I have been what is termed on the canal as bridge hopping for way too long embarrassingly long time. Basically what bridge hopping is moving your boat up round the corner perhaps under a bridge and then a couple of weeks later moving it back to the other side and repeating for as long as you can get away with and for me that happened approx four weeks ago as I received a ticket from the patrol warden. It’s basically a polite note to say we know what you are doing please stop.
So four weeks ago I moved approx four miles up the canal from Brentford to a place called Hanwell and should have only stayed 14 days as this is my maximum time permitted in one place with a continuous cruising license. So as I was pushing my luck with overstaying and receiving more attention from the patrol warden I decided I had better move to pastures new. Also, I was on the verge of running out of water and my toilet was getting close to overflowing.
There is one obstacle to overcome first the Hanwell Flight. A flight of six locks that lifts your boat up by approx 53 feet or 16.2 m within half a mile. It was built in 1794 and are wide locks that can take large barges of 14 feet wide and 70 feet long or small narrowboats such as my little 6 foot 10 inches by 45 feet narrowboat, I do have one advantage in that I only have to open/close one gate. Basically the locks come one after the other with a small stretch of water in-between and as you operate the locks you go up hill.
Although the official number is six locks on the Hanwell flight to reach the top there are two other locks reasonably close together, but far enough apart not to be counted as part of the flight. These two locks will raise the boat approximately another 16 feet or 5 m. The good news is once you have reached the top there are no locks for many a mile and its wonderful uninterrupted cruising.
So it’s the same procedure for each lock. First empty the lock by opening the lower paddles to let the water out, open a lock gate, move the boat into the lock and secure the boat,close the gate, open one of the top paddles to start to fill the lock slowly, walk the short distance to the next lock and if no boats coming down empty the lock and open the lock gate, walk back to the lock with your boat now half full and open the rest of the paddles to fill the lock, once full close the paddles and open a gate, move the boat out and stop it just past the gate and hop off the boat and close the gate, hop back onto the boat and move the boat into the awaiting lock and repeat until you reach the top of the flight.
After the sixth lock you then go through what is known locally as the Three Bridges and part of the last railway project engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and one of our greatest Victorian engineers. Work began on the three bridges in 1856 to carry the road over the canal and the canal to go under the road and over the Great Western and Brentford Railway in a deep cutting below. Its an interesting place with three modes of transport crossing at the same place. Although the canals were at their height of popularity, the expansion of the railways had set in stone their demise and they started to decline.
There are some lovely lock cottages on the flight and once there would have been a lock keeper employed by the canal company to operate the locks for the working boats but unfortunately for me today they are either privately owned or rented out and I have to operate the locks myself. This one is actually rented by a beekeeper and following an illness last year I helped bed down his bees for the winter. Unfortunately, he was not in so unable to know how the bees are doing but may find out when I next pass by his door.
Finally, at the top and a relief as I can now fill up with water and empty my soon to be overflowing toilet.
The total journey time up the flight took approx 2 hours 45 minutes, but as I have treated myself to a small time lapse camera you can enjoy it in a couple of minutes.
With the water and toilet sorted I was ready to continue the rest of my journey to a place called Yeading and approx 4.5 miles with nothing that exciting other than a right turn approx half way. That right turn will eventually take you into central London.
Just received these wonderful photos from Andy Pedley of a time, sadly gone, although the people of that time may disagree as they knew hard work and hard times. Barges were once all pulled by horses long before the steam engine and the internal combustion engine. The photo of the three bridges is one I have not seen before and just a lovely photo but I love the steam driven truck, although not exactly canal related and would have contributed to the demise of the canal, but can you just imagine the heat and effort required to drive it for a day’s work, a day behind a horse and pulling a barge along a canal seemed easy in comparison but also extremely hard work.