East Vale & Abingdon Branch
The East Vale & Abingdon branch covers the historic line of the canal from Uffington, through the areas around Wantage and Grove continuing East to join the River Thames just south of Abingdon.
The route can be divided roughy into three sections, from west to east.
The first section from the junction with West Vale Branch (at Baulking Road by Uffington Gorse) to East Challow is on on one level, part of the seven mile pound. This is a rural section across the Vale of White Horse and the canal is more or less as it was when abandoned. Unfortunaely the initial part from Baulking Road to Childrey New Road has no pubic access. But going east you can follow the towpath for much of way to East Challow.
The second section is through the urban areas of Wantage and Grove and via a series of locks to where the canal went under the GWR (Great Western Railway). A public footpath follows the line of the canal almost as far as Grove Park Drive. This section contains three locations where the route crosses what are now major roads, the A417 at East Challow, across the Mably Way roundabout and the A338 at Grove. These pose significant obstacles to restoriation to full navigation. There are three locks between East Challow and Grove and a further five on the descent to the crossing of the GWR. These all need rebuilding and in some cases relocation.
The third section is from the GWR to the River Thames. Origially the canal went through Abingdon but this section has been built over so the restored canal will follow a revised route joining the Thames about a mile south of Abingdon. The first 150m of new canal cut from the River Thames was opened in 2006 and known as Jubilee Junction. The route from here west, under the A34 as far as the GWR is for now uncertain because there is a possibiliy of a new impounding reservoir proposed to be constructed over top of the historic route.
The canal was built from west to east starting at Semington near Melksham in 1795. Construction reached East Challow some 11 years later in 1806. Work continued including the mile long branch into Wantage town centre and the canal was officially opened in September 1810. Unfortunately the Wantage branch has now been filled in, but one can follow much of the historic route through housing estates. The East Vale section includes a large part of the “Seven Mile Pound” from Longcot Bottom Lock (within West Vale’s boundaries) through to Grove Top Lock.
The canal was formally abandoned by an Act of Parliament in 1914. The Act was sponsored by Swindon Corporation, which gained control of all the land within its boundary. In other areas ownership returned to the owners of adjacent land as is the case for our length of canal. While in some parts much of the canal was filled in, in our area the canal is largely intact but overgrown, though the structures are inevitably in poor condition. In a few cases roads that once crossed the canal with hump backed bridges are now uniform gradient main roads
Branch Meetings are held on the first Monday of each month at Wantage and Grove Cricket Club, 4 Charlton Village Road, OX12 7HD at 8pm.
These monthly meetings are a chance to discuss current issues and activities and to catch up with upcoming work parties and any outside events. All are welcome. Contact email@example.com for more inforrmation.
We normally hold two work parties a month, on the second and fourth Saturdays. For information about work parties and to volunteer please email our work party organiser firstname.lastname@example.org
We have our own branch marquee and displays which we use when we attend local fetes and shows. Eg The White Horse Show at Uffington and Childrey Fete.
We are delighted to have an almost continuous public footpath from Childrey New Road to Neville’s Farm bridge, a distance of around 4 miles (nearly 8% of the main line). The relevant maps are OS Landranger 174 or Explorer Map 170 ( Abingdon, Wantage and Vale of White Horse). A walk leaflet for a circular walk starting and finishing in Wantage is available on this website. Other parts of the towpath are on private land and we would ask that the owners’ privacy is maintained.
The Sack House at The Wharf
The Sack House Museum is located off Mill Street, Wantage, OX12 9GF. This small building stood on the edge of what was a large canal basin in Wantage now all filled in and built over. It was used as a weighbridge, office, coal merchants and dates back to soon after the canal was built into Wantage in around 1810. There are various canal artefacts on display as well as information displays on the industrial archaeology of the wharf area, i.e. not just the canal but also the Flour Mill opposite. The name of the museum is taken from the enamel sign on the front of the building advertising the West of England Sack Hiring Company.
Special openings can be arranged for groups. We have already welcomed various cub packs and beaver scout colonies as well as adult groups. The nearest Parking is the Mill Street Undercroft Pay and Display Car Park OX12 9AJ. Bus transport is available from the Market Place in Wantage town centre.
For more information please contact the Trust Office on email@example.com