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Posts Tagged ‘united kingdom’

This post is way overdue.

Last August, Karen, the kids, and I went to Great Britain. (Click here to read about our trip on the Regent’s Canal in London.) In Scotland we made sure to visit the Falkirk Wheel.

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This unusual device is essentially a canal lock. It’s used to move boats between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal. Boats enter at the top or bottom, and then the whole thing rotates 180 degrees.

Tour boats operate on the canals and give visitors the chance to experience the wheel firsthand, but unfortunately it took us longer to get out of Edinburgh than we expected, and we arrived too late to take a ride. We did get to see one of the boats come along the Forth and Clyde Canal

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and enter the lock that connects the canal with the basin at the bottom of the wheel:

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Construction on the Forth and Clyde Canal began in 1768. The canal was closed in 1963 and reopened in 2001. The Falkirk Wheel began operation in 2002 and replaced a series of eleven locks that used to connect the two canals.

Here’s a brief stop-motion video showing the wheel in motion:

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The Regent’s Canal in London provides a connection between the River Thames at Limehouse Basin and the Grand Union Canal.

We took a narrow-boat tour from Camden Town to Little Venice. This short portion of the canal passes through the London Zoo, Regent’s Park, and the 270-yard-long Maida Tunnel before arriving in Little Venice. A few companies offer tours on the Regent’s Canal, but we chose to go on the Jenny Wren so we could pass through a lock, lock number 1 at Hampstead Road:

The part of the canal we visited is the oldest, opened in 1816. To this day, locks on the canal are manually operated:

The narrow boats just fit:

Here’s the view from inside lock number 1, aboard the Jenny Wren:

The canal is home to many live-aboards, with their brightly colored and decorated boats:

Not necessarily the best scenery:

But it is waterfront property:

At Little Venice there was a waterborne market and a chance to buy ice cream from a canal boat:

It was the last day for the market, and the zebra-striped boat above was preparing to head home to Stratford-upon-Avon, a two-weeks’ voyage (if I remember correctly).

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On a recent trip to London, Karen, the kids, and I visited Tower Bridge. It took eight years, starting in 1886, to build this double-bascule bridge:

The two towers and the upper walkways contain an exhibit about the history and construction of the bridge. The walkways also provide great views of London:

The pointy building on the left is the Shard, Europe’s tallest building. The ship in the center is HMS Belfast.

From inside the south tower, a non-movable suspension portion of Tower Bridge is seen:

Here is a detail shot showing some of the original workings of the bridge:

And this is part of one of the old steam engines that used to open the bridge, the origin of steampunk perhaps?

Now the whole process of opening and closing the draws is computerized, and we were lucky to be in London on a day when the bridge was opened. First the Olympic rings were raised:

Then the roadway:

A vessel requiring an opening of the bridge must request it 24 hours in advance. In the picture above, the bow of a Thames sailing barge is just sneaking into the frame on the right. Tower Bridge opens about 1000 times per year.

Finally, the bridge is open and the barge passes through:

(For one more view of Tower Bridge, this time with the Paralympic logo, go here.)

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