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The Cotswold Canals Trust

PUBLISHED: 10:46 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 15:02 20 February 2013

Saul Canal Festival raises funds for individual Cotswold Canal projects

Saul Canal Festival raises funds for individual Cotswold Canal projects

It has been perhaps the most difficult and challenging year so far in the 35-year programme of restoring the Cotswold Canals. So much is tied up in it. <br/><br/>By Mark Child

It has been an extraordinary year for the Cotswold Canals Trust. Membership reached 5,300 for the first time. Its volunteers have continued to work on the restoration of the Stroudwater Navigation and the Thames & Severn Canal in the face of severe weather conditions. Its annual flagship event, the Saul Canal Festival, had to be cancelled. British Waterways, one of the partner organisations leading the canal restoration projects, had its budgets severely cut by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, thereby adversely affecting the degree of its financial involvement with the Cotswold Canals. And despite getting into the final shortlist of nine, whittled down from several hundred applicants, its bid for Big Lottery funding for the next stage of canal restoration failed to clear the final hurdle.


Bruce Hall MBE, for more than two decades 'the indefatigable face of the Cotswold Canals Trust', retired from his position of chairman. That is not to say he will be lost to the organisation. Bruce intends to take on an advisory role to the chair of The Cotswold Canals Partnership, and will continue to be a pre-eminent public speaker on the subject.


The cancellation of the 2007 Saul Canal Festival was a bitter blow. (The 2008 Festival is to be held on July 4-6 - see www.junctionevents.org.uk for details as they unfold - including an event by the Dutch Barge Association.) Putting the Festival together costs the Trust around 100,000, which, as far as possible, they spend with local suppliers in order to help them and the local economy. The organisers aim to make an annual surplus of between 30,000 and 40,000, which is then handed over, previously to fund individual Cotswold Canals projects, but latterly towards the match-funding required for Lottery Fund bids.


In 2007, the River Frome burst its banks and put the entire site under water. Eight thousand copies of the 96-page programme had already been printed, the entire site's printed and directional material was made, and special forms and route maps were all produced. The headline folk group's 1,000-capacity pavilion gig was sold out. More than two hundred performers were about to arrive, over 250 boats had been spruced up to take part, in excess of 120 traders were set to pitch their stalls, and everyone with a bed to let in the area proclaimed their 'No vacancies' signs. With just four days to go, the decision was taken to cancel the event; postponement was not an option. It meant that over 27,000 had to be paid back.


Yet, even in this, there is something of a silver lining. By reimbursing them, an enormous amount of goodwill has been created between the organisers and the traders, which will stand in good stead for the future. Calamities of this nature invariably result in the organisations involved going bankrupt, with resulting financial difficulties for the traders who make their livelihoods by attending summer festivals. It has also highlighted the strength of feeling amongst the general public for the canals project: one-third of all those who had prepaid their entrance fee chose to gift-fund all or part of it towards the work of the Trust, rather than take the money back.


The Trust's Heritage Centre at Saul grew out of a long fight to provide a service station for boaters, enlarging the footprint into a visitor centre when it was clear that this was what passers-through wanted. Now it is packed with information, maps, and photographs of all that is taking place to restore the canals. In 2007, the Centre welcomed more than 13,000 people, including cyclists and walkers, as well as those who go especially to learn about the work of the Cotswold Canals Trust. Tea, coffee and ice cream is also available there.


In a previous piece on the canals of the Cotswolds ('Changing Channels' in Cotswold Life, October 2006), I set out a brief history of these waterways. Here, I will revisit that aspect only briefly, to put matters in context for new readers. The Cotswold Canals comprise the Stroudwater Navigation, opened 1779, and the Thames & Severn Canal, which opened a decade later. The Stroudwater came about in order to bring River Severn-area coal to the numerous mills along the Stroud Valley that had lately found it propitious to convert from water power to steam. The Thames & Severn was built to join the Stroudwater at its eastern end, thereby effectively linking the River Severn with the River Thames at Lechlade, which was more or less at its most navigable upper reaches. This connection was made at Brimscombe Port, which is now the object of a considerable restoration programme. The locks on the Thames & Severn were narrower than those on the Stroudwater; the latter facilitated the traditional Severn trow, which was about 68 feet long and 16 feet wide, whilst the Thames barges that came from the east were only 12 feet wide, although around 90 feet long. The basin at Brimscombe Port was the interconnection where goods were temporarily stored or transferred between these two types of vessels.


