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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 18:15 GMT
Canal lit up in celebration
Locks in multicolour   British Waterways
Flight of fancy: The Caen Hill locks lit for Christmas

A flight of locks on a 200-year-old English canal are being bathed in light to celebrate the end of restoration work.

The 16 locks, near Devizes in Wiltshire, are being floodlit each evening over Christmas and the New Year.

The scheme aims to create the illusion of a cascade of liquid colour streaming down the flight.

The five-year restoration project has cost 29m ($46m).

The locks, at Caen Hill, stretch for more than one kilometre (half a mile) down the hill on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

New lease

It runs for 140 km (87 miles) from the Thames at Reading westwards to the Bristol Avon near Bath.

Water vole   BBC
Voles live along the canal
Partly derelict by the 1950s, the canal was re-opened to navigation in 1990. A partnership formed to safeguard its future obtained 25m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The restoration work was managed by British Waterways, which looks after more than 3,200 km (2,000 miles) of canals and rivers across the UK, and which in 2003 marks its own 40th anniversary.

Dr George Greener, British Waterways' chairman, said the restoration had been "an enormous undertaking, posing environmental, structural and heritage challenges to our engineers, ecologists and conservationists".

Wildlife refuge

Liz Forgan, chair of the HLF, said: "The Kennet and Avon canal, when first built, brought prosperity and wealth to communities along its route from Bristol to London, linking them with new markets as part of the industrial revolution.

Locks by daylight   British Waterways
Still spectacular by day
"Two hundred years on, the restored waterway is again bringing benefits to millions as a place to live, work and play beside."

Creatures living along the canal include owls, kingfishers, bats, voles and otters. Some of the restoration work done by volunteers included helping to establish a reedbed to encourage invertebrates.

British Waterways says the restoration is generating 28m ($45m) a year for the economies of communities along the canal.

The celebration lights will be switched on at dusk each day (except 25 December) until 6 January, the day after Twelfth Night, which traditionally marks the end of the Christmas jollities.

Canal images courtesy of British Waterways

See also:

15 Dec 02 | England
29 Nov 02 | England
22 Nov 02 | England
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