Long before there were lorries bringing our goods to market, long, shallow boats transported goods throughout England on man-made canals. Begun in Roman times and expanded during the Industrial Revolution in the 17th and 18th centuries, canals were efficient ways to get heavy loads of goods throughout the island.
Long, low boats were initially pulled by horses who walked along the canals and after the advent of engines, boats became self powered. These boats could hold much more of a load than a single donkey or horse and it was a much more efficient way to move goods through the island.
Out here on the farm, we are lucky enough to live on one such canal. Back when our house was built in the 1700s, canals were the roads of the fens. To prove this point, our 300 year old Georgian house faces, not the driveway, but the canal. Today we drive cars down a dirt road to get to my house, but I like to imagine what it was like when the original owners lived here. Our grand entrance, now mostly unused unless we’re hosting a garden party, would have welcomed travellers arriving via canal. Mooring a boat along the steep slope, one would emerge out of the canal to a path framed by two large trees.
Today the canal near my home is mostly obscured by trees and I rarely spend time down near the water. We decided that needed to change this weekend. The weather was fairly nice for the end of winter and Tim wanted to try out his new magnet fishing kit a try. For those of you who don’t know what magnet fishing is, it’s basically taking an industrial strength magnet and fishing for metal objects that may have sunk to the bottom of a body of water. We had high hopes for findings of great intrigue in the canal since boats that would traverse these canals would likely drop things.
Starting out on the edge of the farm, we found a small flat landing to stand on and took turns tossing the magnet into the water. The magnet itself is about the size of a hockey puck and has a little heft to it. I found great joy in tossing it out and reeling it back in, anticipation of findings running through my veins.
After a few tosses, I felt a tiny tug on my line and as I pulled in the rope, I noticed a small piece of metal attached to the magnet. U-shaped and covered in rust, the found object was nothing spectacular, but it meant our magnet was working and that was good enough for me.
We spent another hour or so walking up and down the canal, enjoying the sunshine and the attempt at metal fishing. We didn’t find anything else, but it was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning nonetheless. I imagine we would be more successful if we were in a boat and tooling along the canal, able to drag the magnet for a little longer than the distance we were able to throw it, and also avoid it getting caught in the reeds. Maybe before we leave England we will locate a tiny boat to take out on the canal to try this.
Until then, I plan on taking more time to enjoy the beautiful water way we live along, especially now that spring is nearly here!