Wednesday 31 October 2012

All Hallows Eve on the Cut

Once upon a time, I can imagine that working boatmen may have gathered their families around the cabin stove on All Hallow’s Eve, and told ghostly stories by lamp light. 

Today my boat is moored beside this haunted bridge in Bulbourne, near Tring, in Hertfordshire. I thought I had read about some ghostly Roman soldiers being sighted somewhere near this bridge. I went to the library to borrow Ghosts of Tring again and yet when I searched the book the story was mysteriously nowhere to be found. (The book also puzzlingly has no accredited author, editor or publisher, having been bound by a short-run printer.)  I did however find a few other canal related ghost stories.

By the canal at Marsworth, the book reports a child was walking along with her grandmother “off the barges”.

“The child was tugging her hand; the grandmother turned to look. At the little girl’s other hand was a character half-man, half-goat.”

In the blackout during the Second World War children often saw lights on the dry canal bank above Wilstone reservoir. “Spies!” they called them.  Also near Wilstone reservoir a young man was approached by two grey shapes near the cemetery, eerily waving their arms. It turned out to be two swans.

On the Aylesbury canal arm one night a niece and her uncle were travelling in their carriage over the Dixon’s gap bridge. The horses shied and the niece saw four men carrying a coffin over the bridge. The uncle however saw nothing…

A perhaps more famous ghost story on the canals is that of the Blisworth Tunnel. This tunnel, on the Grand Union at Stoke Bruerne, is a mile and three quarters long. During its construction the tunnel caved in and fourteen men died. People claim to have seen the shadowy ghosts of these poor navvies and even some say, that when travelling through by boat you may see an alternative tunnel (the one that collapsed) leading off at a tangent; invitingly lit by candlelight.

However Standedge Tunnel in Yorkshire is the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel on the network. Considered to be one of the seven wonders of the waterways, boating passages must be booked in advance. Next week you can enjoy a spooky boat ride or a witches brew in the café as the Standedge Visitor Centre takes on a Halloween theme.

Apparently The Montgomery Canal in Wales is haunted by a Welsh Princess who was buried alive as punishment for running away with her lover. At Rugeley on the Trent and Mersey Canal a blood stain sometimes reappears from a murder in 1839.

With so many poor souls killed in the building and working of the canals I expect there are many tales to be told. Do you know a canal ghost story?

Disclosure: I wrote this article for Canal Voyagers Hotel Boats. They'll be haunting most of these places next year on their 2013 cruises.


Mike and Poppy said...

You might like this one.

Sarahmumof3 said...

when we cruised around on our little 20ft crusser this summer we moored near a flight of steps which I read were haunted and had blood stains on them... but I can't remember where I was... must have been along the shropshire union? Thats why I want better electric supply on board so I could have blogged our trip - instead we went all au natural and witout internet or much of anythign for our 4 week trip! you can see my post here: I have been menaing to blog more about it..

Narrowboat Wife said...

Mike, Mags and the gang: Loved your post! What a great story and poem.

Narrowboat Wife said...

Sarah, I've heard the Shroppie is the most haunted cut...Love the fact that you and yours went off on such a little boat: it's the adventure that counts! Beautiful photos. You might like For Better, For Worse by Siobhan and Damien Horner. They travelled the canals of France with young kids in a tiny boat. As for blogging it, my blog started as me scribbling in notebooks in 2010 and I typed up and posted the first few months after writing them!

Sarahmumof3 said...

I did have a little notebook and scribbled our adventure on it, but I lost it... then I found it again as we walked to fetch some petrol... and it was chucking it down with rain so I put it inside my jacket .... and lost it again!!! I have so many photos and snippets I did want to blog and one day I may, or next summer we will venture to London and I will be more careful and NOT loose my notepad!!

Narrowboat Wife said...

omg! I would be gutted if I lost a notebook! :-(

Mike and Poppy said...

Glad you liked the poem. I also do the occasional monologue.

take care

added you on Google+

Narrowboat Wife said...

Thanks Mike. Added you back. I'm excited to discover another canal poet. You might like my poem Pump My Bilge!