Thursday, 2 August 2018

Homeward bound, and about Living Mileposts

Tuesday 24th July; into Calcutt marina
Not a lot to report today; as soon as the morning rush had finished we were off to Napton junction.  There are some attractive brick-arched bridges on the way;

a workboat passed on its way somewhere
2 workboat

and we saw an interesting tree across a field.  When I first picked the camera up it looked like an arch, but the boat was moving - so now the picture has been taken, is it a giant cowboy who’s lost his horse? Or a giant poodle looking coyly to one side?

3 poodle tree
Then we passed a boat we haven’t seen for many years; we met Robbie and Suzie just once, when we were all in the Anchor at Hartshill.  They were with Paul and Elaine (NB Caxton) quite a few years ago.  Robbie didn’t remember us, but NB Swamp Frogs with its lovely colour and artwork is not a boat you easily forget.  They only blogged for a few months but are clearly still cruising!

4 swamp frogs

Calcutt locks were quiet to begin with but we met a couple of boats just out of the marina as we went down.  We berthed by the workshops, as the alternator needs repair.  It’s a very convenient location for loading up the car; unfortunately there will be another bill to pay when we return.

3 miles and 3 locks today

Trip stats:  54 miles, 34 locks; Braunston and Crick tunnels (twice each); Napton and Norton junctions and Braunston Turn.

Living Milestones
This is the information I received from Steve Braund, the OUCS chairman whose boat is NB Telford, normally moored at Market Harborough basin.  (Reproduced with permission.)
The (old) Grand Union Canal Company introduced living mileposts soon after the canal was opened in 1814.  They planted Elm trees to mark the miles and Hornbeam trees as half-mile markers.  They marked the miles starting from the bottom of Foxton Locks (i.e. the junction with the then Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union Canal) to Norton Junction on the Grand Junction Canal.
In an era when towpaths were well managed and hedges maintained at 3ft 6" to 4ft height, the living mileposts were a sound idea, being visible from some way off.
They don't line up with the GJCCo milestones because when the Grand Junction Canal Company took over the two "old union canals", they re-surveyed them right through to Leicester  and marked the miles starting from Norton Junction, so in the opposite direction.
In the late 1980's, volunteers from the Old Union Canals Society set about re-surveying the canal,  searching for and finding all but one of the marker stones that were installed with the original living mileposts and replanting new mileposts - this time with Hornbeams.  I am pleased to say that most of these still survive, although often well hidden in rampant hedge growth.
Now that you have found our website at
we also have a facebook page  @oldunioncanals

10 living milestone
Spotting them all would be a nice little project for someone spending time on the Leicester Section!  I wonder if any of the original elms survive, even if only as suckers in the hedge?

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