A lock paddle left open on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Devizes has caused hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage to the historic waterway, after the weight of water released caused an embankment to collapse.
The damage was caused after the paddles of Kennet Lock – at the peak of the famous Caen Hill flight – were left open overnight, allowing water from the 15 mile pound between Devizes and Wooton Rivers to overwhelm the iconic locks, washing away a significant part of the towpath outside the town.
Staff from the Canal & River Trust – the charity that looks after the canal – were onsite this morning [Monday 26 October] to assess the damage, and initial estimates suggest the repair bill could run into six figures.
Mark Evans, waterway manager at the Canal & River Trust, said: “We don’t know if this was carelessness or deliberate vandalism, but either way we’re going to be left with a huge repair bill to contend with. As we’re a charity we’ve got finite resources, and this means we can do less of what we need to do on the rest of the canal.
"It really couldn’t have happened in a worse spot – the pound above Kennet Lock is the longest on the whole canal, so we’re talking about a lot of water rushing down the Caen Hill flight, which has caused the damage.
“The Kennet & Avon Canal is over 200 years old, and needs constant maintenance to keep it going, so to have such significant damage to deal with on top of that is very disheartening.
"At the end of the day, it’s our heritage, and is enjoyed more than ever by the communities around it, but if we don’t take care of it, we’ll lose it. Please, please don’t let this kind of mindlessness cost us such a valuable part of the landscape.”
If anyone has any information on this incident, please contact the Canal & River Trust on 0303 0404040.