The Glastonbury Canal was built to bring trade and prosperity to Glastonbury by forming a navigable route to the Severn Estuary coast at Highbridge. It failed. Fraught with construction problems it took five years to build, went way over budget and didn’t make the town richer. Unfortunately the peat in the canal bottom swelled, not helped by skimping on the clay lining. Several of the leading investors absconded. It finally opened in 1833 but closed in 1854, sold to the Somerset Central Railway company, which built its railway line along the canal towpath.
Opening of Glastonbury canal (Image credit: Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society)
For more information about the Glastonbury Canal, which once ran through the Avalon Marshes, please go to Wikipedia
Somerset & Dorset Railway
The Somerset Central Railway soon became part of the Somerset & Dorset Railway, known as the S&D. Their line ran from Poole to Burnham-on-Sea, from where the S&D’s own paddle steamers sailed to Cardiff. An extension to Bath in 1874 became the new main line, leaving this section as a rural branch line until it was finally closed in the 1960s. The S&D had several unflattering nicknames including the Slow and Doubtful and the Slow and Dirty. Others loved the line, calling it the Serene and Delightful.
Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath sit alongside this defunct branch line, and Meare Heath was the site of a crash in 1949. The clip below tells the story: