Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
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We have vacancies across all of our waterways and in the offices, museums and attractions that support them. We're one of the UK's biggest charities and we take pride in everything we do
If you're thinking of getting in touch then please take a moment to look through these pages as we probably have the answer on our website
Planning & design
All you need to know about planning and design on our canals and rivers
Find a winter mooring
Find a cosy section of canal to hunker down in this winter
10 reasons to take up canoeing
It's a great way to get fit and explore our waterways at the same time
Share the Space
Take a look at our common sense guide to sharing the towpath
Find a place to fish
From reservoirs to club-managed canals and river stretches - find your nearest place to fish
Get your free guide
Download your free guide today and start exploring the waterway nature near you
Download your free guides
You've nine free days out guides to choose from - where will you go first?
Find a walk near you
Are you ready to ramble? Find a waterside stroll or a satisfying hike along our beautiful canals and rivers
Take a look at our upcoming events here.
Find your favourite waterway
With over 95 canals, rivers, reservoirs, docks and navigations, find out more about your favourite waterway
Something for everyone
Help us make a difference and have fun along the way. Find your perfect volunteer role today
Join our team
Could you join your local Towpath Taskforce team and help us to keep our canals looking lovely?
Desmond Family Canoe Trail
If you're aged 16-25 and would like to get involved with this exciting project, please get in touch
Could you be a volunteer lock keeper?
Find out what's involved with this popular volunteering opportunity
Why we think canals are better with Friends
Become a Friend of the Canal & River Trust today and you’ll open yourself up to new experiences and endless opportunities.
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
The construction of tunnels was one of the most difficult tasks facing canal engineers.
Tunnels were traditionally built by plotting out the route across the hilltop and then sinking down several shafts. Miners would then begin digging in both directions from the bottom of the shafts – and from the tunnel entrances. The idea was of course, that they would meet in one perfectly straight line. Unfortunately this did not always happen and some canal tunnels have obvious kinks in them, notably Barnton and Saltersford on the Trent & Mersey Canal.
Some tunnels passed through relatively shallow hills and were later opened out – Armitage (the oldest, on the Trent & Mersey) and Fenny Compton on the Oxford were later replaced by cuttings. Some tunnels were subject to subsidence and collapsed – notably the first Harecastle (Trent & Mersey) and Butterley, on the Cromford Canal. One of the longest – Strood, on the Thames & Medway Canal, was later converted to a railway tunnel.
Many longer tunnels had no towpaths, and boats had to be legged through, while the horse was drawn along a path over the tunnel to its far end. Some employed tugs to pull boats, notably the second Harecastle Tunnel between 1914 and 1954. The last tunnel of the canal age, at Netherton, had towpaths on both sides. The longest towpathed tunnel which can be walked through safely is probably Chirk, 459 yards long, on the Llangollen Canal.
Blisworth Tunnel, in Northamptonshire, is one of the longest in Britain. 3076 yards long and broad enough for two narrowboats to pass, it is surpassed only by Standedge Tunnel (on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal) and Dudley Tunnel in the Black Country near Birmingham.
Building Blisworth Tunnel, was the most troublesome part of the Grand Junction Canal's (now known as the Grand Union Canal) construction. When work began, in 1793, the building of a 3km tunnel was a major feat of engineering with no mechanical aids beyond the basic picks, shovels and wheelbarrows available. To add to their basic problems, just three years into the project the navvies hit quicksand. All work had to be abandoned and a new course begun.
Once built, Blisworth had a tunnel tug until 1936.
The longest, deepest, and highest canal tunnel in the country is Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The tunnel took 17 years to build at considerable cost of life - with the final section being overseen by renowned engineer Thomas Telford in 1811. The tunnel is 196 metres (645 feet) above sea level, runs for just under three and a half miles and burrows 194 metres (638 feet) underneath the Pennines.
This article has been edited with kind assistance from Joseph Boughey
Last date edited: 7 July 2015