On Saturday 15th September 16 ramblers assembled in Portadown to walk 8.3 miles along the Newry Canal towpath to Scarva. Along the way the walkers learned something of the history of the canal. It was constructed over a period of 11 years from 1731 to 1742 to transport coal from Coalisland to Dublin. It was the first “summit canal” in the British Isles, meaning it had to go over a hill. There were 11 locks between Newry and Scarva taking the barges up 78 ft and 3 locks between Scarva and Portadown taking barges down 25 ft into the River Bann which was navigable all the way into Lough Neagh. Locks were named after the lock keeper and at Moneypenny’s Lock the lock keeper’s cottage has been restored in the style it would likely have had in the early 19th century. Alongside is “Smithy” which in bygone days would have shod the horses that towed the barges , but which today is modern blacksmith’s workshop offering classes in wrought iron work. Abandoned warehouses on the banks of the canal at Madden’s Bridge testify to the importance of the waterway in the 18th century when it serviced the linen mills of Gilford and the flour mills of Tandragee.   Water levels in the canal were maintained by an aqueduct from the River Cusher, the remains of which can be seen on the approaches to Scarva. After an interesting trip on a well-maintained path the party finished the walk with coffee and scones in Sinton’s Restaurant in Scarva, grateful that the rain had stayed away and the weather was mild