Thursday, 11 November 2010


Above: Nick Lewis at Wootton Rivers

British Waterways is delivering a one million pound lock gate replacement and maintenance programme along the length of the Kennet & Avon Canal this winter, 200 years since the waterway was first built.

The Kennet & Avon Canal celebrates its bicentenary this year, and as 2010 draws to a close a series of much-needed maintenance projects will be undertaken by British Waterways to ensure that the canal, which so many people enjoy today, can be protected for future generations to experience.

British Waterways will be replacing 12 sets of lock gates along the canal, including seven sets of gates at Caen Hill, where the flight of locks are listed as a scheduled ancient monument. Gates will also be replaced at Wootton Rivers, Heathy Close, Dunmill and Cadley Lock.

Each gate is hand crafted at one of British Waterways’ lock gate workshops and when the lock gates are craned into position on-site, the local British Waterways team will install them, making final adjustments to ensure they fit perfectly.

These works are part of a national £50 million vital makeover of dozens of historic locks, bridges and aqueducts which includes the replacement of over 100 handcrafted oak lock gates.

British Waterways looks after one of the finest examples of working industrial heritage in the world, including the third largest collection of listed structures in the UK, and the winter programme is part of the vital maintenance carried out throughout the year to keep the network in working order.

This year a programme of open days happening at sites across the country, including Caen Hill Locks, will provide a unique opportunity to take a closer look at the hidden workings of the waterways, as the water is drained away, and to see the massive task required to keep the canals shipshape.

Vince Moran, British Waterways’ operations director, said: “The recent announcement that England and Wales’ canals and rivers are to become part of a new ‘national trust’ for the waterways will give the public a much greater role in looking after this important part of the nation’s heritage. I hope opening up some of our lock gate replacements and other repairs will give people along the Kennet & Avon Canal a chance to see the scale of the work we do to ensure that the waterways are preserved for today’s users and future generations, as well as gain an appreciation for the magnificent industrial heritage in our care.”

British Waterways spends c.£100 million each year maintaining its 2,200-mile inland waterway network, work that is funded through a combination of Government grants and income from commercial activities such as property and boat licenses. When British Waterways transfers to a charity, expected to take place in April 2012, funding will come through a long-term contract from Government, commercial revenue and growing charitable income.

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