My latest desire for a photo trip was to capture some beautiful landscape in reflections, and so after a brief moment of thought, the Royal Military Canal seemed like the most obvious choice.
Some facts about the Canal:
- The Royal Military Canal is 28 miles long, running from Seabrook in Kent to Cliff End in East Sussex.
- It is the third longest defensive monument in the British Isles after Hadrian’s Wall and Offa’s Dyke.
- The canal was built in anticipation of a Napoleonic invasion. Napoleon had his armies massed on the shores of France waiting for the moment to invade.
- The Royal Military Canal was the third line of defence after the British Navy and a line of Martello towers stretching from Folkestone to Eastbourne.
- The canal has ‘kinks’ every 500 metres along its length. This is a defensive measure, allowing troops to fire cannons along the canal if invaders tried to cross.
- The first sod of the canal was dug on 30 October 1804 at Seabrook.
- A narrower road was built on the seaward side as a towpath for the horses pulling the barges.
- As well as stopping Napoleon it was hoped that the canal would hinder smuggling which was a serious problem on the Romney Marsh.
- Iden Lock was completed in 1808 and linked the Royal Military Canal with the River Rother. The original buildings - the officer’s house and the soldier’s barracks - can still be seen today.
- The canal took 4.5 years to complete at a cost of £234,310 - a huge amount in Georgian England, approximately £10,000,000 in todays money.
- The Royal Military Canal is one of two canals that were entirely state funded, the other being the Caledonian Canal.
- In order to recoup some of the money spent on the canal, it was opened for public use and tolls were charged to take barges on the canal...
- The last toll-paying barge travelled through Iden Lock on 15 December 1909.
- During particularly cold winters the canal would freeze, and it was possible to ice skate all the way from Iden Lock to Seabrook.
- The canal is vital for irrigation and drainage on the Romney Marsh.
- It is still possible to take non-powered boats on the canal today.
- The canal is a fantastic home to lots of wildlife, including Laughing frogs, emperor dragonflies, kingfishers and the majestic mute swan.
- Parts of the canal are a Site of Special Scientifc Interest (SSSI). The remainder of the canal is a Local Wildlife Site.
- Today the full 28 mile length of the canal has a public footpath along it and makes an excellent waymarked long distance trail
I picked up my camera and tripod and headed off to my Mum's as we had arranged the trip earlier in the week. As much to give me a break from my nursing/mothering duties as anything else, and by the end of the first week it was much needed.
We drove down towards Hythe, stopping just short at Seabrook, which is where the path along the Canal actually begins. Here we took a short wander on the beach, passing another keen photographer who photographing exactly what I had come to do, the rough sea crashing against the man-made sea defences which consisted of huge boulders stretching out from the sea wall directly into the sea. The size and the shapes create a great back-drop for the spray of the waves as each, in turn, hurls themselves at the immovable objects. Once wet, the boulders take on a whole new image, reflecting the waves as they arch above.
After our brief interlude here, we sat in the car and enjoyed a warming cup of tea that Mum had brought with her in a flask. Whilst enjoying the tea, we also enjoyed the view, enhanced greatly by two very fit looking guys in surfing apparel who were taking their boards out for a spin!
The main event, was the Canal however. I found a quiet spot to park and we walked towards the water, the sun bouncing off the small ripples created by the gliding swans and ducks.
The ducks are always happy to see people, they know that invariably this means they will get fed.
As we began to walk down the path, my new perspective on the world, from a photography point of view, was turning cartwheels. This was pure paradise. A place of beauty during every season of the year, with each season having it's own unique input into the colours and textures of the landscape. Autumn, of course is the most colourful by far. With the tree lined canal a miriad of sedate greens, burnt oranges, fiery reds and bright yellows.
This was the first shot I took, but the speed ramp, and tarmac entrance, on the right hand side, to a club house really detracted from the feeling I was trying to capture with my shot.
So armed with Photoshop (isn't digital manipulation brilliant!!) I removed the speed ramp and extended the grass verge, not bad for my very first attempt at using Photoshop.
The oak and ash trees, the birch and poplars stood alongside many others, together with and my favourite, the grand old weeping willows with her branches so elegantly sweeping towards the water, hovering, teasingly, a couple of inches above.
The bridges at intervals along the canal are each a little different, some are for vehicular access, some are pedestrian only, but each one is stunning, illuminated by the low, bright autumn sunlight which reflects its image on the water below
It was on this bridge here that I stood looking in the direction we had just walked, with one of the 'kinks' in the river in view, admiring the the adeptness of the seagulls whislt they jostled positions to further their advantage over the ducks in obtaining as much of the bread as possible that a small child was throwing into the water.
As I turned to face up stream, the view almost took my breath away, and in that very instant, I knew this was the exact shot that I had come for, it couldn't have been more perfect