During the Second World War, the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal became part of the Taunton Stop Line, a system of fortifications running from South Devon to the Bristol Channel. Wartime homeland defence structures were sometimes hidden inside domestic buildings.
This line of defensive measures was designed to halt Nazi armies that might land in the west of England – an array of ditches, gun emplacements and the concrete obstacles known as dragon’s teeth.
Figure 1: these anti-tank cones go by the romantic name of dragon's teeth.
Once, canal-side concrete pillboxes might have been prey to Stuka dive-bombers, now they are party to more benign airborne action.
The Trust has converted more than one pillbox into accommodation for flying residents. These ‘bat mansions’, are often part of a wider regeneration project. The area where the Chard Arm meets the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal was cleared of scrub, wildflowers sown, fruit trees planted and a rectangular pond created. We are hoping to attract pipistrelle bats or potentially Daubenton’s bat, as these species love to be close to water where they can find an abundance of insects.
With the help of local Girl Guides, we converted pillboxes on the Kennet & Avon Canal and another was repurposed when refurbishment work was undertaken on the Tame Aqueduct, Coventry Canal.
Britain's flora and fauna have become a significant feature of our once industrial waterways. Our ecologists are working hard to ensure the natural environment corridors associated with our canals offer the best opportunities for nature to thrive.
Figure 2: a poetic reminder of the changing uses of Tyle Mill pill box, the Kennet & Avon, once part of the Stop Blue line.
The work carried out by the heritage team is extremely varied, covering all sorts of structures and a wide variety of projects. Not one week is the same and we keep learning all the time, meeting some fascinating people and visiting stunning places along the way. We are hoping that through our blogs we can share some of our passion for the amazing industrial heritage of the inland waterways.See more blogs from Heritage team