March 7th, 2008

Wanaka tree

Bridgwater and Taunton Canal

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.


Bridgwater Docks

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