The eastern part of the Thames & Severn was abandoned in 1927, and the western section into Stroud followed suit in 1933. The Stroudwater Navigation continued until 1954, when the right of navigation was extinguished by an Act of Parliament. The Cotswold Canals Trust was formed in 1972 as the Stroudwater Canal Society. The last year has seen some crucial milestones achieved, and to appreciate them we must also understand the long-term plans of the Cotswold Canals Partnership.


This organisation was formed in 2001, following a restoration feasibility study by British Waterways, and came at a time when the Cotswold Canals Trust had some three decades of piecemeal achievements. Bruce Hall described its progress to that point thus: "It has been the result of nibbling away whenever there was a window of financial opportunity to restore or rebuild a particular bridge, rebuild whole locks or reconstruct parts of them, and redefine towpaths, etc." It never lacked initiative, a sense of purpose, or a clearly defined objective. What has since been introduced into the equation, particularly over the last year or so, has been funding - or the prospect of funding - on a hitherto unprecedented scale.


The Cotswold Canals Partnership is an umbrella, a catalyst and a driving force for restoration that volunteers had long been carrying out on a more piecemeal basis. It comprises British Waterways, Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation, Cotswold Canals Trust, Cotswold District Council, Cotswold Water Park, Environment Agency, Gloucestershire County Council, Gloucestershire Rural Community Council, Inland Waterways Association, North Wiltshire District Council, South West of England Regional Development Agency, South West Tourism, Stroud District Council, The Waterways Trust, and Wiltshire County Council.


The aim of the Cotswold Canals Trust has always been to achieve a navigable route from Saul Junction between the Stroudwater Canal and the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal in the west, to Lechlade at the end of the Thames & Severn Canal in the east, thereby connecting the River Severn with the River Thames. It is more than 70 years since the whole route was navigable and in use.


There is no question but that a re-opened waterway would service waterborne navigation of all kinds, facilitate a leisure industry that would give economic opportunities to land-based communities along its length, provide opportunities for private developments, and create desirable wildlife habitats through waterside management. It has been estimated that the needs of tourism on and around navigable Cotswold canals would alone create hundreds of new jobs. At the moment, it is creating numerous jobs for volunteers, and one of the innovations this year has been a sophisticated online volunteer management system, with illustrations of ongoing projects in which anyone with an interest and some time to spare can become involved. This site is at www.cct.teamconnect.org.uk.


Wherever work has been carried out that involves natural habitats or trees, particularly with regard to the needs of roosting bats, the Trust consults with all the relevant authorities and local residents. There have also been areas where work was held up by the nesting season, traditional pathways by wild animals, or by the need to protect or trans-locate active reptiles. Such situations have involved negotiations with Natural England (English Nature).


Nor is creating a navigable channel simply a question of going ahead without due deference to nature's chaos that has overtaken the canal beds and build fabric through several decades. Nature is not the only destructive force at work on the old structures. Asbestos, industrial waste, household waste, and shopping trolleys are just some of the potentially dangerous detritus that has been off-loaded into the canals, and they each, in their turn, have to be carefully dealt with.


As projects have gathered pace over the last year or so, despite the bad weather, so too has there been an apparent increase in the amount of public opinions sought, the quantity of environmental impact assessments made, and the number of consultations that have taken place regarding those that are potentially forthcoming. These have taken several forms, for example an environmental assessment of interest to Stroud District Council, and a rationale and demonstration of intent for emissaries of the Lottery.


In January 2007, the Partnership published a first Conservation Management Plan for Phase 1 of the proposed canals restoration, which became part of an overall submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund. This sets out what could become a code of practice for the restoration and conservation throughout this, and all later phases of regeneration.


The Partnership intends to facilitate all of its aims, and to promote a linear canal-side footpath as The Thames & Severn Way. A proposed walking trail beside the Thames & Severn, between Inglesham and Brimscombe, is part of this. The whole thirty-six-mile path begins at Framilode church on the Severn, and progresses to Halfpenny Bridge at Lechlade; thereafter are walks beside the River Thames.


The major restoration is being tackled in two phases. However, there are also sections of former waterway on the Cotswold Canals route that are not covered by these. If the ultimate aims are to be achieved, there is still much negotiation to be undertaken with private and corporate landowners, and this continues in parallel with moves to fund Phase 1A and Phase 1B, and obtain sufficient volunteers to carry out the work. Stretches of the land through which the Thames & Severn passes have different owners; some are local authorities, some are corporate, and some are independent landowners. As far as the Stroudwater is concerned, all these stretches of land - except for one mile, which is in the hands of three landowners - belong to the Company of the Proprietors of Stroudwater Navigation. They are part of the Cotswold Canals Partnership, and have long-leased the canal to British Waterways.


The Phase 1A redevelopment programme concerned the waterway between Stroud and Stonehouse, on the Stroudwater Navigation and that part of the Thames & Severn between Stroud and Brimscombe Port, a total of six miles. In 2006, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded 11.9m towards the cost of this. This formed part of a 22m pledge, of which 6m was earmarked to buy Port Mills Industrial Estate at Brimscombe.


The Trust will continue to support the Phase 1A work that has started, and will be running over the next couple of years. It is also keen to promote projects within the Phase 1B area in order to chip away at the remaining work until the funding is found to also complete that part of the project. An example is Pike Bridge, funded and rebuilt in 2005 at very short notice, and evidence of what can be achieved on an opportunistic basis. The Trust is also continuing to work at various sites along the canals in order to save and restore structures such as locks and bridges, and to improve the canal and towpath. All of this will pave the way for the ultimate restoration of the through route between the Thames and the Severn.


Phase 1B, also on the Stroudwater, involves the stretch between Stonehouse and Saul Junction. The work here was the object of the 15.9m application to the Big Lottery Fund, which failed in November 2007. Sufficient funding of Phase 1B will enable the Phase 1A funded length to be joined to the rest of the network at Saul Junction, and complete the western section of restoration on the Cotswold Canals. If sufficient funds can be obtained, the whole network could be in water and navigable by 2018. The failure to obtain money from the Big Lottery Fund is disappointing, but is not a disaster. The Trust says that: 'The restoration of the Cotswold Canals is a project that captures the imagination. It is a national priority and it will only be a matter of time before new funding opportunities arise. In the case of Phase 1B, a great deal of preparatory work has been carried out, and the information needed to support funding bids is readily to hand'.


Stroud District Council has a particular interest because the canal runs for about 15 miles through the Stroud district. It has identified some 30 historic structures that will be conserved, including locks and bridges; and there is the possibility that some 215,000 visitors will be attracted to the area annually once all the work has been done.


The Council's offices are in Ebley Mill, beside the Stroudwater Navigation, where the last year has seen the construction of a fine new brick bridge with stone keystones over the canal. SDC is committed to the overall restoration project, and has given financial support. The Council understands that a restored and navigable canal would be economically beneficial to the town and also to the regeneration of the Stroud valleys. It has described the project thus: 'The restoration of the Stroudwater Navigation and the Thames & Severn Canal will achieve a sustainable, attractive, diverse, high quality, accessible, thriving and environmentally healthy canal environment'.


High on the list of concerns has been the redevelopment of Brimscombe Port, originally a large basin where the Thames barges met the larger Severn trows. Now infilled and covered over, this is a commercial business site retaining just one of its historic buildings. The Stroud District Council, having consulted with residents and business stakeholders, produced a dedicated Area Action Plan for work anticipated at Brimscombe Port, Hope Mills Industrial Estate, the former canal ironworks, and the one-time boatyard now called Oak Villa. This, at some time next year, will form a submission to Government, and the relevant elements of it will be used in association with the Stroud Industrial Heritage Conservation Area Supplementary Planning Document.


So many other parts of the programme have advanced to some degree over the last year or so. Consent has been received to reconstruct Oils Mills Bridge at Ebley, and open 650 metres of canal between it and Ryeford Locks. This is a 1.3m project, and the bridge - a vehicle-carrying replacement for the former humpback bridge - is expected to be built by spring 2008. Oil Mills is a historic site, built in 1721 to make oil from rape and linseed, and later converted for fulling and corn milling. The buildings, which are still used, date from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


Just east of Latton, where the Thames & Severn passes through the Co-operative Wholesale Society-owned Down Ampney estate, work has taken place on and about the late 18th century Rucks Bridge and the nearby Eisey Lock, which are also on private land. The bridge, built of brick and stone in the late 1700s and refaced at the end of the 19th century, needs substantial repair, and the fabric of the lock has been punctured by trees and roots over the last eighty years or so.


The idea is to restore the Thames & Severn Canal from Inglesham, which is currently the furthest reaches navigable by Inglesham, the Cotswold Canal Trust's passenger boat that operates in season out of Lechlade, to the Cotswold Water Park near Cricklade. At Saul, the trip boat Perseverance gives seasonal tours of the area, and, this year, continued to do so throughout the weekend of the cancelled Saul Festival. Another place where the trust operates boat trips, by electric boat, is into the 2-mile-long Sapperton Tunnel on the same canal. The tunnel is used by hibernating bats, and these are now an added attraction for visitors.


The Partnership would also like to see the restoration of the Cotswold Canals to Swindon, via the old route of the formerly 9-mile-long North Wilts Canal that once linked with the Wilts & Berks Canal in the centre of the town. It ran through part of what later became the Great Western Railway Company's works at Swindon. This restoration project is part of the Cricklade Country Way programme, in which the Cotswold Canals Trust is a partner. It is a multi-faceted programme involving a preserved railway line, community forest, cycleways, footpaths and a country park. Work has begun at clearing the canal at Mouldon Hill, even though, in late 2007, the Cricklade Country Way programme failed in its bid to attract 25m under the Big Lottery Fund's Living Landmarks scheme.


The Cotswold Canals Trust initially became involved in the North Wilts Canal project at a time when its own interests might have been served by including requirements for restoring the eastern section of the Thames & Severn to Inglesham in the same bid. It has other interests in it, however, for there is still the possibility that the North Wilts Canal could join the Thames & Severn at a new junction to be built at Eisey. Meanwhile, the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is attempting to restore the Wilts & Berks Canal and, in particular bring it back through Swindon. Now there's a


It has been an extraordinary year for the Cotswold Canals Trust. Membership reached 5,300 for the first time. Its volunteers have continued to work on the restoration of the Stroudwater Navigation and the Thames & Severn Canal in the face of severe weather conditions. Its annual flagship event, the Saul Canal Festival, had to be cancelled. British Waterways, one of the partner organisations leading the canal restoration projects, had its budgets severely cut by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, thereby adversely affecting the degree of its financial involvement with the Cotswold Canals. And despite getting into the final shortlist of nine, whittled down from several hundred applicants, its bid for Big Lottery funding for the next stage of canal restoration failed to clear the final hurdle.


Bruce Hall MBE, for more than two decades 'the indefatigable face of the Cotswold Canals Trust', retired from his position of chairman. That is not to say he will be lost to the organisation. Bruce intends to take on an advisory role to the chair of The Cotswold Canals Partnership, and will continue to be a pre-eminent public speaker on the subject.


The cancellation of the 2007 Saul Canal Festival was a bitter blow. (The 2008 Festival is to be held on July 4-6 - see www.junctionevents.org.uk for details as they unfold - including an event by the Dutch Barge Association.) Putting the Festival together costs the Trust around 100,000, which, as far as possible, they spend with local suppliers in order to help them and the local economy. The organisers aim to make an annual surplus of between 30,000 and 40,000, which is then handed over, previously to fund individual Cotswold Canals projects, but latterly towards the match-funding required for Lottery Fund bids.


In 2007, the River Frome burst its banks and put the entire site under water. Eight thousand copies of the 96-page programme had already been printed, the entire site's printed and directional material was made, and special forms and route maps were all produced. The headline folk group's 1,000-capacity pavilion gig was sold out. More than two hundred performers were about to arrive, over 250 boats had been spruced up to take part, in excess of 120 traders were set to pitch their stalls, and everyone with a bed to let in the area proclaimed their 'No vacancies' signs. With just four days to go, the decision was taken to cancel the event; postponement was not an option. It meant that over 27,000 had to be paid back.


