As Gongoozling has been around for about as long as canals themselves have, I felt that the history of canals would be far more useful to know than anything else.
18th centuryCanals came into being because the Industrial Revolution (which began in Britain during the mid-18th century) demanded an economic and reliable way to transport goods in large quantities. Some 29 river navigation improvements took place in the 16th and 17th centuries starting with the Thames locks and the River Wey Navigation. The biggest growth was in the "narrow" canals which extended water transport to the emerging industrial areas of the Staffordshire potteries and Birmingham as well as a network of canals joining Yorkshire and Lancashire and extending to London.
The 19th century saw some major new canals such as the Caledonian Canal and the Manchester Ship Canal. By the second half of the 19th century, many canals were increasingly becoming owned by railway companies or competing with them, and many were in decline, with decreases in mile-ton charges to try to remain competitive.
The 20th century brought competition from road-haulage, and only the strongest canals survived until the Second World War. After the war, decline of trade on all remaining canals was rapid, and by the mid 1960s only a token traffic was left, even on the widest and most industrial waterways.
In the 1960s the infant canal leisure industry was only just sufficient to prevent the closure of the still-open canals, but then the pressure to maintain canals for leisure purposes increased. From the 1970s onwards, increasing numbers of closed canals were restored by volunteers. The success of these projects has led to the funding and use of contractors to complete large restoration projects and complex civil engineering projects such as the restoration of the Victorian Anderton Boat Lift and the new Falkirk Wheel rotating lift.
21st century restoration projects by volunteer-led groups continue. There is now a substantial network of interconnecting, fully navigable canals across the country. In places, serious plans are in progress by the Environment Agency and British Waterways Board for building new canals to expand the network, link isolated sections, and create new leisure opportunities for navigating 'canal rings', for example: the Fens Waterways Link and the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway
Here are some activities to really make Gongoozling worth your while why not give them a try?
Having a bicycle is not compulsory, I mean legs are just as fine but for a heightened experience along the towpath, cycling makes it so much more interesting especially if you are looking to get that real outdoorsy feeling.
It is a given that experiences at the canal-side must be captured. Even if you don’t have a camera, a pencil and sketchpad might do and you don’t have to be an Andy Warhol for that. Sights of canal locks emptying and filling with water, sailing boats, verdant parks and aquatic wildlife will make for a good collection in a photo collage.
After all that time spent walking, cycling, photographing and maybe cheering the boaters as they heave at the locks, it may be time to replenish on your lost carbs. This is where a conveniently packed lunch comes in. It may be a few sandwiches or a full picnic-basket, just be sure to clean up afterwards.
A trip to the canal isn’t always about sight-seeing. Relaxing with a good book often works very well too, especially in good sunny weather. Some well recommended reads include Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome and The Footsteps at the Lock by Ronald Knox. They are classics but very enjoyable.