Waterfront Quiz: Wonders of our Waterways

Think you know a thing or two about canals? Test your know-how with our quiz.

Illustration: Alan Dalby/Column Arts


    1. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in north east Wales is the longest and highest in the UK and a World Heritage Site. But what unusual ingredient was added to its mortar, along with lime and water?
      a) Ox blood
      b) Self-raising flour
      c) Livestock urine
      d) Rubber

      Answer: (a) The blood was supposedly added as part of an ancient tradition, to give the aqueduct symbolic strength.


    3. The Three Bridges structure in Hanwell, West London, brings together a railway, canal and road bridge all at the same point. It was the final project of which famous engineer?
      a) Isambard Kingdom Brunel
      b) John Rennie
      c) Thomas Telford
      d) James Brindley

      Answer: (a) Brunel died just two months after the structure was completed in 1859.


    5. Salts Mill on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was the largest industrial building in the world when opened in 1853. It is now part of a World Heritage Site. In which town or city can it be found?
      a) Leeds
      b) Liverpool
      c) Blackburn
      d) Bradford

      Answer: (d) Salts Mills was renovated earlier this century, and is now a popular gallery and shopping precinct.


    7. Caen Hill near Devizes comprises 29 locks in quick succession. Some of the lock gates were replaced in 2010. What were the old two-tonne barriers recycled as?
      a) Replacement doors for Reading Gaol
      b) A bridge at Glastonbury Festival
      c) Pieces in a World Record-breaking game of giant Jenga
      d) New narrowboats

      Answer: (b) The bridge was built in memory of Arabella Churchill, one of the originators of the festival, and grand-daughter of Sir Winston Churchill.


    9. The Bridgewater Canal is often described as the first true canal in England; it opened in 1761 from Worsley to Manchester. The canal boasts the world’s only example of what?
      (a) A lock made entirely of aluminium
      (b) A ‘log flume’ for narrowboats
      (c) A rotating section of aqueduct
      (d) A licence for the operation of drone barges

      Answer: (c) The Barton Swing Aqueduct opened in 1894, spanning the Manchester Ship Canal. A 1,450-tonne section of aqueduct can swing through 90 degrees, while full of water, to let vessels pass along the lower canal.


    11. The Anderton Boat Lift is another unique Victorian structure, lifting narrowboats over 50 feet from the River Weaver to the Trent & Mersey Canal. What’s its nickname?
      a) Old Rusty
      b) The Cheshire Cat-erpillar
      c) The Cathedral of the Canals
      d) ‘Darren’, after footballer Darren Anderton who briefly played for nearby Wolves

      Answer: (c) The Cathedral of the Canals was built in 1875 and was restored to service in 2002.


    13. At over a kilometre long, the Greywell Tunnel was the longest on the Basingstoke Canal. Sadly, it’s no longer navigable, but it has found a new purpose, as what?
      a) Europe’s largest bat colony
      b) A Council-approved legal rave site
      c) An experimental test chamber for detecting cosmic rays
      d) A Doctor Who filming location

      Answer: (a) An estimated 12,500 bats, of at least five species, live in the tunnel.


    15. The Regent’s Canal offers a little-known ‘back entrance’ into which major tourist attraction?
      a) Wembley stadium
      b) Buckingham Palace
      c) Hampstead Heath
      d) London Zoo

      Answer: (d) You can catch a London river bus to the Zoo from Camden Lock Market.


    17. The Falkirk Wheel, which connects the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in central Scotland, is the world’s only rotating boatlift. How tall is it?
      a) 20m: the height of the Angel of the North statue.
      b) 35m: the height of eight double decker buses stacked on top of each other.
      c) 50m: roughly the height of Nelson’s Column (from the first step to the tip of his hat).
      d) 75m: the height of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol (clearance above high water level).

      Answer (b) The Wheel is capable of lifting loads equivalent to the weight of 100 African elephants. Despite this, to power one rotation of the gondola, which can hold up to eight boats at a time, takes the same amount of energy as used to boil eight kettles!


    19. The Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is the deepest on the canal network. How far beneath the ground is its deepest point?
      a) About as deep as Nelson’s Column is tall
      b) Deeper than the Empire State Building’s height
      c) As deep as 44 double decker buses stacked on top of one another
      d) Only a few metres – canal tunnels are never very deep

      Answer (c) At 194 metres below the Pennines, the Standedge Tunnel is very deep indeed. Put another way, it’s more than three times further underground than the deepest London tube station.


  1. Scores

    1-2 correct: Oh dear, you seem to have sunk without trace. But never fear – keep reading the fortnightly Waterfront newsletter and you’ll soon be impressing your friends with fascinating facts about our waterways.

    3-4 correct: Well, you could have done better. But don’t despair. A low score means you still have the whole, wonderful world of canals to explore in more depth. Head to the Waterfront website for more fascinating features on our inland waterways.

    5-6 correct: A score that’s thoroughly decent without being too showy, like any good narrowboat owner. Why not browse articles of the Waterfront website to give you fresh insights and a whole heap of inspiration for exploring the country’s waterways.

    7-8 correct: You clearly know your stuff, but there’s always room for improvement. Keep an eye on the fortnightly Waterfront newsletter for regular thrills and cills.

    9-10 correct: Wowsers. You are pretty much a Wonder of the Waterways yourself. There’s always room for improvement, though, so keep an eye on the Waterfront newsletter and read articles on our website to stay up to date.