Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The original and final end of the Moira Cut/Ashby Canal.

You can only take so much of being stuck in a marina and three days is my limit so, having temporary use of a car, we set off to find the real end of the Moira Cut. Originally authorised by Act of Parliament in 1794 the intention was to connect the Coventry Canal to the Trent and Mersey at Burton on Trent but the Ashby de la Zouch Canal, as it was titled, never reached that town but ended at Moira, so it became known to the working boatmen as The Moira Cut. By 1804 when the canal was completed the area around Moira had developed as a major coal mining area so the canal flourished on the trade this provided. By the time the mining industry finished in the 1960s' it had effectively destroyed the last few miles of the canal, mining subsidence being the cause of the closure.

Taking advantage of the new canal the Earl of Moira had built a state of the art blast furnace alongside the cut. Fortunately, from a combination of factors, it was a total failure and was abandoned around 1811 with the final unsuccessful smelting still inside. If it had worked properly the site would probably have been developed and we would not have an example of an early 19thC. blast furnace still intact.
But this is not a history lesson, let alone a treatise on metallurgy, of which I know nothing. I much prefer the quirky, the marks that the ordinary people left behind and on the beams that make up the hearth of the furnace is a wonderful example.

Whoever cast these beams put hand prints in the moulding sand before pouring the molten iron, result, a memorial that will last as long as any fancy tomb.

 These are the beams with, at the bottom, the solidified remains of the last attempt at smelting. Now that is living history.

Another view of the furnace with the canal on the right.

A short walk along the towpath and you come to Moira Lock, interesting as the Ashby Canal never had a lock. The subsidence from the mines has left such a difference in levels that a lock was needed to connect the restored sections.

To give an idea of the degree of subsidence,the original canal level was the top of the lock gates, visible through the bridge.

Below the lock the canal and towpath now run on an embankment with these houses built on the current, post subsidence, ground level. Quite a drop.

And here it is, Conkers Basin, the real and final end of the Ashby Canal/Moira Cut.One day narrowboats will once again be able to access this lovely mooring. Mind you I don't think Armadillo will make it, at least not under the current management.

Alongside the towpath this marker gives an idea of of the number of seams worked in the area. As the area looks now it is almost impossible to believe the industry that once thrived here.

What was once spoil heaps is now the National Forest. Which do you prefer? We all have romantic pictures of the past but personally I prefer trees to factory chimneys.

Back by the furnace, abandoned in the undergrowth,

Watch this space........

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