On Tuesday, as I've already mentioned, I went to the doctor's in Bridgwater. After I'd finished I decided that I would check out an area of the town that few people see or even know about. As usual, here's some background.
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Bridgwater was the fifth largest port in Britain. You wouldn't know to see it now, because there is no port activity at all, but back then it was a thriving centre for commerce, industry and shipping. I have seen old photographs of three masted sailing ships lined up against the quays; of the river full of shipping. It was easier to get to Bridgwater than Bristol, Liverpool, London and Newcastle for a lot of ships and this trade allowed Bridgwater bricks and tiles to be exported around the British Empire. Having said that, the town was as far up-river as the ships could go. To take goods further inland, barges were used along the river system of the Somerset Levels. In the early nineteenth century a canal was built linking the River Parrett to Taunton. In the eighteen-thirties the canal was extended to link up with Bridgwater Docks. This meant cutting through an area of higher ground on the outskirts of the town.
For one year of my education I was at a school which stood alongside this cut. I remember looking down into it and marvelling at the feat of civil engineering that it was, yet I never went and took a proper look. On Tuesday I decided to put that right and discovered something rather wonderful.
I parked and walked down to the old docks area. The warehouses have been converted to surprisingly plush flats and the docks have been turned into a marina for pleasure boats and canal boats to moor up.
A mooring ring in the wall of the docks
This is not a Dalek in fancy dress, it's an old wooden marker bouy.
The locks at the start of the canal.
The canal and the beginning of the cut.
Under a brick bridge
The start of the walled section of the cut.
The stone of the walls, with its wonderful red colour comes from the nearby Quantock Hills.
The bridge under West Street
It's such a big bridge it's almost a tunnel.
I love how the walls are partially overgrown.
Under the bridge again
And this is the wonderful thing that I discovered
This row of huge beams was amazing
Carved into each beam is the line of a poem. It is a tribute to the working men who, 170 years ago toiled with just horses and carts, picks and shovels to cut through and create the canal. Sadly the second beam is missing but the poem still makes sense. I can only imagine that it has been there for a very long time. Perhaps not for the whole life of the canal but certainly long enough for the beams to decay and have to be sured up.
Just a word of explanation, the name Navigators refers to the workers themselves, it's where the term 'navvy' comes from to describe a labourer on a road, railway or canal.
Here is the poem as I saw it, with each line on a separate beam. I have left a space where the second line should be. (I must do some research to find out more and see whether I can solve the mystery of the second line and how it all came to be there.)
Sinew and bone
Jolt of the pick
Crack of the hammer
Iron on stone
We came and went
Through the hill
I love the fact that this is a tribute to the working men who actually built the canal and dug the cut. So often it is the land-owner, patron or head of the project who is recognised and everyone else is forgotten. This appeals to my left-wing sensibilities.
A final bridge and reflection photo
Finally, this is probably my favourite photo from the day. It's the back of a row of terraced houses and a big sky.
If you've got through to here, thanks for sticking with me and I hope you enjoyed my discovery.