Progress would have amazed the canal navvies

Progress would have amazed the canal navvies

Progress would have amazed the canal navvies

First published in Letters

I SOMETIMES wander on foot or on a bike between Andover and Stockbridge along the excellent 246 combined cycle route (Kintbury-Timsbury) which for much of the way replaces the old canal (then railway) route from Andover to Redbridge.

I try to imagine when, around 1792, thousands of navvies would be working along the route to dig the channel by hand.

Years later, about 1863, more navvies would be filling it in again to form the railway.

Who can believe today there were nine locks between Andover and Stockbridge with two viaducts at Fullerton?

The speed of horse-drawn barges would have been 3-4mph.

Early steam trains then maybe 20- 30mph then, years later, diesels at about 60mph over the route.

How could those canal navvies have imagined that in the future, just south of Andover, a constant torrent of cars would be travelling on a bridge at 70- 80mph just a few feet above where they were working?

I note there is a painting somewhere of a bridge over the canal at Rooksbury Mill with well-dressed ladies and gentlemen pleasure boating, no doubt on a Sunday afternoon in summer.

Derek Weeks, Martin Way, Andover.

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