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« My salubrious moorings | Main | The nice picture in my attic »

Thursday, 28 July 2011


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Andrew Denny

Nick, that's certainly enough to win the boat race! 

Nick (CanalPlanAC)

I've commented somewhere or other on the two places of decimals in 6.43 km/h. Two decimal places of a kilometre is 10 metres - call it 33 feet. So they are asking you to control your speed to a precision of around half-a-boat-an-hour.

Andrew Denny

Martin, I wrote about the BCN 'rectified' canal signs five years ago, in 'ARM gets feet back on BCN signposts'. 

In short, it was some guys who called themselves 'Active Resistance to Metrication' who went around pasting little plastic plates over the new BCN km signs.  

Those new BCN signposts were put up for cyclists and pedestrians when the canals were opened up to general foot traffic in the 1980s, and didn't have much relation to the original BCN signs.  

At the time, BW were a bit irritated about the actions of the 'ARMy', but had better things to do than tear them down.  I believe they have come off now, though. 

The trouble with the ARM signs is that they, too, were inaccurate, talking of half- and quarter miles, and yards, never the original furlongs and chains.   

There is one new 'heritage-style' BCN post, closer in spirit to the original, at the canalside Waterlinks development on the Aston lock flight.  It measures the distance to other parts of the waterways, in miles and eighths of a mile, but is clearly a sop for sentimentalists.

My original 2006 post stands pretty well, so I'll leave it unaltered.  In fact, I think I'll republish it now - it adds detail to the subject of this post. 

Martin Howes

Perhaps it will be "rectified" in the same way that many BCN signposts on the way into Birmingham on the main line have been, by concerned enthusiasts. Most of he distances have patches over the metric figures and now show imperial.


Ahh that's better. Back to eating all my lunch.


I agree with Andrew (D) but not Andrew (S). Distances in this country are still (thank goodness) measured in "imperial" quantities. Just look at any road sign. "Norwich 4", to take an example near me, means "four miles". Speed limits (on roads, at least) are still in miles per hour. Distances to hazards are given in yards, not metres. The crucial thing here is that, when they were built, everything to do with canals was in inches, feet, yards, furlongs, miles - yes, and ounces, pounds, hundredweight, tons etc. Are we to airbrush that from our history?

I wonder if it's BW's fault? Metrication is creeping in by the back door. Winding hole maximum lengths are being quoted in metres, and there's at least one
ridiculous speed limit sign (in Leicester) Perhaps it was one of the Transport Trust people who had the bright idea of converting a simple "4 mph" into kilometres per hour, leading to the "6.43" signs.

I posted about this last year:

Andrew Smith

Oh come on... You can celebrate the past without being stuck in it. The canals were a massive change from the past when they were built. They in turn got overtaken by rail. Things move on.
I love the canals but think that miles are pretty strange...


Oh how I miss our conversations in the office!

Paul Savage (NB Adreva)

Totally agree Andrew. What I would do in this instance is put the km in brackets after the miles. This would allow those people who have only been taught metric to get an idea of the distance.
Luckily I was brought up to understand both (apart from temperature - never got my head around farenheight).
Have you noticed that metricating statements gives a completly different meaning. IE 'To metre something out' is completly different to 'To fathom something out'


I went through yesterday and didn't see the plaque.

I did see the chronic water shortages in the flights on either side of the tunnel, though.

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