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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals

 
We chose '100 Treasures' of Britain's canals for our book,
Britain's canals, a national treasure in 100 must-see objects
 
Each ‘Treasure’ tells its own story of the canals, and collectively they reveal the amazing diversity and breathtaking heritage of the special escape that canals are today, capturing the spirit of Britain's canals past, present and future.
 
100 treasures...
 
Britain's Canals, a National Treasure in 100 Must-See Objects Some of the 100 are heritage marvels that nobody should miss, others are honeypot sites of modern leisure and tourism, and then there are the little things that burn into your soul and create the life of the canals - hedgerows, swans, the sounds of ducks at dawn.
 
As well as our favourites, we asked other canal enthusiasts and experts to choose their favourite treasures, including TV personalities Julia Bradbury, Paul Atterbury and Ian McMillan, and Tony Hales, John Bridgeman and Nigel Crowe of the Canal & River Trust.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals:
Nicholson's Guide to the Waterways

Paul Atterbury - image credit Paul Atterbury My favourite treasure - chosen and written by Paul Atterbury:
Art historian, writer, transport enthusiast and expert on BBC Television's Antiques Roadshow, Vice President of the Waterways Trust (now merged with British Waterways into Canal & River Trust)
 
"In 1969 the British Waterways Board commissioned a new series of guides from a small London company, Robert Nicholson Publications. These, the first fully comprehensive guides to the canals and waterways of England and Wales, reflected a new attitude at BWB that welcomed and encouraged the development of the waterway leisure market.
A colleague, Andrew Darwin, and I were given the task of carrying out the research and fieldwork for the guides, which I was also to write and edit. Over the next three years we explored every inch of every canal and waterway under BWB's control, including ones that were then derelict, such as the Kennet & Avon and the Montgomery, by boat, on foot, by bicycle, by motorcycle and by car."

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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: The Chocolate Canal

Julia Bradbury - image credit Nick Holt My favourite treasure - chosen by Julia Bradbury:
TV Presenter, Ramblers Vice-President and walking personality.
"My favourite 'treasure' of Britain's canals would have to be the 'chocolate' canal of course! When I was walking the Worcester & Birmingham Canal for the 'Canal Walks' BBC TV series and book, I walked past Cadbury's chocolate factory at Bournville - what chocoholic could resist...!?!"
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: 'Canal Life'

A poem to mark the launch of the Canal & River Trust
 

 
Ian McMillan’s poem, 'Canal Life', commissioned by the Poetry Society
to mark the launch of the Canal & River Trust.
 

100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: National Waterways Museum

Collection of historic boats, canal artefacts and a national archive 100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: National Waterways Museum
 
A museum, by definition, is meant to be a building where objects of interest are stored and exhibited, but the National Waterways Museum is a magnificent rebel. Its buildings are part of the whole show, and no matter where the eye spins, indoors or outdoors, there's always something extraordinary to see.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Showpiece of Britain's canals & a World Heritage Site 100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
 
Eighteen pillars stretch to the heavens to suspend a great bathtub of water in the sky, making sane people swear that narrowboats can fly - the ultimate must-see event of Britain's canals.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Arkwright's Mill

The first 'factory'
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Arkwright's Mill
A tingle asks to be treasured as you stand on the spot where the Industrial Revolution was conceived. Cromford Mill, built by Richard Arkwright in 1771, was the world's first water-powered cotton spinning mill. A mill of monumental importance in the story of the world.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Falkirk Wheel

The 8th wonder of the waterways
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Falkirk Wheel
Falkirk did the impossible when it grabbed an old cliché and really did 'reinvent the wheel'. This unassuming patch in Scotland gave the globe a wheel of monumental structure - a masterpiece to commemorate the modernity of Britain's canals in this Millennium. The world's first rotating Boat Lift.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: President

Britain's last steam-powered narrowboat
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: President
President is a unique steam-powered narrowboat, built in 1909 by the famous company Fellows, Morton and Clayton at Saltley in Birmingham. She's a floating statement of power, beauty and nostalgia, and an experience that means something to everyone.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Anderton Boat Lift

The 'Cathedral of the Canals'
 
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Anderton Boat Lift This iron beauty, a staggering monument of maths and art, is one of the wonders of the canals. The amazing Anderton Boat Lift is the world's oldest boat lift - and is miraculously still open for business today, attracting over 110,000 visitors every year by boat and on foot for the ride of their lives. It's affectionately known as the 'Cathedral of the Canals' and the visitor needs no explanation.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Neptune's Staircase

A journey of gods
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Neptune's Staircase
The Roman god of the sea bellows over the Caledonian Canal from Neptune's Staircase - Scotland's spectacular staircase flight of 8 locks. Built to allow ocean-going vessels to take giant steps, up a rise of 64ft, from the west side of Scotland, and to be carried inland by canal, leaving the sea behind. Neptune's Staircase presents itself with sensory overload - it's not just the longest staircase flight in Britain, it's a flamboyant feat of engineering swept into a panoramic melodrama by Highland mists and the moods of Ben Nevis peering straight down over the flight.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Standedge Tunnel

Burrowing through the Pennines
 
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Standedge Tunnel The Pennines hug the sky with an obstinacy that forbids anyone except the hardiest scrambler to pass - and when the first canal builders arrived, the obstacle loomed down with cold screams of an impossible route. But the bulldog jaws of Canal Mania weren't going to let man, nor beast, stand in the way - so navvies, armed with shovels, knuckled onwards, gobbling straight through the backbone of Britain. Standedge Tunnel has become one of Britain's best treasures to marvel over, one of the wonders of the waterways. The longest, highest and deepest tunnel on Britain's inland waterways, charging 3¾miles (5,029m) from one side of the Pennines at Marsden to Diggle at the other.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Purton Hulks

