From a report by John Newton Vice Chair, Cotswold Canals Trust
Today the National Lottery Heritage Fund formally announced confirmation of a £9 million grant to enable reconnection of the canal to the national inland waterways network at Saul Junction, thereby enabling vessels to navigate to Stonehouse and then on to Stroud.
In 2018 Prince Charles opened the restored canal between Stroud and Stonehouse (Phase 1A, also made possible by a Lottery Heritage Fund grant) – but this section of canal has remained landlocked with no access to the rest of the UK canal system.
This additional funding (Phase 1B) will enable the major capital works to restore the canal to navigation by:
– reconstruction of the railway bridge at The Ocean,
(pictured – programmed for May 2021),
– raising Walk Bridge on Whitminster Lane,
– constructing a canal channel under the M5 alongside
the existing River Frome underpass,
– installing three new lift bridges for agriculturalaccess across the canal
– reconnecting the canal and River Frome at two
points on the Whitminster Section.
– restoration of six existing Heritage locks
Also required is to re-excavate a mile of new canal and build two new locks eastwards from the A38 roundabout through the fields to Westfield Lock in Eastington (pictured below).
This section of canal was destroyed when the M5 was constructed.
The current A38 roundabout canal works, now nearing completion, have been funded by Highways England in recognition of that previous destruction (see pic below).
By the time you read this, the amazing job of tunnelling under the Bristol Road (A38) roundabout will be finished and this channel will be full of (very deep) water. This is Highways England’s way of saying “sorry we wrecked your canal in 1968”. That is £4,200,000 worth of “sorry” and was the largest single donation to Phase 1B after the Heritage Lottery Fund.
And what happened to all the excavated soil?
It went to Northleach to help to shore up a wall supporting the old A40. This had been closed since 2015 when cracks developed. Using the spoil from this project saved £700,000 worth of repairs!.
In addition to the major engineering works, extensive, on-going dredging will be required and some twenty-one hectares of new biodiversity habitats will be created, including reed beds, scrapes and orchards Wherever possible a reconstructed 2-metre wide multi-use towpath will be established to optimise accessibility.
The historic canal archives, comprising some 100,000 documents dating from the original 1730’s Company of Proprietors of The Stroudwater Navigation will be preserved and digitised for public access. These are believed to be the oldest continuous record of any canal company in the world.
This is a major community and volunteer-led project with a total value of some £23.5 million. It is the culmination of many years of commitment from the Cotswold Canals Trust and other organisations, including Stroud District Council together with Gloucestershire County Council, The Canal & River Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.
CCT hopes to complete the restoration by December 2024. Importantly, this project will present major opportunities for further local investment and job creation, work training and skills together with improved health and lifestyles (both on the water and alongside it).
The Cotswold Canals Trust is a charity dedicated to eventually re-opening the complete length of canal between the Severn and the Thames and reconnecting Stroud will be a major step in that vision; we are always looking for new volunteers to assist in and enjoy our many activities.
For more information please visit the website: www.cotswoldcanals.org.uk
Our MP is Cotswold Canals Trust’s newest Vice President
On 22nd July 2020, Siobhan Baillie MP became the newest Vice President of the Cotswold Canals Trust. She joins others including Rt Hon Sir Richard Needham, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and David Drew.
In her own words… “At the end of July 2020, I received the great honour of becoming a Vice President of the Cotswold Canals Trust. I love spending time walking the canals and I have been a member of the Trust for a while.
“I supported the application for £9m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund because I know the Cotswold Canals Connected Project would mean a great deal to Stroud in terms of leisure amenities, regeneration, tourism and employment opportunities. I am thrilled that this has been successful and look forward to seeing the dream becoming a reality.
“I believe this is now more important than ever as Stroud, the Valleys and Vale start to recover from the pandemic. It is a positive way to encourage tourism, more exercise and healthier lifestyles too. We can become a fitter and thinner nation with projects like this. Congratulations to you all for your foresight, hard work and achievements to date, I am committed to continuing championing your efforts for our community.”