Monday, 17 July 2017

A journey of 70 miles

The journey of a thousand miles that might have started with a single step is not quite comparable with rebuilding the 70 miles of the Wilts & Berks Canal but sometimes it feels that way!
The equivalent of that first single step was taken many years ago, perhaps by Jack Dalby and his interest in the lost canal,  and certainly the subsequent formation of a group of like- minded people who began the restoration of this waterway forming the missing link between the Thames & Kennet and Avon Canal.

When I first joined the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust one of the projects being talked about was the canal at Studley Grange - if you  do not know this location its just on the Wiltshire side of Swindon (Hay Lane) on the way to Royal Wootton Bassett. That was some 15 years ago so you might wonder why it takes so long to get from an initial agreement to do the restoration to the happy conclusion last week of the final buckets full of spoil being removed.

The answer is perhaps to be found in the scale of what has just been achieved- to dig out 1.2 km of totally infilled canal on land not owned by WBCT, situated next to a landfill site  The location had a major advantage in that Biffa Waste who operate the site agreed to take the canal infill directly as part of their landscaping operations. The big potential snag was the proximity of the canal route to the landfill site. Much of the time and a great proportion of the initial cost was in demonstrating the technical feasibility of the scheme. Passing this hurdle was a complex process and only when agreed was it possible to negotiate a lease for the canal corridor. Fundraising and construction were no less complex so it was with great satisfaction that I was able on Monday to see this excavation finally completed. Not quite the last piece in the jigsaw as some more work to do on fencing and a footpath link at the eastern end of the site, but we all hope now for a full opening next spring.
Meanwhile we need to join this section to the already restored canal at Morningside Farm with a new bridge at Bincknoll Lane .......

Ken Oliver

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