Restoration projects in the East Vale
Our first restoration project was the Elms Farm Pound of some 400 yards between Grove Top Lock and Lime Kiln Lock This forms a vital green corridor between Grove and Wantage and is a well-used footpath and amenity area. Some 20 plus years after our original work here we have renewed the lease and plan to make repairs to the dam at the entrance to Lime Kiln Lock and de-silt the canal bed.
The level of Mably Road to the west of Grove Top Lock necessitates a new route for the canal around the Denchworth Road/Mably Way Roundabouts. The site of the required bridge is protected in the outline planning for the Grove Airfield development.
With the rerouting of the restored canal, the historic Grove Top Lock will no longer be requred. This has presented an opportunity to preserve the outline of the lock and install a replica narrow boat. This is an exciting prospect and design has commenced.
To the west of Denchworth Road lie the various new housing developments. The historic canal route is protected, and a pre-planning application has been submitted for the new route planned to run around the north of Mably Way Roundabout and through the green space to connect with the historic route. The route was part of the Arup Engineering Study commissioned by the Canal Trust and part funded by the S106 funding from the adjacent housing development to the north. The design of the housing estate now incorporating Badger Close off Downsview Road was altered by the lead architects for the estate to allow for the eventual canal construction.
In between the new housing developments, the historic line of the canal was filled in during WW2 with the construction of the Grove Airfield, as far as the site of Hunters bridge. Westwards from here the canal re-appears in a cutting, albeit not at the original canal level. After the site of Stockham Bridge the footpath once again follows the towpath proper. The initial stretch is now overshadowed by a further housing development on the southern side. Walkers will notice that they have gravelled the footpath as far as a crossing point from the estate to a planned green area on the northern side. There is a new wooden footbridge crossing at this point.
Going west from here, the middle stretch to East Challow is owned by the Canal Trust. Signage is planned to be installed to show the boundaries. This stretch will be an East Vale project for 2023. This pound between Stockham and East Challow was dredged and the footpath cleared around 20 years ago and again is a well - used footpath and unofficial cycle path. The canal at East Challow disappears into the back gardens of Canal Way. The arch bridge where the canal crossed below the A417 is long gone. The old Challow Brewery building later to become Nalder Engineering remains to the north of the canal line and has now been converted into flats.
Crossing the A417 the footpath continues to follow the towpath line albeit that the canal itself is now within the gardens of the adjacent properties. It shortly returns to view. Almost the entire canal length between East and West Challow (west of Silver Lane) is now in the possession of the canal trust following the granting of a long lease. Full restoration is planned. This will involve at least one lift bridge and several weirs. The only road bridge needed is at West Challow. Full project plans have not yet been formalised but work is ongoing along the pound.
At Silver Lane, West Challow the public footpath ends however a permissive footpath leads along the canal towpath to the West Challow- Childrey Bridleway. Here you will find the temporary bridge installed to allow for the diversion of the bridleway in order to rebuild the long lost flat wooden bridge. An arch bridge (judging by the shape of the brickwork on the bridge abutments) is shown on a 1914 Abandonment Plan for the Wantage Rural District Council as a flat plank bridge. This will be the design used for eventual re-instatement.
After the bridleway the canal route is on private land and not open to public access. A walk from West Challow village hall across the fields however leads to the Childrey New Road 600 yard section, some of which is public access along the towpath. At Childrey New Road we have a 600 yard stretch of restored canal ending at the eastern boundary with a new weir to control the water level and field drainage. This forms part of a good circular walk around Childrey.
From this point west there is no private access all the way to our border with the West Vale Branch. However the canal is largely intact along this secton with no locks and few structures and should be relatively easy to restore in due course.