Yet, even in this, there is something of a silver lining. By reimbursing them, an enormous amount of goodwill has been created between the organisers and the traders, which will stand in good stead for the future. Calamities of this nature invariably result in the organisations involved going bankrupt, with resulting financial difficulties for the traders who make their livelihoods by attending summer festivals. It has also highlighted the strength of feeling amongst the general public for the canals project: one-third of all those who had prepaid their entrance fee chose to gift-fund all or part of it towards the work of the Trust, rather than take the money back.


The Trust's Heritage Centre at Saul grew out of a long fight to provide a service station for boaters, enlarging the footprint into a visitor centre when it was clear that this was what passers-through wanted. Now it is packed with information, maps, and photographs of all that is taking place to restore the canals. In 2007, the Centre welcomed more than 13,000 people, including cyclists and walkers, as well as those who go especially to learn about the work of the Cotswold Canals Trust. Tea, coffee and ice cream is also available there.


In a previous piece on the canals of the Cotswolds ('Changing Channels' in Cotswold Life, October 2006), I set out a brief history of these waterways. Here, I will revisit that aspect only briefly, to put matters in context for new readers. The Cotswold Canals comprise the Stroudwater Navigation, opened 1779, and the Thames & Severn Canal, which opened a decade later. The Stroudwater came about in order to bring River Severn-area coal to the numerous mills along the Stroud Valley that had lately found it propitious to convert from water power to steam. The Thames & Severn was built to join the Stroudwater at its eastern end, thereby effectively linking the River Severn with the River Thames at Lechlade, which was more or less at its most navigable upper reaches. This connection was made at Brimscombe Port, which is now the object of a considerable restoration programme. The locks on the Thames & Severn were narrower than those on the Stroudwater; the latter facilitated the traditional Severn trow, which was about 68 feet long and 16 feet wide, whilst the Thames barges that came from the east were only 12 feet wide, although around 90 feet long. The basin at Brimscombe Port was the interconnection where goods were temporarily stored or transferred between these two types of vessels.


The eastern part of the Thames & Severn was abandoned in 1927, and the western section into Stroud followed suit in 1933. The Stroudwater Navigation continued until 1954, when the right of navigation was extinguished by an Act of Parliament. The Cotswold Canals Trust was formed in 1972 as the Stroudwater Canal Society. The last year has seen some crucial milestones achieved, and to appreciate them we must also understand the long-term plans of the Cotswold Canals Partnership.


This organisation was formed in 2001, following a restoration feasibility study by British Waterways, and came at a time when the Cotswold Canals Trust had some three decades of piecemeal achievements. Bruce Hall described its progress to that point thus: "It has been the result of nibbling away whenever there was a window of financial opportunity to restore or rebuild a particular bridge, rebuild whole locks or reconstruct parts of them, and redefine towpaths, etc." It never lacked initiative, a sense of purpose, or a clearly defined objective. What has since been introduced into the equation, particularly over the last year or so, has been funding - or the prospect of funding - on a hitherto unprecedented scale.


The Cotswold Canals Partnership is an umbrella, a catalyst and a driving force for restoration that volunteers had long been carrying out on a more piecemeal basis. It comprises British Waterways, Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation, Cotswold Canals Trust, Cotswold District Council, Cotswold Water Park, Environment Agency, Gloucestershire County Council, Gloucestershire Rural Community Council, Inland Waterways Association, North Wiltshire District Council, South West of England Regional Development Agency, South West Tourism, Stroud District Council, The Waterways Trust, and Wiltshire County Council.


The aim of the Cotswold Canals Trust has always been to achieve a navigable route from Saul Junction between the Stroudwater Canal and the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal in the west, to Lechlade at the end of the Thames & Severn Canal in the east, thereby connecting the River Severn with the River Thames. It is more than 70 years since the whole route was navigable and in use.


