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Restoring the Stroudwater Canal

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From the BBC archives. In 1974 John Craven reported on plans to restore the Stroudwater Canal in Gloucestershire.

In a 1974 film, campaigner Michael Ayland was interviewed by the BBC about the proposed project to restore the Stroudwater Canal.

Thirty-five years on and we have tracked down Michael, who is no longer involved in the restoration project.

We firmly believed it could be done in a very few years.
Michael Ayland

He told us: "It was filmed at Lodgemore Lane in a totally different time when the Inland Shipping Group was expanding and proposing barge traffic to Stroud for gravel, rubbish to the proposed Sharpness incinerator and anything else.

"The consideration was how did we rebuild the canal either to modern freight standards or even to 7-8ft gauge - using half a 16ft lock and use the other half as an open spillweir.

"At that time there was no consideration for a "Heritage" waterway, just to get boats to Stroud as quickly as possible and we firmly believed it could be done in a very few years."

Restoration work

In 2009 much restoration work is still needed before we ever see canal boats travelling along the route between Stroud and Lechlade. But a lot of work has been carried out.

David Pagett from the Cotswold Canals Trust told us: "The route of the Stroudwater Navigation & the Thames and Severn Canal that linked the Rivers Severn and Thames was finally abandoned by Act of Parliament in 1954, despite vigorous lobbying by local figures to keep it open.

Siddington Lock, near Cirencester
Siddington Lock has recently had further clearance work completed

"The fifteen years following the abandonment of the Stroudwater Canal were the most destructive period in its history. The Cotswold Canals Trust's first incarnation was in 1972 and work has been going on along the canals ever since.

"Over the years the projects have been managed and supported by a wide variety of groups and organisations including: Cotswold Canals Trust, Stroud District Council, Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation, Manpower Services Commission, Employment Action, Stroud Valleys Project, Gloucestershire County Council, Waterway Recovery Group, British Waterways and many others.

"Here's what's happened over the years:"

History

• 1972-1975 - Bowbridge/Griffin Mill/Ham Mill Locks - Repairs; Bowbridge/Griffin Mill/Ham Mill Pounds - clearance and dredging.
• 1976 - Kings Reach - clearance.
• 1977 - Coates Tunnel Portal - restoration.
• 1979-1985 - Cerney Wick Lock - clearance and repairs.
• 1980-1983 - Spine Road to Boxwell Springs Lock - towpath reopened and improved.
• 1980-1987 - Ryeford Pound - dredging.
• 1984 - Ryeford Swing Bridge - replacement.
• 1984-1985 - Blunder Lock - excavation and repairs.
• 1987 - Newtown Lock - excavation and repairs; Dr Newtowns Way Bridge - new build.
• 1989 - Ham Mill Bridge - repairs.
• 1989-1991 - Meadow Mill Spill Weir - restoration.
• 1990 - Newtown Lock - New Gates; Pike Lock - excavation and repair; Cerney Wick Lock - top gates.
• 1991 - Dudbridge Road Bridge - replacement.
• 1992 - Haywards Bridge - new build; Wallbridge Upper Lock - restoration and gates; Ryeford Double Lock - partial rebuild; Eastington Slipway - new build; Blunder Lock - new gates.
• 1993 - Bowell Springs Lock - Rebuild; Dock Lock - repairs; Siddington Locks 2 & 3 - tree removal and clearance; Dock Lock - excavation.
• 1994 - Newtown Roving Bridge - Restoration; Occupation Bridge - repairs; Westfield Bridge - repairs; Bonds Mill Bridge - replacement.
• 1995 - Whitminster Lock - excavation and restoration.
• 1996 - Daneway Tunnel Portal - restored; Wildmoreway Lock - restoration; Whitminster Lock - new top gates.
• 1997 - Dock Lock Head & Dry Dock - repairs; Latton Bypass Bridge - new build; Halfway Bridge (Ewen) - restoration; Clay Meadow Cutting - dredging and towpath reconstruction.
• 1998 - Wallbridge Middle Wharf - dredging & landscaping; Cowground Bridge - repairs.
• 1999 - Whitminster Area - section dredging.
• 2000 - Downton Road Bridge - new build.
• 2001 - Valley Lock & Spill Weir - rebuild/repair; Ongoing - South Cerney to Latton - towpath clearance.
• 2003 - Hilly Orchard Bridge - replacement; Ebley Infill - excavation.
• 2004 - Spine Road Bridge - new build.
• 2005 - Pike Road Bridge - new build.
• 2006 - Rucks Bridge - repair and rebuild; Bridge into Ebley Mill - new build.
• 2007 - Oil Mills Bridge - rebuild and infill excavation - BW / Contractors; Ongoing - Eisey Lock.
• 2008 - (British Waterways unexpectedly withdrew from the restoration in February); Ongoing - Gough's Orchard Lock Excavation and Restoration.
• 2009 - Chalford Roundhouse dredging.

Current developments

So what more work needs to be done? David Pagett said: "It is hoped that a favourable decision on the planning application for Upper Mills Bridge, Stonehouse will be received in the near future.

"Gloucestershire County Council have announced plans for the rebuilding of the bridge over the Thames & Severn Canal at Merrywalks, Stroud. Additionally there are plans to commence dredging in the Stonehouse area by the end of 2009.

"There are volunteer work parties regularly taking place at various locations throughout the year. Current information can be found at www.cotswoldcanals.com by following the 'volunteer information' link.

"Additionally one can subscribe to the Trust's electronic newsletter, ENews, via the 'email newsletter' link. All it takes is an email address."




SEE ALSO
Council decision on canal plan
16 Dec 08 |  Gloucestershire
Canal project misses out on grant
15 Nov 07 |  Gloucestershire

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