Why is the pumping system at Crofton important?
Crofton Top Lock is the highest lock at the head of the eastern descent of the Kennet & Avon Canal. From there, 52 locks spread across 35 miles, take the canal down to the River Thames at Reading. The pumping system at Crofton keeps the canal summit topped up with water, which is vital for boaters and wildlife, as well as the thousands of people who visit the canal towpath each year for the health and wellbeing.
Where is the water pumped from?
The pumping system at Crofton transfers water from the canal's reservoir at Wilton Water, moving it 13 metres up to the canal feeder channel (known locally as ‘The Leat'). The feeder channel puts water into the canal above Crofton Top Lock, at the eastern end of the three-mile summit pound.
How is Wilton Water supplied with water?
Wilton Water is fed mainly by a natural spring. The reservoir was created in 1836 by damming the valley opposite the Pumping Station.
Can the water come from anywhere else?
Yes, the Canal & River Trust has a seven pumping stations along the western section of the Kennet & Avon Canal, including one three miles away at the Caen Hill Flight. These pumps transfer water up 237ft over a distance of two miles, so pumping water from there takes much more energy.
Why does the pumping system at Crofton need upgrading?
After 40 years of service, the 1980's electric pumping system has become unreliable and less efficient. With the Kennet & Avon Canal more popular with people and boats than at any time in history, the new pumping system will increase resilience and efficiency, as well as the amount of water that can be pumped into the canal. It will also be monitored remotely by the Trust's SCADA system.
What is being done?
The project is replacing 40-year-old pumps, pipes and electrics with a modern, more efficient and reliable system.
Will the navigation be closed?
Yes, to enable the works to be carried out, a six-mile stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal, from Lock 52 (Heathy Close Lock) to Lock 65 (Burnt Mill Lock), will close to boats from 7 November 2022 until 3 April 2023.
The navigation will re-open on 3 April, but the towpath will remain closed between Lock 58 and Lock until July 2023. Localised access for boaters will be available for Locks 58 to 60 once the navigation is reopened, but the towpath will remain shut from Lock 60 to 61 and around the edge of Wilton Water.
Will the towpath be closed?
Yes, the towpath will be closed between Lock 58 and Lock 61 on the Crofton flight from 7 November 2022 until July 2023. Towpath diversion signs will be in place.
Will the works impact on the local environment in any way?
Canal & River Trust ecologists and heritage advisers are involved in the design of the works to ensure the works are sensitive to local wildlife and heritage structures. A water vole survey has been carried out and a fish rescue is planned as part of the work to drain the canal. As part of the works, the historic water control gates (penstocks) at Wilton Water will be restored as a heritage structure, and the historic culvert beneath the canal will remain in place.
How much are the works costing?
The whole project will cost £1.8 million. The work this winter is the second phase of the project. Phase one was completed in March 2020. During that phase we laid new pipes connecting to the existing historic pipeline beneath the canal, and installed new pipework under the railway and up to the canal feeder channel.
What is being done at Crofton this winter?
The following works are being carried out at Crofton Pumping Station this winter:
- a temporary works access track has been built to allow access to the canal;
- a temporary dam is being built within Wilton Water;
- a new inlet structure will be installed within Wilton Water to carry water from the reservoir and into the new pumps and pipeline;
- a new pipeline will be built beneath the canal, carrying water from the reservoir and connecting to the pipeline that were replaced in phase one of the works. This pipeline takes the water 13 metres up to the canal feeder channel, which starts at the historic Crofton Pumping Station. The historic culvert beneath the canal will remain in place;
- two new pumps will be installed at the edge of the towpath below Lock 60 to pump water from the reservoir, through the pipework and into the canal feeder channel;
- new electrical cables will be installed and the power supply to the new pumps will be upgraded;
- new pump controls will be integrated within the Trust's national Scada system, to allow automatic operation and remote diagnostic checks, optimising running times and water flows into the canal;
- the historic penstocks (water control gates) at Wilton Water will be restored as a heritage structure; and
- the brickwork surrounding the penstocks within Wilton Water will be repaired.
When was the electric pumping system first installed at Crofton?
The pump at Crofton has been powered by electricity since the 1980's, but the pumps in the original pumping station at Crofton were steam powered. These pumps are still there and continue to be regularly demonstrated to the public by volunteers at open days.
When was the historic Pumping Station at Crofton first built?
Soon after the canal first opened, the historic Crofton Pumping Station was built in 1807-9 to supply water to the highest point of the Kennet & Avon Canal. The steam powered pumps continued to operate until 1959. In the 1980's, when the canal was restored, a new electric pumping system was installed at Crofton to take over the day-to-day pumping from the steam pumps.
Do the historic steam pumps at Crofton still work?
Yes. The steam pumps housed in the historic Pumping Station building are owned by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, and continue to be regularly demonstrated to the public by volunteers at open days. There's information about Crofton Beam Engine steam events at www.croftonbeamengines.org
Are there any other maintenance works taking place on this section of the canal this winter?
Yes, as well as upgrading the pumping system at Crofton, as part of the Canal & River Trust's winter maintenance programme, the following works are planned along the closed section of waterway:
- Lock 52 (Heathy Lock) the bottom lock gate will be replaced and repairs made to the offside top anchor point, waterway wall at the lock landing and quoin offside;
- Lock 55 (Crofton Top Lock) the top lock gate will be refitted to reduce leakage;
- Lock 57 (Crofton) the top gates will be repaired;
- Lock 60 (Crofton flight) the bottom gate quoin masonry will be repaired;
- Lock 61 (Crossing Lock) the top and bottom gates will be replaced, and masonry repairs will be undertaken in the lock chamber;
- Lock 64 (Church Lock) the top and bottom gates will be relined; and
- Lock 65 (Burnt Mill Lock) the bottom gates will be refitted.
What are the navigation restrictions at Crofton from 3 April to 30 June 2023?
The towpath will remain closed on the Crofton Lock Flight, between lock 60 and lock 61. Boaters will be able to access the towpath side upstream of lock 61 as normal. However, access on/off boats will only be possible downstream of lock 60 via a floating pontoon. No Mooring will be allowed from Crofton Lock 58/Bridge 101 to Crofton Lock 61/Bridge 100.
There will be restricted opening times on the lock flight from Wootton Rivers Lock 51/Bridge 108 to Crofton Lock 61/Bridge 100. Opening hours will be 9.30am to 3.30pm each day to preserve water supplies. A temporary bridge will be in place at Lock 60 to enable boaters to operate the lock. There will be no bin or water point facilities at Lock 60.