Key work to go ahead on canal locks
A flight of locks on a canal that has not been navigable for 100 years are to be restored – as a major step to getting boats cruising through again.
The Pewsham Locks raised the Wilts & Berks canal almost 30 feet from the Avon Vale just south of Chippenham up to the town itself, but fell into disrepair and have not seen boats, barges or water since the days of GeorgeV. Now, with an ambitious £50 million plan to restore the entire canal through Melksham, Chippenham and Swindon being worked on, the key locks at Pewsham are next to be restored.
A planning application has been submitted by volunteers from the canal’s trust, and along with the locks themselves, the plan includes a new visitors’ centre and outdoor classroom to be built alongside a dry dock and other historical structures.
Already, the canal’s volunteers are busy working on a grand plan to build an entirely new section of canal to link the Kennet and Avon canal near Trowbridge with the River Avon at Melksham – the canal will have to use a newly-navigable river through the town because the route has been built on in the 100 years since it fell into disrepair.
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Further north, much of the canal around Lacock has been restored, and canal bosses hope creating a visitors’ centre at Chippenham will provide further impetus to the overall restoration.
The Pewsham restoration would include a two-storey building on the site of the old lock-keepers’ cottage, featuring a café and visitors’ centre on the ground floor and a potential holiday let on the floor above. The dry dock would be rebuilt as well.
“The charity has been working on this exciting scheme for around 18 months with much of the design provided free of charge by our own volunteers, and the Inland Waterways Association providing £1,690 towards the planning fees,” said Colin Fletcher, the chairman of the local branch of the canal trust.
“The Pewsham stretch already attracts lots of people of all ages, but we believe there is so much more potential.
“A visitor centre and outdoor classroom would be a big boost to tourism and raise awareness of an important part of our local heritage.
“We hope the local community will show their support by emailing the council to push for approval.”