Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Society plans restoration of 18th Century Devon canal

Stover Canal with clay cellars and chutes
Clay cellars and chutes on the Stover Canal at Kingsteignton in the 1920s

An 18th Century south Devon canal is one step closer to being restored.

The Stover Canal near Newton Abbot was built by James Templer of Stover House to serve the ball clay industry.

In 1999 the Stover Canal Society was formed with the intention of restoring the scrub-filled waterway for fishing, rowing and wildlife.

Teignbridge District Council has now sub-leased the land to the Stover Canal Trust, paving the way for full restoration plans to be drawn up.

Tree clearance

The trust includes representatives from the canal society, local councils and other interested parties.

For more than a century the canal transported clay and minerals from the Bovey Basin and granite from quarries on Dartmoor.

The granite trade was relatively short-lived, lasting less than 40 years, but the canal continued to serve the clay industry until 1937.

Roger Harding, chairman of the Stover Canal Society, said volunteer working parties had already cleared trees and scrub from part of the canal, but much more would have to be done before the serious restoration work begins.

Barge at loading chute below Teign Bridge
The canal was built at the end of the 18th Century for the clay industry

"It's a case of breaking down into bite-size pieces," he told BBC News.

The cost of the restoration is estimated at about £5m, but before any funding applications can be made the trust must submit full plans to the canal owner, Network Rail.

Network Rail - formerly Railtrack - agreed to lease it without charge to Teignbridge District Council for leisure use by the community.

Although part of the canal could be open in a few years, Mr Harding said full restoration was a long way off.

"I'd be happy if it was done in 10 years - in fact I'd be over the moon."

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