Restoring 70 miles of canal and towpath for the benefit of local communities, wildlife and leisure
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A stretch of canal in Swindon was at risk of completely emptying - but quick action from WBCT Swindon Work Party and Swindon Borough Council averted potential crisis. 

thumb IMG 20240209 WA0002The Wilts and Berks Canal Trust has shared the moment with the public, that a sinkhole was discovered that had been caused by damage to an aqueduct over the River Ray that makes up part of the canal in the Wichelstowe area.

Emergency measures were taken and Swindon Borough Council is said to have acted quickly to resolve the issue, putting up what is known as a coffer dam to allow them to investigate the issue further. 

A spokesperson for the trust said: "People walking along the Old Town Railway Path where it crosses the canal must be wondering what's going on looking towards Waitrose.

"This stretch of the canal is actually an aqueduct over the River Ray - hard to see when you're on it. What's happened is that a sinkhole has appeared on the bank above the aqueduct.

"This was discovered several days ago by our Work Party on a routine inspection. It appears that there may be some damage to the aqueduct structure which could eventually affect the canal with a risk of completely emptying it."

thumb IMG 20240209 WA0000The council owns the canal, aqueduct and adjacent land and put up the damn which is made up of a scaffolding framework and a large roll of plastic that will be put up against the poles and seal off the water like a flood barrier. 

Emergency ecological permission was obtained and a couple of water voles were moved to safety

The Wilts and Berks Canal team has assisted the council throughout this process, which has a budget and procedures, for emergencies such as these.

Chloe Ford, Swindon branch chair, of the canal trust said: "We are working directly with Swindon Borough Council and the adjacent land owner to assess the situation.

The aqueduct will likely need repairs, but we will know more upon investigation work.

thumb IMG 20240209 WA0001"Looking after structures and the canal itself is crucial to ourselves and the community. If the community would like to pledge their support, they can join at www.WBCT.org.uk."

People have been advised to take caution if walking in the area as a patch of land near to the issue appears to have developed a large hole, which has been covered in bright orange tape. 

The Wilts and Berks Canal Trust is on a mission to restore 70 miles of canal and towpath for the benefit of local communities, wildlife and leisure. 

Words by Daniel Wood - Swindon Advertiser Reporter

All photos by Chris Barry - WBCT Swindon Branch Vice Chair

 

 

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