Cotswold Canals Restoration - Phase 1B
The Phase 1B restoration section of the Cotswold Canals covers a distance of about 6.1 km (3.8 miles) of the Stroudwater Navigation. This is between Saul Junction, with its connection to the national waterways network, and Ocean Railway Bridge in Stonehouse (see Phase 1b route).
Despite the relatively short distance, there are some significant challenges to overcome. These include obstructions due to the M5 motorway, the A38 (road) and a main-line railway.
The main elements of this restoration phase will likely include:
- reinstatement of about 1,600m (1 mile) of infilled canal between the A38 and Meadow Mill (Chipmans Platt, Eastington)
- establishment of a new Public Right of Way along infilled canal section above (deferred from Phase 1A)
- new route under M5 (using existing river bridge)
- construction of new A38 road bridges
- moving utilities (pipes & fibre optic cables etc.)
- construction of a new railway bridge at Stonehouse
- reinstatement of three other bridges
- construction of two new locks
- restoration and/or refurbishment of a further 6 locks
- re-routing of an oil pipeline and other service cables & pipelines
- solutions for where the River Frome and Oldbury Brook cross the canal line
In April 2018 Stroud District Council were awarded Round One Development Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This was in response to an application submitted to the HLF in Novermber 2017 for £9.8M towards the cost of Phase 1b, estimated at over £23M.
In addition to the HLF funding, financial suppot will come from:
- Stroud District Council (SDC) £3m (more...)
- Gloucestershire County Council £700,000 (more...)
- Canal & River Trust (CRT) £675,000 plus additional support (more...)
The Cotswold Canals Trust will also contribute cash and volunteer resources.
The Round One Funding award will allow the SDC led restoration team to progress and present plans and proposals. Those detailed proposals will then be considered by HLF at the Round Two Stage, where a final decision will be made on the award of full funding.
Phase 1B Restoration in more detail
This section gives an overview of the work likely to be required to fully restore the canal between Saul Junction and Stonehouse, which would then link Stroud to the national waterways network.
For convenience, the route has been split into three sections heading from west to east:
- Saul Junction to the A38 (Road)
- A38 to Meadow Mill (near Eastington)
- Meadow Mill to Ocean Railway Bridge (Stonehouse)
In addition to the detail given below, other work would be required including upgrading or re-instating the towpath, dredging existing sections of canal and other smaller engineering works.
Saul Junction to A38 (Road)
Walk Bridge: This low-level fixed road bridge is the first major obstruction when travelling east from Saul Junction. This would need to be replaced, preferably with a new fixed high-level bridge.
Whitminster Bridge: Adjacent to Whitminster Lock this was once a farm access swing bridge, which is no longer operational. A Public Right of Way (EWH/21/3) crosses the canal here. This will likely be replaced with a lift bridge similar in design to Lodgemore Bridge in Stroud.
Stonepitts Bridge: This former farm access hump-backed bridge has long since been demolished and would need to be replaced. A Public Right of Way (EWH/21/3) crosses the canal here. This again is likely to be replaced with a Lodgemore-style lift bridge.
Occupation Bridge: Carries a farm track over the canal and appears to be in good condition.
Partly restored by the Cotswold Canals Trust in the 1990s, the work on this lock would need to be completed.
Canal and River Frome
East of Whitminster Lock for a distance of about 660m the canal line, which used to run parallel to the River Frome, has been lost. Near the point where the canal reappears there used to be Lockham Aqueduct which carried the Frome under the bed of the canal.
The restored canal is likely to share the river course along this stretch, which was in fact the case when the canal was first built. (The canal was later separated to avoid constantly silting-up.)
An oil pipeline crosses the canal near Occupation Bridge and would be an obstruction to navigation. This therefore needs to be re-routed under the canal bed.
A38 to Meadow Mill
This section would be the most costly to restore. The yellow items on the map below indicate where significant new structures would be built, including a new canal channel under an existing M5 underpass used by the River Frome.
A38 (Bristol Road) Bridges
The original route of the canal now bisects the A38/A419 roundabout in the top left corner of the above map. The original Bristol Road Lock is believed to be buried under the roundabout.
It is anticipated that the canal would pass under the roundabout, and therefore two separate bridges would need to be constructed.
New Canal Channel
The original canal route between the A38 and Westfield Bridge/Lock was infilled when the M5 motorway was built, and is represented by the broken brown line on the above map. Also shown is the site of Hyde's Bridge - long since demolished.
A new channel would be cut along the approximate route indicated by the black line on the map.
Replacement Bristol Road (BR) Lock
A new lock would be constructed to replace an original which is buried under the A38. The replacement lock would have less of a fall due to the insertion of a new 'M5 Lock' east of the M5.
M5 River Frome Underpass & New Canal Channel
To prevent the huge expense and disruption of constructing a purpose-built canal bridge across the M5, one solution is to use the existing River Frome underpass.
A new concrete canal channel would be added alongside the river, as well as a new towpath. As will be seen from the illustration below, the level of the canal would be lower than the normal river level, to achieve the required headroom.
A consequence of this approach is that during times of flooding, the canal channel would be unusable.
New M5 Lock
A new lock would be required just east of the M5 in order to lower the level of the canal to provide sufficient headroom (>2.4m / 8ft) through the M5 River Frome underpass.
Westfield Bridge and Lock
Westfield Bridge is in fair condition and carries a Public Right of Way (EEA/37/2) over the canal.
The lock, which has been infilled, is believed to be only partly intact due to significant structural damage that may have been caused when the Oldbury Brook channel was constructed (see below). Only when the infill has been removed will it become clear how much restoration and/or re-construction work is needed.
The Oldbury Brook originally flowed into the canal at Meadow Mill and flowed out using the Meadow Mill spill weir.
After canal abandonment, a new deep channel for Oldbury Brook was cut through the canal line at the tail of Westfield Lock, and the canal is now infilled either side.
It is likely that Oldbury Brook would be routed under the canal when this section is restored.
Meadow Mill to Ocean Railway Bridge
The four locks in this section (Dock, Pike, Blunder & Newtown) are in fair or good condition. Newtown and Blunder are operational, but Blunder Lock would probably require new top gates.
Dock and Pike Locks have been partly restored previously, but have not been operational since canal abandonment. Both require further repairs, paddle gear and gates.
There are three road bridges in this section; Pike, Roving and Bond's Mill.
Pike Bridge was rebuilt in 2005 and Roving Bridge has been well maintained in recent years.
Bond's Mill bridge, once a swing bridge, was replaced in 1994 with an all-plastic hydraulically-operated lift bridge.
This bridge is no longer operational, and one of the options is to replace it with a lift bridge similar to that at Lodgemore.
Ocean Railway Bridge
The most significant item in this section is a new railway bridge at Stonehouse. This would be constructed by Network Rail and would have to be scheduled into their long-term engineering plan.