95. Cotswold Canals and their restoration

Boats on the Stroudwater Canal.Two separate waterways (collectively known as the 'Cotswold Canals') once linked England's two greatest rivers - the Thames and the Severn.
 
The Stroudwater Navigation, to the west of Stroud, was opened in 1779 to connect the town to the River Severn. Ten years later, the Thames & Severn Canal extended this route to Lechlade on the Thames - a 36-mile cross-country route.
 
The waterway climbed up from the Severn Plain by many locks through the picturesque Golden Valley to the famous Sapperton Tunnel which, at over two miles long, was once the longest transportation tunnel in the world.
 
Enthusiasts enjoying life on the water.After initial commercial success, the canals' fortunes declined until the Thames & Severn closed in 1933. The Stroudwater Canal was closed in 1954.
 
Much of the line is intact and many attractive features and distinctive buildings remain.
 
In 1972 Stroudwater Canal Society was born out of a public meeting to protect and restore the Stroudwater Navigation and later added the Thames & Severn Canal. This is now known as the Cotswold Canals Trust.
 
Early volunteers led the way by re-watering sections of canal and restoring locks and bridges.
The authorities began to see the value of the project and started to help with funding and practical projects.
 
In 2001, the Cotswold Canals Trust was one of the founder members of the Cotswold Canals Partnership which made a commitment to restore the Cotswold Canals. In recent years this restoration has continued to gather pace.
 
The Stroudwater Canal near Saul.In the west, a £25 million project led by Stroud District Council commenced in 2010. This section centred on Stroud, known as Phase 1A - Stonehouse to Brimscombe, will comprise of six miles of the most difficult section to restore.

It is funded with £12 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £7.5 million from the South West Regional Development Agency and contributions from other sources. The Cotswold Canals Trust has committed £800,000 and over £1 million of volunteer effort.

In the east, the Trust now owns the first section of the Thames & Severn Canal where it meets the Thames at Inglesham and is working at numerous locations within the Cotswold Water Park section.
 
The Trust is always looking for new volunteers and canal work parties take place during the week and most weekends.
 
Activities include towpath tidying, clearance, construction and maintenance work, as well as fundraising. Volunteers often speak of the new friendships, fun and the sense of achievement they enjoy. 
 
The Trust has a commercial arm too and operates the visitor centres at Saul and at Wallbridge Lock in Stroud.
 

More information

Visit the Cotswold Canals Trust website at www.cotswoldcanals.com 
© Loving The Cotswolds. 2017.