There is no question but that a re-opened waterway would service waterborne navigation of all kinds, facilitate a leisure industry that would give economic opportunities to land-based communities along its length, provide opportunities for private developments, and create desirable wildlife habitats through waterside management. It has been estimated that the needs of tourism on and around navigable Cotswold canals would alone create hundreds of new jobs. At the moment, it is creating numerous jobs for volunteers, and one of the innovations this year has been a sophisticated online volunteer management system, with illustrations of ongoing projects in which anyone with an interest and some time to spare can become involved. This site is at www.cct.teamconnect.org.uk.


Wherever work has been carried out that involves natural habitats or trees, particularly with regard to the needs of roosting bats, the Trust consults with all the relevant authorities and local residents. There have also been areas where work was held up by the nesting season, traditional pathways by wild animals, or by the need to protect or trans-locate active reptiles. Such situations have involved negotiations with Natural England (English Nature).


Nor is creating a navigable channel simply a question of going ahead without due deference to nature's chaos that has overtaken the canal beds and build fabric through several decades. Nature is not the only destructive force at work on the old structures. Asbestos, industrial waste, household waste, and shopping trolleys are just some of the potentially dangerous detritus that has been off-loaded into the canals, and they each, in their turn, have to be carefully dealt with.


As projects have gathered pace over the last year or so, despite the bad weather, so too has there been an apparent increase in the amount of public opinions sought, the quantity of environmental impact assessments made, and the number of consultations that have taken place regarding those that are potentially forthcoming. These have taken several forms, for example an environmental assessment of interest to Stroud District Council, and a rationale and demonstration of intent for emissaries of the Lottery.


In January 2007, the Partnership published a first Conservation Management Plan for Phase 1 of the proposed canals restoration, which became part of an overall submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund. This sets out what could become a code of practice for the restoration and conservation throughout this, and all later phases of regeneration.


The Partnership intends to facilitate all of its aims, and to promote a linear canal-side footpath as The Thames & Severn Way. A proposed walking trail beside the Thames & Severn, between Inglesham and Brimscombe, is part of this. The whole thirty-six-mile path begins at Framilode church on the Severn, and progresses to Halfpenny Bridge at Lechlade; thereafter are walks beside the River Thames.


The major restoration is being tackled in two phases. However, there are also sections of former waterway on the Cotswold Canals route that are not covered by these. If the ultimate aims are to be achieved, there is still much negotiation to be undertaken with private and corporate landowners, and this continues in parallel with moves to fund Phase 1A and Phase 1B, and obtain sufficient volunteers to carry out the work. Stretches of the land through which the Thames & Severn passes have different owners; some are local authorities, some are corporate, and some are independent landowners. As far as the Stroudwater is concerned, all these stretches of land - except for one mile, which is in the hands of three landowners - belong to the Company of the Proprietors of Stroudwater Navigation. They are part of the Cotswold Canals Partnership, and have long-leased the canal to British Waterways.


The Phase 1A redevelopment programme concerned the waterway between Stroud and Stonehouse, on the Stroudwater Navigation and that part of the Thames & Severn between Stroud and Brimscombe Port, a total of six miles. In 2006, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded 11.9m towards the cost of this. This formed part of a 22m pledge, of which 6m was earmarked to buy Port Mills Industrial Estate at Brimscombe.


The Trust will continue to support the Phase 1A work that has started, and will be running over the next couple of years. It is also keen to promote projects within the Phase 1B area in order to chip away at the remaining work until the funding is found to also complete that part of the project. An example is Pike Bridge, funded and rebuilt in 2005 at very short notice, and evidence of what can be achieved on an opportunistic basis. The Trust is also continuing to work at various sites along the canals in order to save and restore structures such as locks and bridges, and to improve the canal and towpath. All of this will pave the way for the ultimate restoration of the through route between the Thames and the Severn.


Phase 1B, also on the Stroudwater, involves the stretch between Stonehouse and Saul Junction. The work here was the object of the 15.9m application to the Big Lottery Fund, which failed in November 2007. Sufficient funding of Phase 1B will enable the Phase 1A funded length to be joined to the rest of the network at Saul Junction, and complete the western section of restoration on the Cotswold Canals. If sufficient funds can be obtained, the whole network could be in water and navigable by 2018. The failure to obtain money from the Big Lottery Fund is disappointing, but is not a disaster. The Trust says that: 'The restoration of the Cotswold Canals is a project that captures the imagination. It is a national priority and it will only be a matter of time before new funding opportunities arise. In the case of Phase 1B, a great deal of preparatory work has been carried out, and the information needed to support funding bids is readily to hand'.


