Photo: A section of the Wilts & Berks Canal near Rushey Platt, Swindon by Richard Corbin
(51 miles plus 6 miles of branches, Canal in various ownerships)
The restoration of the Wilts & Berks Canal is possibly the most ambitious of all the current projects because of the length of the canal, because it has been derelict for nearly a century, and because it has been largely built over in urban areas such as Swindon, Melksham and Abingdon. The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has formed a series of branches along the length of the canal and this has enabled the Trust to gain wide public support with work parties underway along most sections of the canal. The Trust, IWA, local authorities along the line and others have formed a consortium Wiltshire Swindon and Oxfordshire Canal Partnership to progress political promotion of the restoration. In 2006, IWA provided a grant of about £60,000, to celebrate its diamond jubilee that year, as a major funder for the construction of a new length of waterway to connect the canal to the Thames near Abingdon. The work was carried out by the Canal Trust, a contractor and WRG volunteers, and was opened during the week following IWA’s National Festival at Beale Park on the Thames in late August 2006.
More recently in 2012 a planning application was submitted to Wiltshire Council for the Melksham Link. This will run between the Kennet & Avon Canal at or near Semington, through the town of Melksham, reconnecting to the old line of the canal to the north-east of Melksham. A decision is awaited.
In addition, a brand-new length of canal is being created through the application of s.106 funds in the new residential development of Wichelstowe. Obscured by a run of sound-deflecting hillocks, the new stretch is very close to the M4, roughly mid-way between Junctions 16 and 15.