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Look out for a Red Wheel

Like the familiar blue plaques on homes of famous figures, many canal sites now proudly display a Red Wheel from the National Transport Trust.

See where you can find this mark of our rich transport history across the network.

Red Wheel at Claverton Pumping Station

Wigan Lock Flight

With 23 locks spanning two-and-a-half miles, Wigan Lock Flight is one of the most distinctive features on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Opened in 1816, this incredible feat of engineering raises the waterway by more than 200 feet. Wigan Lock Flight was the last section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to be completed, connecting two great northern cities and allowing trade to flow uninterrupted, coast to coast, from Yorkshire to Merseyside.

Bridge over the Fossdyke Navigation

Fossdyke Navigation

The Fossdyke Navigation, linking the River Trent at Torksey to the River Witham in Lincoln, is perhaps the oldest working canal in the country. This beautiful ancient waterway, winding lazily through the Lincolnshire countryside was first chronicled in 1121 during the reign of Henry I, but its roots stretch back much further. Believed to have been constructed by the Romans as early as the second century, this historic canal has carried battle-weary centurions, marauding Vikings and Norman stone masons into the heart of Lincolnshire.

Royal Gunpowder Mills

For more than 300 years, the Royal Gunpowder Mills, at Waltham Abbey in Essex, were at the epicentre of UK defence, producing explosives that were discharged in battles from Waterloo to D-Day. For much of that time, the site was supplied by canal boats, and for the boatmen who made the trip it was a risky endeavour, carrying volatile cargoes of coal, sulphur and saltpetre. Set in 175 acres of beautiful parkland, and a far cry from its military past, today the site is a popular tourist attraction, with a museum and visitor’s centre.

Aerial view of Bingley Five Rise Locks

Bingley Five Rise Locks

One of the wonders of the waterways, Bingley Five Rise Locks, on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, near Bradford in West Yorkshire, is the steepest flight of locks in the country. Opened in 1774, the famous flight was one of the greatest engineering achievements of the age, greeted by a cheering crowd of more than 30,000 and a 21-gun salute by local militia. It can take up to 45 minutes for boats to navigate the six gates and five chambers, climbing or descending a staggering 60 feet in under 100 yards.

Low tunnel entrance with a sign saying 'Harecastle Tunnel' and a red barrier over orange-coloured canal water.

Harecastle Tunnel

Harecastle Tunnel is actually two separate, parallel tunnels, set side by side on the Trent & Mersey Canal, in Kidsgrove, near Stoke-on-Trent. Built some 50 years apart by engineering luminaries, James Brindley and Thomas Telford respectively, the twin tunnels once formed a vital link in Staffordshire’s thriving pottery trade. Sadly, Brindley’s original tunnel, opened in 1777 and the longest in the world at the time, was abandoned in the early 20th century. Telford’s, however, remains open to this day, a popular destination for boaters and sightseers.

Crofton Pumping Station

Situated on the Kennet & Avon Canal, near the village of Great Bedwyn, in Wiltshire, Crofton Pumping Station houses the oldest beam pump in the world. Built in 1807, to pump water to the summit of the canal, this beautiful Georgian engine house is still operating today, now powered by modern electric engines. Visitors can still see the old steam-driven engines in action on selected weekends, for a unique glimpse into our industrial past.

Last Edited: 21 March 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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