Winding hole

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A winding hole on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal

A winding hole (/ˈwɪndɪŋ/) is a widened area of a canal (usually in the United Kingdom), used for turning a canal boat such as a narrowboat.


The word is commonly believed to derive from the practice of using the wind to assist with the turn.[1] It is notable that the German term for turning a vehicle is "wenden". Much UK canal terminology comes from spoken rather than written tradition and from bargees who did not read or write.[2] However, it is also possible that the word has a similar derivation to that of the windlass, which derives from the Old Norse "vinda" and "ás"—words currently used in Iceland—where the modern word for "windlass" is "vinda".[3]


Because the average width of a canal channel (about 30' to 40' feet) is less than the length of a full-size narrow boat (72') it is not usually possible to turn a boat in the canal. Winding holes are typically indentations in the off-side (non-towpath side) of the canal, allowing sufficient space to turn the boat.


A winding hole consists of a "notch" in the canal bank. A turning boat inserts its bow into the notch and swings the stern round. In the days of horse-drawn boats, this was accomplished using bargepoles.[4][5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Deuchar, Chris N. (1997). A Boaters Guide to Boating. [S.l.]: C.N. Deuchar originally on behalf of the historic Narrow Boat Owners Club. p. 13. ISBN 0953151204. 
  2. ^ Stewart, Sheila (1994). Ramlin Rose: The Boatwoman's Story. Oxford, UK: Oxford Paperbacks. ISBN 9780192853028. 
  3. ^ Hilbertsson, ritstjóri, Sævar (2000). Ensk íslensk orðabók og íslensk-ensk orðabók (2000 [2.] útg. ed.). [Reykjavík]: Orðabókaútgáfan. ISBN 9979835206. 
  4. ^ Hankinson, John (1967). Canal Cruising. Ward Lock. pp. 62–64. 
  5. ^ Marsh, Bryan (1985). The Inland Navigator. Penguin. pp. 140–141. ISBN 0-14-046666-5. 
  6. ^ Yorke, Stan (2003). English Canals Explained. Countryside Books. p. 44. ISBN 1-85306-825-X.