Click thumbnail to view full size picture of Sapperton canal tunnel entrance
SAPPERTON to OAKRIDGE
The canal was completed in 1789 to link the Severn with the Thames allowing incoming goods from the New World to transfer from Bristol to London. Passengers travelled too, I have heard they had right of way over goods traffic and the bow of their boat carried a scythe to cut the towrope of any boat not giving way. The Sapperton tunnel, at 2.1 miles, was the longest in Britain when it opened. Normally canal boats were towed by a horse but to get through a tunnel two men lay on a plank either side at the bow and "walked" the boat through on the tunnel wall. The canal stayed in use until the 20th century, by then the boat had a motor and towed another barge (the butty) behind as well.
Canals operated up and downhill using locks. Imagine these as a series of steps, look at the derelict locks just after the Daneway pub and you will see the size of the step and deep vertical grooves at each end for the giant lock gates that held the water back. There is a small hole in the wall near the entrance and exit of the lock, this was an overflow that allowed water to bypass the lock if the canal became too full.
The section between Waypoints 17and 18 is difficult to describe accurately, take your compass and set it to 144 degrees to aid navigation.
How to get there:- From the A419 Stroud to Cirencester road turn north approx 5.5 miles west of Cirencester at SO 9378 0184. Go over the first cross roads then turn left to Sapperton at SO 9499 0295. As you enter the village pass the Bell pub then turn right into a dead end road and park near the church.