Projects where you can help restore the Wilts & Berks Canal
Access to Work Sites:
The aim of the Trust is to allow public access to the restored canal. At present much of the canal is still privately owned and although the Trust will have an agreement to work on the sites shown here, if you are visiting one of these sites you must use a route that has a public right of way.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust does not encourage or condone trespass onto privately owned land.
Listed below are the sites where you will be able to volunteer to help with the re-construction.
Further information about all the Trust Work Parties and other restoration projects can be obtained from Work Parties Director Rachael Banyard (Tel. 01249 892289) or the Trust Office (Tel 0845 226 8567)
The area to the south of Swindon is currently being constructed as a community called Wichelstowe. Bordered by the M4 to the south, Croft Road to the east, and the railway main line to the west, much of the infrastructure is now being built including the canal. Many of the houses in the eastern village called East Wichel have also been completed but overall progress has been slowed by the recent recession.
During 2010 the first new lock on the new main line of the canal was built. The length of canal from this lock eastwards for about 800m has also been completed. The next section eastwards from the new Blackhorse Way bridge to Croft Road crossing will include another new lock.
The original canal line from Kingshill south to the new Waitrose Store was restored some years ago. The old line will be restored for another 300m south to join the new line. From here the route to Royal Wootton Bassett follows a new alignment towards junction 16 before turning south to a new proposed culvert under the M4.
The next step is to link the new length at East Wichel to the old line at Waitrose. Progress on this section is dependent upon agreement with the council and their appointed developers. We expect to see progress later in 2015.
When Wichelstowe is completed over 4km of canal will be restored or newly constructed. This is part of the bypass to the south of Swindon to ensure that we can link Melksham to Abingdon with this canal.
We have several projects in the early stages of development along the lines defined by the Swindon Local Plan 2026, which gives a strong measure of support and protection to the future of the canal. We would love to have the whole route fully designed but are restrained by the resources available. Sometimes we have to start work to respond to other developments. Projects at an early stage of development include the following.
The planned Eastern Villages scheme for new housing together with the proposed access road will affect much of the canal route from the crossing under the A419 near junction 15 to Acorn Bridge on the A420. This is a complex area with considerable drainage and flooding problems for the existing and new developments. Outline schemes are being drawn up for discussion with other involved parties.
Moredon & Cheney Manor
This section of the North Wilts line south of the Purton Road crossing at Mouldon Hill will be affected by the proposed Thamesdown Drive Extension and redevelopment of the Cheney Manor industrial area. We are in the very early stage of looking at our options for this section.
The short length of canal including one lock immediately east of Blackhorse Way bridge (this is the new distributor road parallel to the motorway through Wichelstowe) is a section which is not expected to be affected by any further development at Wichelstowe and so is open to us to prepare for its construction.
To the east of Station Road Arch Bridge, adjacent to the canal, is an electricity sub-station. When it was built, the ground level was raised such that the towpath alongside was narrowed and displaced into the canal channel. Additionally, there is a very steep and often muddy climb from this towpath up to the level of the road (the towpath did not pass under this bridge as here it changed from the south side of the canal to the north). For some time, the Branch had considered how it could improve this section of towpath and so enable the canal to be dredged to full width.
In early 2013 SSE dastically reduced the hedge that bordered their compound, so the Branch decided that it would take this opportunity to move the towpath up to the level of the sub-station fence. This required the removal of the remaining hedge stumps and raising the ground level adjacent to Station Road and alongside the sub-station with many tons of subsoil. Our small mid-week work-party laboured long and hard, in summer heat and autumn rains, for with restricted space and a steep bank, most of this work had to be done manually.
It is still work-in-progress, the original path cannot be closed until the edge of the new path is complete and the surface levelled. So offers of help (usually on Wednesdays) would be most welcome. See work-parties for contact information.
The Trust is one of the partners in the Cricklade Country Way project. There is more information on the project web site- click here for more information.
The Cricklade Country Way is a unique exciting scheme that has been planned over a number of years. It was the subject of a major Lottery bid in 2007/08 but unfortunately failed to make the final cut. The Mouldon Hill Country Park is effectively phase 1 of the scheme, which is still a long term project.
The project will create a green recreational and wildlife corridor linking urban Swindon to Cricklade and the Cotswold Water Park.
The Cricklade Country Way will start at Mouldon Hill on the northern edge of Swindon and when it is complete, as well as enjoying the Country Park, visitors will be able to travel between Swindon, Cricklade and the Cotswold Water Park by cycle and footway, by canal and by the heritage railway. The canal provides the essential link between Swindon and the Thames and Severn Canals and thus the River Thames.
Although this lies close to the village of West Challow it is important to point out that the canal at this point lies within the parish of Childrey. Bridleway No 7 goes between the two villages and is well used by walkers, horse riders and cyclists. The path crossed the canal by way of a bridge but until recently we were not entirely certain as to what type of bridge was there originally. Brickwork is visible indicating a structure 16'6" square and having done limited investigative work appears to be in reasonable order. At the Uffington Show we were approached by someone who lived in West Challow as a child and walked to school in Childrey every day. He remembered that it was a flat plank bridge ( which in turn had replaced the original lift bridge) until being demolished in 1948. Incidentally at that time the next lift bridge to the west only a few hundred yards away was still in situ.
Several years ago we had the opportunity to purchase a ready-built 40' long and 10'wide bridleway bridge previously used for that purpose in Wiltshire. It is currently in storage a few miles away. The plan is to move it to adjacent to the bridleway and then once further design work has been completed on restoring a flat bridge for the bridleway apply for all the necessary permissions, and then divert the bridleway temporarily whilst the new bridge is built. Obviously until permissions were in place the temporary bridge would not be open to the public, but we would invite locals users ( especially the horse owners) to inspect it in situ.
Once the new bridge is complete then the diversion will end and the temporary bridge will be used elsewhere on the canal. We should then be able to connect properly the two isolated stretches of canal and re-connect the towpath.
Planning Permission has been granted for the erection of the temporary bridge and we now await availability for the moving of the bridge into place. Meanwhile work continues on the design of the new bridleway bridge to replace the infill and I hope to report further in the Spring on progress.
In August 2012 the temporary bridge was finally craned into position. Since then the team have spent their time replacing the timber decking and the timber railings, prior to work on the field corners either side to enable the diversion of the bridleway. We have engineering drawings for the proposed new bridge which will be used in the planning application.
The public footpath along from East Challow finishes at Silver Lane West Challow resuming a westerly route from near the village hall to cross the fields back to the canal near Childrey Wharf. However by courtesy of the landowners and with a grant from N-Power we have been able to create a permissive path from Silver Lane (i.e. the site of the canal bridge) along the tow path to the Childrey/West Challow Bridleway Bridge. (See separate article re the planned restoration of this bridge). Replacement fencing has been installed along the north side including behind the village cemetary. I am delighted to announce that the seat has now put into place overlooking the canal behind the cemetary.
In due course we will dredge through from Silver Lane to create a longer stretch of water, however, this will take time as in order to protect the wildlife it will have to be done gradually. We will also need to lower the siphon carrying the Childrey Brook under the canal (obviously with the necessary permissions) and without affecting adversely the water flow.
Interestingly enough Childrey Brook and the village road past the Church would appear to form the parish boundary and therefore despite is being nearer West Challow most of the canal is actually within Childrey Parish.
As a permissive rather than public footpath we will be closing it for at least one day a year to preserve the owners rights.