Thursday, 28 May 2015

Reverie in tranquil industry

Like much of the surviving relict remains of the explosion of industrial activity in Britain in the late eighteenth century and the Victorian era, Sapperton canal tunnel has been slowly and incrementally seeping back into the landscape from which it came. Pandaemonium and rupture replaced by quiescent stillness. Transporting the Thames and Severn Canal through the Cotswold hills the tunnel was opened in 1789 and, at two and a half miles long, was and is one of the longest in the country: the HS2 of its day.  

Coming across the crenellated western entrance of the tunnel during an early summer afternoon and returning in the gloaming, hallooing bats from the murk, evokes a feeling of antiquarian discovery. How strange that an example of what was raged at as the disfigurement of picturesque landscapes has become, with obsoletion, time and benign neglect, an organic component of the terrain that it scarred; recolonised by endlessly patient displaced flora and fauna and stillness.

Returning through wild garlic abundance alongside the silted channel to the camping field downslope from the magnificently unchanging Daneway Inn, once lodgings for the men who propelled the narrowboats through the tunnel by 'legging' - using their feet on the tunnel walls, I enter a Rousseau-like reverie contemplating the tranquillity of exhausted human endeavour.

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