Volunteers will join heritage experts to excavate an area of a new community nature reserve to discover more about the Chard Canal, known as the Chard Arm, a lost waterway that joined the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal at Creech St Michael.
Led by the Trust, the dig will aim to pinpoint the location of the lock at the junction of the two canals, which will give a valuable insight into the history of the site.
Despite boasting one lock, four aqueducts, three tunnels and four inclined planes, the Chard Arm was never commercially viable, and shut in 1869 after just 26 years. Some of its structures remain, and have been put to various uses: the lock keeper’s cottage at Creech St Michael, for example, was turned into a World War Two pillbox, and is now being transformed into a bat roost. However the lock at the junction of the two canals has disappeared and there are few records of what the site would have looked like when the canal was operational.
David Viner, our heritage advisor, said: “The Chard Arm is a bit of a mystery. Compared to other canals in the country it had a very short operational life, but it was one of the last canals to be built and one of the most technologically advanced. It’s still a fascinating industrial achievement and key to understanding the history of the area. It’s a shame we don’t have more information about it.
“We’re hoping that by finding out exactly where the lock was in relation to the cottage and the existing canal, we can sketch out what the area would have looked like 150 years ago. We’d also love for anyone with any local connection to the waterway to get in touch.”