One man’s every day job is my chance to boldly go …
I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of The Grand National here, but I’ve always known that one of the jumps is called Canal Turn. Incredibly, I've never asked why until I arranged to meet up with colleagues at the site of a leak on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Parking my car on the Melling Road, as instructed, at the very spot where they lay inches of sand for the racehorses to run across, I suddenly realised the connection: the Leeds & Liverpool Canal runs alongside the famous course. (Dim, I know, but the light bulb did eventually light up)
In my job as editor of the Trust’s internal newspaper, The Source, I meet lovely colleagues in very interesting places and I sometimes get to go where the general public can’t. I am well aware that this is a huge privilege: I went to parts of the Bow Back Rivers before their transformation into the wonderful backdrop to the London 2012 Olympics. Amongst huge earth moving equipment, I walked across the site that was to become the Birmingham North Relief Road (better known as the M6 Toll) as engineer David Brown explained about Curdworth Top Lock being moved and rebuilt further upstream on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal in order to accommodate the motorway.
In a comedy moment I had to be rescued by Dave Goodey as my safety wellies became stuck in the mud in the early days of the Ribble Link works. And, during the building of the Falkirk Wheel, I stood and peered through the tunnel under the Roman Antonine Wall where a construction worker had reported seeing a ghostly marching centurion. Spooky.
Anyway, back in the present (nostalgia ain’t what it used to be etc.), I met North West waterway engineer Ahmed Sawal, waterway supervisor Mark Overum and team leader Robbie Rowan to take a look at the site and hear how they’d stopped the leak, before it ran onto the famous racecourse, with 20 tonnes of clay. As I write Ahmed is looking at a permanent solution for the culprit – a broken culvert. It was part of his everyday job, but for me, looking at the famous racecourse from our canal was another exciting privilege.
Liz Waddington is editor of The Source, the Canal & River Trust’s monthly staff newspaper. She has been in love with canals and their industrial heritage since her first holiday on the Grand Union Canal when she was 10 years old. Liz likes nothing more than getting out and meeting her colleagues on the cut.See more blogs from this author