A whispering graveyard of boats
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Purton Hulks The Gloucester & Sharpness Canal sidles alongside the Severn estuary, with its tame waters following the moody route of a river. A fateful high tide in 1909 coincided with a savage storm, and wild waves reared to breach the banks, draining water from the canal. Drastic action was needed, and an unexpected solution gave the canals something that has become one of its most dramatic wonders - Purton Hulks. Now officially recognised as the largest cluster of historic maritime boats in Britain.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Stourport Basins

A unique canal town
 
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Stourport Basins Stourport-on-Severn is the only town in Britain built solely for the canals. The traffic of the Industrial Revolution has gone but, in this millennium, Stourport sits on one of the busiest cruising rings in Britain (aptly known as the Stourport Ring) and holiday boats keep the basins alive. The basins are home to around 100 narrowboats and yachts, and Stourport is famed for prolific gongoozling.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Birmingham's Hub

Capital of Britain's canals
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Birmingham's Hub London shouts loudest across a nation, but the city of Birmingham can whisper with pride that it is the capital of Britain's canals. The Brummie voice famously chants, "We've got more canals than Venice" and the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations) proves it, sprawling the heart of England (without a gondola in sight). Birmingham is a vibrant multicultural city, bursting at the seams with designer shopping, art galleries, markets and more. And as the city spins its own frenzied delights, an oasis of calm remains quietly hidden away from it all: Brindleyplace is the canal basin tucked right in the city centre. It's where the urban tourist is invited to step into the city's quiet zone, enjoy the balm of water and the laziest bout of slow sightseeing the city can offer.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: London Canal Museum

The ice well in the heart of the city
 
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: London Canal Museum The trick up the sleeve of London Canal Museum is that the building which houses the museum is as fascinating as the collections inside. The building is a former ice house built in 1862-3 for the business of the famous ice-cream maker, Carlo Gatti. Inside this historic building, old London tells its intriguing story. This is a London museum, built gloriously in London coloured bricks, with a focus on London's powerful waterways heritage, and displayed within the context of canals across the country. London Canal Museum is a real treasure tucked cosily away right in the city, and open for the world to visit. (Click Here To Buy London Map)
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Salt's Mill

A living village of World Heritage
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Salt's Mill Fire-spitting chimneys once choked the landscape across the north of England, and the area still harbours secrets from the heyday of those dark Satanic Mills. Preserved buildings can hold an aura of iconic loneliness in the memory of textile workers who endured poverty, disease and overcrowded housing. But Sir Titus Salt's mill is a breath of fresh air, standing boldly by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and the River Aire. His mill's redundant chimney looms down from the sky like a public monument with a silent story that wants to be heard. Sir Titus Salt (1803-1876) built an entire village for his mill workers (now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site). The village of Saltaire is a testament to the philanthropic ideals Salt, and some of the most successful entrepreneurs of the canal era, passionately adhered to.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Red House Glass Cone

Living beauty in rugged industrial history
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Red House Glass Cone
Stourbridge doesn't pretend to be a tourist beauty spot, but its skyline peaks with pride over the Red House Glass Cone, and tourists come in their hoards. Stourbridge was once world renowned for its glassmaking, and the Red House Glass Cone pierces the sky with the audacity of a cathedral of the glass industry. There are only four glass cones left standing in Britain, and Stourbridge can claim the best preserved across Europe. The Cone is a tourist attraction that is a deep-reaching experience.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Gloucester Docks

An army of waterside warehouses
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Gloucester Docks The Romans were wise enough to pick Gloucester as a garrison to guard the River Severn, and as the river grew to become an important trade route, Elizabeth I granted Gloucester port status in 1580. But the River Severn played vicious games with vessels that struggled inland, with unpredictable sands and volatile tide levels. The Gloucester & Sharpness Canal was built to bypass the most difficult section. When the canal opened in 1827, it was the widest, deepest canal in Britain - and it must have messed with the minds of ordinary villagers who witnessed tall ships walking miraculously inland on their way to Gloucester Docks. Trade was at its peak with the arrival of the canal and the newly built docks at Gloucester were handling exports and imports from around the world, with grain and timber as the bulk. Huge warehouses were built to store cargo; some have survived and are protected in their full glory today. Llanthony Warehouse has become the home of Gloucester Waterways Museum. This canal museum is imaginative and refreshingly visitor friendly, and a must-see treasure in its own right. The docks are paved in history on the sweat of their past, but modern sounds today click with tourist cameras and smells of mouth-watering gastro food waft across the water between the scuffle of ropes as boats moor for the night.
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100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Stoke Bruerne Museum

A canal village and its museum
 
100 Treasures of Britain's Canals: Stoke Bruerne Museum The thatched village of Stoke Bruerne and its small museum are inseparable attractions in a canal hub that is full to the brim with living heritage. Landlubbers and boaters stand around chatting and hives of gongoozlers buzz over the lock to watch narrowboats that pass through the heart of the village. The village is over 1,000 years old, but the canal didn't arrive until 1793. When navvies turned up with their shovels, they hacked the route of the water road, cutting through the village to create the shape of Stoke Bruerne that is much loved today. There's a calendar of festivals, events and activities that don't just keep the hub busy, but also help keep waterways heritage alive.
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