Our goal is a continuous navigable waterway linking the Kennet & Avon Canal, the Cotswold Canals and the River Thames. The route of that waterway will utilise, where possible, the historic main line of the Wilts & Berks Canal, what was built as the North Wilts Canal, and certain branches of the Wilts & Berks Canal. Achieving a continuous through waterway is key to ensuring sustainability – isolated sections, without the boat traffic, quickly become stagnant and silted. Initially our focus is on maintaining sections of towpath and canal bank that volunteers have worked on in the past but which might otherwise become overgrown. We will take on restoration of structures, where we can, as we have a team of volunteers with both the necessary skills and the enthusiasm. Several of our members have many years of regular experience restoring structures under the auspices of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust and are keen to continue that work on those sites where Wessex Waterways Restoration Trust has been able to arrange access and consent to work from supportive landowners and neighbours.
We understand that this is a massive project – it’s the longest length of waterway needing to be restored of any of the many waterway restoration projects in England, Wales and Scotland. We know that much of the projected through route is the historic line through the Oxfordshire and Wiltshire countryside. Many of the bases of the locks are still in place and the evidence of the last 30 years shows that these are capable of being re-built.
We also know that there are many more places where farmers need to cross the canal, and with heavier vehicles than the horses and carts of the time when the canals were first built. Some of the old bridges are capable of being re-built – perhaps only for pedestrian and livestock crossings – and new bridges will be needed for modern farm machinery.
Amongst our membership are those who have shown themselves able to re-build old locks, starting almost from the very bottom; and members of the team who built a completely-new bridge over the canal to carry the farm vehicles in use now.
INFORMATION FOR LANDOWNERS
The Trustees of Wessex Waterways are very aware of the sites where canal restoration volunteers have worked in the past but have never properly finished the work or have not continued the necessary regular maintenance.
We know that this is a silent demonstration of lack of stickability – and this undermines confidence that the efforts of voluntary organisations will bring about the completed canal.
We fully understand those landowners who don’t believe it’s possible, and we will adopt a more determined approach in the voluntary work we do on those sections where landowners show their confidence in us by allowing us access. Our Trustees are willing to organise volunteers to help with maintenance of restored sections of the canal. We will apply for grants to purchase machinery and tools to enable maintenance to be done more effort-efficiently.
Our Usual Site Sign
Click here for a list of our locations where you may have seen a sign like this.