Canal Facts - The Grand Union Canal
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Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 11:04am

The Grand Union Canal


The Grand Union Canal is the longest canal in the UK at 286 miles long, and runs from London to Birmingham and it includes the 35 mile Nottingham Arm and the 42 mile Leicester Arm. The canal has several branches or Arms which include among others the Paddington Arm, the Slough Arm, the Regents Canal, Hertford Union Canal, the Leicester Navigation, Birmingham and Warwick Junction and the Aylesbury Arm.  It has over 250 locks along its route. The Grand Union Canal was the major artery of the canal system linking London to Birmingham. 

The maximum length of boat that can use the canal easily is 70ft and the maximum beam is 12ft 6" between London and Birmingham and 7ft on the Leicester Arm. Maximum draught of a boat able to navigate this canal is 3ft 6" and height 7ft. 

The Grand Union canal has two of the longest tunnels on the canal network; the Blisworth Tunnel at 2794 metres long and the Braunston tunnel which is 1887 metres long.

The canal has some historic features along its route including the Iron Trunk Aquaduct, the Braunston Tunnel, The Hatton Flight of locks and the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum and Bliswoth Tunnel.

Map of The Grand Union Canal


The clue is in the name 'Grand Union' - The canal was not constructed all at once, but is the result of various canals being amalgamated and connected during the late 18th and early 19th century.

With competition from the railways in the second half of the 19th century and improvements in roads and vehicle technology in the early part of the 20th century meant that the lorry was also becoming a threat to the canals. Tolls had been reduced to compete with the railways, but there was little scope for further reduction. The Regent's Canal and the Grand Junction Canal agreed that amalgamation and modernisation were the only way to remain competitive.

The Grand Union Canal in its current form came into being on 1 January 1929, and was further extended in 1932. It was formed from the amalgamation of several different canals.


The Grand Union Canal At Whilton Locks


The canal passes through varied scenery along it's length, from rolling countryside to industrial towns and cities.

And of course; Whilton Marina is situated on the Grand Union Canal at the bottom of Whilton Locks in Northamptonshire.