Not a very nice day – grey and overcast with showers. Richard did an oil change and a few jobs around the boat while I did some research on the Stroudwater and the Thames & Severn Canals. After lunch we moved back to Saul Junction and went for a walk. We went down to the Severn on the roads and then back up the route of the Stroudwater Canal which went from Saul Junction to Framilode. It was the longest walk I have done since my knee operation – Richard reckons about 3 miles! When we got back to Mary H there was an extremely smelly boat opposite running their engine so we moved further along the canal for the night.
Two separate waterways once linked England’s two greatest rivers, the Severn and the Thames. The Stroudwater Navigation, to the west of Stroud, was opened in 1779 to connect Stroud to the Severn and was 9 miles long. It was formally closed in 1954 but never officially abandoned. The Thames & Severn Canal was opened in 1789 and extended this route by a further 27 miles to Lechlade on the Thames. In 1927 the Thames & Severn Canal was formally abandoned from Lechlade to Whitehall Bridge and in 1933 the remaining length to Stroud was also abandoned. The last trip through the entire waterway was in 1911.
The complete canal was 36 miles long with 56 locks and took you up 360 feet. The Sapperton Tunnel was the longest canal tunnel, and the longest tunnel of any kind, in England from 1789 to 1811 when the Standedge Tunnel opened in Yorkshire. Sapperton is 2.2 miles long and Standedge is 3.1 miles. However Sapperton is a wide tunnel whereas Standedge is narrow. A wind pump was first used to pump the water into the summit level at Thames Head. The first steam engine was a Boulton & Watt beam engine. A Cornish mine engine, pumping 3,000,000 gallons of water a day, replaced the beam engine in 1854.
In 1972 a society was formed to protect and restore the Stroudwater Navigation and the Thames & Severn Canal. This is now known as the Cotswold Canals Trust. Early volunteers struggled to re-open short lengths of waterway and gradually locks and bridges have also been restored often in partnership with local authorities. A number of the structures have been restored and some sections are now in water.