might be able to go through some sort of passage under the canal as there were also gated entrances on the opposite bank. Someone suggested that these are inspection doors for syphons carrying Glasgow's water supply under the canal. I googled and found this: "When the Loch Katrine scheme was constructed to supply Glasgow with water the main supply pipe from Mugdock Reservoir to the city had to cross the line of the Forth and Clyde Canal. A syphon pipe under the canal was the chosen solution. This view shows the inspection door for this device, set into the canal bank. When the scheme was enlarged in the late 1880s a second syphon was built beside this one, with it own inspection door. A syphon in this case allows the water to cross the canal below the level of the main pipe, returning to its original level on the other side." So i'd say that it was a fair guess. I just love a mystery so will need to find out more about these little tunnels!


Blogger A wildlife gardener said...

I like the beautiful peonies in your front garden.

I really enjoyed all that info on the canal. I was only aware of a tiny fraction of it. Thanks for sharing it. I feel as if I could go there now and be better informed and look out for those features you meantioned. The wildlife would be great, of course.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Ziggywigs said...

Thanks Wildlife Gardener for your nice comments...on re-reading my post about the canal it does waffle on a bit. I'm too curious that's my prob..if i see something that piques my interest or curiosity then i have to go find the answer...always been the same. I learnt loads about Glasgow whilst researching about the canal. I'm now thinking about a wee jaunt on a canal barge to see the rest of the canal. :-)

4:51 AM  
Blogger Alyssa said...

The canal posting was very interesting. It sounds like a beautiful place to visit and possibly picnic. Can you go inside any of the buildings you pictured? The one looks almost haunted. And the gated access tunnels look like jails actually. It would be fun to take a canoe down the canal and make a day trip of it. Thank you for the fun look into a tiny bit of Scotland.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Ziggywigs said...

The stables and lock-keepers house are going to be done up apparently and there's an identical building at Maryhill Locks which is a restaurant. I managed to get inside one of the tunnels and it's a bit like a dungeon to be honest. That particular part of the canal would be ideal for canoes/kayakes. There was a delightful garden which someone had made good use of an old landing pier by turning it into a terrace with chairs and tables, it was very cosmopolitan looking. There is an old wheel which housed a mooring and this is used as a picnic table by walkers and cyclists.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Q said...

Thank you so much for your photos and your history of this canal. I would love to visit someday. On my list of places to go. I shall start a notebook so when I come to Scotland I have a list of beautiful places to see. I may need to stay a month at least!
Until I can go I will travel along with you.
Thank you again,

6:45 AM  
Blogger Ziggywigs said...

Thanks Sherry, i'm sure there are lots to see and do for you in Scotland. I always marvel at how much there is, i try and get around Scotland as much as possible in the to Fort William tomorrow with work. Now Inverness to Fort William there's another Canal - Caledonian Canal which i'll follow and is a nice run at this time of the year. Will try and remember to take my camera.

11:42 PM  
Blogger keithmil said...

Magpies abound in Glasgow but don't in Dundee when i visit their. Many regard them as a plague on nests and the young of small birds. At Possil loch have seen Reed warblers and Stonechats, but not on today's visit (5th Oct 08). A big discouragement from walking around the loch is the large colony of drinkers who congregate around the entrance though they are not usually threatening. There is a clear view of the Loch up a couple of steps off the canal 100 yards or so before the further entrance to Possil loch where it bordders a corn field. Lots of swans and ducks were visible today beyond the marshes

11:57 PM  

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