Restoring the past for future boating
When you boat mostly in a hilly stretch of canal with lots of broad locks you occasionally wish for a bit of level water. So rather selfishly, my favourite canal restoration project is one that may one day extend some lock free cruising in the Chiltern Hills by another 5 ¼ miles.
The first Sunday of September was the Wendover Arm Trust’s Restoration Open Day amongst many other enticing canal events within easy travelling reach. Off to Drayton Beauchamp’s St. Mary’s church we went, along with a great many others.
Our timing was perfect to join one of the guided walks from St. Mary’s to the current work site between Bridge 4a and the Whitehouses pumping station. Along the route we admired the huge amount of work that has already been completed by the Wendover Arm Trust (WAT) in relining and re-watering from the village of Drayton Beauchamp towards the bridge. It’s beginning to look like a canal again and what glorious, rural narrow boating it will be once it’s complete. The views towards the reservoirs are fabulous.
Back at the Church there were some very welcome refreshments and more information about the canal, the project to restore it and how people can support the project from volunteering to donating money. Across the country there are thousands of mile of derelict canals and many local restoration groups bringing these spaces back to life.
Together with WAT, we have been offered £74.6k from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards extending the project for a further 1 ¼ miles of the Arm, making a total of 3 miles of navigable water. A detailed bid will then be submitted next autumn which, if successful, will see a grant of £1.6m to actually carry out the work. WAT has pledged £11.6k towards development costs and £300k towards the work. As well as the physical restoration work, the project will improve towpath access, update interpretation panels, enhance the waterway habitat and work with local schools and volunteers. It will also investigate what would be required to raise the shallow water for the remaining 3 ¾ miles into Wendover to full depth.
I know some boaters worry about the potential impact of restoration on the existing network and that maintenance is an issue on what we’ve got already. But if you really care about your canals, past, present and future, I think you should do something positive by either supporting the Trust as a Friend or volunteer or by supporting one of many wonderful restoration groups around the country.
The view from Bridge 4 on the Wendover Arm towards Little Tring. This is the next target for restoration to connect up with the main line of the Grand Union Canal and some lock free boating.
Find out what the Canal & River Trust's boating team have been up to.See more blogs from this author