Walk completed August 28, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 66 – Falkirk to Kirkintilloch, 17 miles

Today was a dry day, but other than that, quite similar to yesterday’s walk next to the canal. I started on the Union Canal out of Falkirk. Two miles later, the Union Canal ended, and I then followed the Forth and Clyde Canal to Kirkintilloch. The Forth and Clyde Canal was built in the 19th century to connect the River Clyde with the River Forth for the transportation of goods between the west and east coasts of Scotland. By tying that canal to the Union Canal, goods could be transported between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The canal system didn’t last very long, as it was replaced by railroads.

The Union Canal was quite a bit higher than the Forth and Clyde Canal, so a series of locks were used to connect them. After the canals were abandoned, the locks were filled in. When British Waterways reinstituted the canal system recently, it became necessary to re-connect the two canals. Rather than re-build the locks, a very expensive device known as the Falkirk Wheel was built. It is an engineering marvel for its simplicity.

Basically, it is a Ferris wheel with two buckets. The lower bucket is the “lock” that runs to the Forth and Clyde Canal.

Lock is inside the circles
The upper bucket Is the “lock” that runs to the Union Canal. Each lock is the same size and holds the same amount of water, so they weigh the same. When a boat enters the lock, it displaces water equal to its weight, so the weight in the lock remains the same. It’s a simple matter to rotate the lower lock to the upper position while the upper lock counterbalances it and rotates to the lower position. I can’t imagine how much all that simplicity cost, or how anybody justified the expense to move a few long boats. So far as I observed, nobody is using the Union Canal.

Campsie fells
Despite the distance, today’s walk was easy, with nice views of the Campsie Fells to the north. I’ll be seeing those hills more closely tomorrow as I move to the West Highland Way, which may well be the most popular national trail in all of the United Kingdom. Despite the numbers of walkers, the West Highland Way traverses some very remote areas, so internet connections will be spotty. Accordingly, I expect that my postings during the next ten days will be sporadic until I reach Fort William.

Garden along towpath
© 2011 Ken Klug

1 comment:

  1. That Falkirk Wheel is something else, amazing feat of engineering. Still love the pics of flowers, thanks.
    Have fun!