15.03.2009 14 °C
"Once upon a time in a far-off land ... "
The streets of my childhood transport me to a post-war time of gobstoppers, short trousers and a penny'worth of chips; and to a time of boyish pranks on the canal with John, my life-long friend. Much like Tom Sawyer and his mate, Huckleberry, our young lives centered around the waterway. But not for us, the mighty Mississippi. We lived by the muddy banks of the dilapidated Kennet and Avon Canal; a masterpiece of Georgian engineering that cut England in two and provided a vital link between Wales and London. In its heyday in the early eighteen-hundreds, this ribbon of murky water was the pipeline that fed millions of tons of Welsh coal into the fireplaces of the burgeoning metropolis of the world. London today is a clean and beautiful city, but in my childhood we knew it, for good reason, as "The Smoke."
Shire horses no longer pull coal barges along the canal. Today it is a bustling highway for pleasure craft and colourful narrow boats. It is also the venue for the world's longest annual canoe race - The Devizes to Westminster - a gruelling eighty-mile aquatic dash that takes place every Good Friday.
But, the canal's greatest claim to fame are the locks at Devizes - the world's longest single flight.
Shire horses are still used in Devizes, but not for the barges. Shires, like these two, pull the drays that deliver the beer from the local brewery.
Devizes is steeped in history - these houses were built in the fourteen hundreds ...
...and this monument commemorates an event that took place on Thursday 25th January 1753, when a woman called Ruth Pierce falsely claimed that she had paid for a sack of corn in the market. Theft on this scale in those days could have cost her her head, so she stuck to her story and said, "May God strike me dead if I am lying." Ooops! Big mistake! No sooner were the words out of her mouth than a bolt of lightning hit her and she dropped dead.
In and around Devizes can be seen numerous medieval buildings like this Porch House in Potterne.
There are also many reminders of the past and here comes another quiz question. These hooks hanging on the side of a house are about twenty-five feet long. What were they used for?