Stroud District Council has a particular interest because the canal runs for about 15 miles through the Stroud district. It has identified some 30 historic structures that will be conserved, including locks and bridges; and there is the possibility that some 215,000 visitors will be attracted to the area annually once all the work has been done.


The Council's offices are in Ebley Mill, beside the Stroudwater Navigation, where the last year has seen the construction of a fine new brick bridge with stone keystones over the canal. SDC is committed to the overall restoration project, and has given financial support. The Council understands that a restored and navigable canal would be economically beneficial to the town and also to the regeneration of the Stroud valleys. It has described the project thus: 'The restoration of the Stroudwater Navigation and the Thames & Severn Canal will achieve a sustainable, attractive, diverse, high quality, accessible, thriving and environmentally healthy canal environment'.


High on the list of concerns has been the redevelopment of Brimscombe Port, originally a large basin where the Thames barges met the larger Severn trows. Now infilled and covered over, this is a commercial business site retaining just one of its historic buildings. The Stroud District Council, having consulted with residents and business stakeholders, produced a dedicated Area Action Plan for work anticipated at Brimscombe Port, Hope Mills Industrial Estate, the former canal ironworks, and the one-time boatyard now called Oak Villa. This, at some time next year, will form a submission to Government, and the relevant elements of it will be used in association with the Stroud Industrial Heritage Conservation Area Supplementary Planning Document.


So many other parts of the programme have advanced to some degree over the last year or so. Consent has been received to reconstruct Oils Mills Bridge at Ebley, and open 650 metres of canal between it and Ryeford Locks. This is a 1.3m project, and the bridge - a vehicle-carrying replacement for the former humpback bridge - is expected to be built by spring 2008. Oil Mills is a historic site, built in 1721 to make oil from rape and linseed, and later converted for fulling and corn milling. The buildings, which are still used, date from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


Just east of Latton, where the Thames & Severn passes through the Co-operative Wholesale Society-owned Down Ampney estate, work has taken place on and about the late 18th century Rucks Bridge and the nearby Eisey Lock, which are also on private land. The bridge, built of brick and stone in the late 1700s and refaced at the end of the 19th century, needs substantial repair, and the fabric of the lock has been punctured by trees and roots over the last eighty years or so.


The idea is to restore the Thames & Severn Canal from Inglesham, which is currently the furthest reaches navigable by Inglesham, the Cotswold Canal Trust's passenger boat that operates in season out of Lechlade, to the Cotswold Water Park near Cricklade. At Saul, the trip boat Perseverance gives seasonal tours of the area, and, this year, continued to do so throughout the weekend of the cancelled Saul Festival. Another place where the trust operates boat trips, by electric boat, is into the 2-mile-long Sapperton Tunnel on the same canal. The tunnel is used by hibernating bats, and these are now an added attraction for visitors.


The Partnership would also like to see the restoration of the Cotswold Canals to Swindon, via the old route of the formerly 9-mile-long North Wilts Canal that once linked with the Wilts & Berks Canal in the centre of the town. It ran through part of what later became the Great Western Railway Company's works at Swindon. This restoration project is part of the Cricklade Country Way programme, in which the Cotswold Canals Trust is a partner. It is a multi-faceted programme involving a preserved railway line, community forest, cycleways, footpaths and a country park. Work has begun at clearing the canal at Mouldon Hill, even though, in late 2007, the Cricklade Country Way programme failed in its bid to attract 25m under the Big Lottery Fund's Living Landmarks scheme.


The Cotswold Canals Trust initially became involved in the North Wilts Canal project at a time when its own interests might have been served by including requirements for restoring the eastern section of the Thames & Severn to Inglesham in the same bid. It has other interests in it, however, for there is still the possibility that the North Wilts Canal could join the Thames & Severn at a new junction to be built at Eisey. Meanwhile, the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is attempting to restore the Wilts & Berks Canal and, in particular bring it back through Swindon. Now there's another story.

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Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

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Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

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