Sunday, 19 April 2015

Ulverston Canal

Don't get your hopes up - this is not navigable in the usual way. Though the canal is in water and is not only the deepest and straightest of our canals, this is also the shortest and leads directly from Ulverston in Cumbria into Morecambe Bay. Completed in 1796 it's 1.25 miles long, 15 feet (4.6 m) deep and 66 feet (20 m) wide.
It's also rather attractive, once you fight your way through the industrial buildings.
Apart from the curiosity value of this isolated short canal it is interesting for its unusual rolling bridge. Looking over the bridge (now a fixed footbridge) there are clear signs that this was once a movable structure with wheels and beams at an angle to the river edge. Yet it was only recognised as a rolling bridge quite recently.
Exactly how it worked I leave to others to explain (read this for example or the Wikipedia entry) but it evidently rolled, or perhaps swung, on its wheels to allow both rail traffic go across and water traffic go beneath.
The adjacent building was the accumulator house for the hydraulic movement that swung the bridge into a recess in the bank.
And by the way, though I gather the Ulverston canal may be straightest and shortest in England there must be a place for the Arisaig canal in Scotland (below), which is surely shorter than Ulverston, though it has a single slight bend. Which is the UK's shortest?