Basingstoke Canal – Great Bottom Flash to Ash Lock

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The full 37 and half miles from the Wey to Basingstoke

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Great Bottom Flash. There were once a collection of sunken boats visible here, but nowdays the only ones are two steel barges scuttled and made into landing stages form which local people are able to fish without interuption from any boats that may passs by. The flash is a wildlife haven, where dragonflies and the Great Crested Grebe can be seen.

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Ash Vale Wharf. Nearby is the pub known as The Standard of England

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For many years the bridge was in a poor condition and had supports on the towpath to strenthen it. It has recently been rebuilt and these steel supports have gone. Next to the bridge is this strange tree. I dont know what it is called but it reminds of the me apparition featured on the poster of the film Ghostbusters!

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Ash Railway (or Black) Bridge

This is Ash railway bridge (in fact there are three different Ash railway bridges but thankfully this one does have an alternative name – Black Bridge – so named after the nearby Blackwater River. Beyond the bridge the impressive Ash embankment begins and soon the canal comes to the new aqueduct that crosses the new relief road running through the Blackwater valley.

ASH AQUEDUCT & LOCK

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The Ash (or Blackwater aqueduct) was opened in June 1995. (Official opening in the July.) Although it is not quite apparent in this picture (below) the trough is unusual in being of a curved construction. Extra strength was added by means of cables situated within the trough, forming a series of suspesion cables that help to hold up the trough. All in all, the aqueduct is a very unusual one for the waterways system in the UK. The Blackwater river forms the boundary between Surrey and Hampshire in this part of the world, and so it is that the Basingstoke Canal passes from Surrey into Hampshire by means of the aqueduct.

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View of the southern elevation

The Ash embankment is still quite considerable depsite approx 200 yards being removed for the aqueduct. It rises above the roofs of new houses built alongside it. The embankment took five years to build, and in the 1790’s alternative proposals for crossing the Blackwater valley were considered such as locks, but these were dispensed with.

Ash Lock – sometimes billed as the only lock in Hampshire and a bit of a contradiction as there’s another Hants lock on the Basingstoke Canal itself! The Itchen Navigation has locks remaining though derelict and without gates. The Andover Canal had locks though few remains are left. Hampshire surprisingly had four canal tunnels, two of considerable length. The other two were on the Salisbury and Southampton canal, and these were never completed. Ash lock is the only operational Hampshire lock (the other Hampshire lock on the Basingstoke Canal is described in the North Warnborough to Greywell section.)

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Ash lock. I believe that Ash lock has also been mistakenly described as Aldershot lock, as it is within that town’s boundaries. The lock was restored in 1979, and the picture shows it 30 years later with new gates in the summer of 2009

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Ash Lock in 1977

Below: The Basingstoke Canal Authority’s workshops at Ash lock. Quite a number of the gates for the canal were built here. From this point westwards the Basingstoke canal is level to Greywell Tunnel (and formerly all the way to Basingstoke itself.) It was from Ash lock on 16th November 1913 that Alfred Harmsworth left with narrowboat ‘Basingstoke’ on the epic voyage that was to take nearly two months for the round trip as far as Basing. On that November day he left here at about 8am, and by about 3pm had arrived at Penny bridge (now the very western extremity of the canal). From that point it took four weeks to do just over three miles of canal!

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Canal workshops at Ash lock

Next: Claycart and Eelmoor

WOODHAM JUNCTION TO GREYWELL

Intro / Byfleet – Woodham Locks / Woodham – St. Johns / St. Johns – Hermitage / Brookwood – Pirbright / Deepcut Flight / Deepcut – Frimley / Basingstoke Canal Centre / Great Bottom – Ash / Ash lock – Norris Hill / Fleet – Crookham / Chequers – Barley Mow / Barley Mow – Odiham / Odiham – Greywell

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