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Melton Mowbray Navigation & Oakham Canal

Melton Mowbray Navigation & Oakham Canal

The 14-mile-long Melton Navigation operated for 80 years from 1797, following the course of the River Wreake from the junction with Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal at Syston, near Leicester, to Melton Mowbray. The navigation had 12 locks and, despite nearly 150 years having passed since the closure, 11 still exist, many in remarkably good condition. The Melton & Oakham Waterways Society is focused on reopening this waterway to boat traffic, and extending the leisure potential of the Wreake Valley to all.
The year 2023 was a busy one for the society. Work continued on maintaining the mile-long Melton Ring (a loop formed by the River Eye and an old navigation cut) to ensure it is kept navigable and free of rubbish, along with the stretch of water to the first lock west at Eye Kettleby. The society’s workboats Mole and Badger feature heavily in this work, with Mole having a dredging capacity and Badger used to take away the spoil or collect cuttings and vegetation.
The society has seven rowing boats which had seen service on a lake in the Brecon Beacons; these are now restored and ready to start operating in the spring of 2024. They will be hired out to introduce more people to one of the town’s neglected assets as well as to bring a new income stream. The landing stages for these and the recently acquired 32ft trip-boat are almost complete and located at the edge of the parkland within the town centre. Also aimed at heightening public awareness, the society produced a 40-page book of walks along the river which trace the route of the entire length of the old navigation. It sold so well that a reprint was needed only weeks after its launch. A second book about the history of the waterway has transferred printing permission to the society and copies of the updated tome are selling well.
Work has continued at several locations along the navigation but now there is a concentration on clearing scrub and uncovering Eye Kettleby Lock, the nearest lock to Melton Mowbray, with the aim of making it a local destination for walkers and cyclists, again to raise awareness about the navigation and its potential to enhance local leisure facilities. 
Further afield, and with the mill owner’s help, work on restoring the remains of Thrussington Lock continues apace, and to the west ‘front door’ footpath clearance has revealed several areas where repairs to the riverbank are required.
There is plenty going on behind the scenes too with the new chair and revitalised committee looking into many funding possibilities, and trying to persuade the many councils and landowners along the route that a restored Melton Mowbray Navigation would bring leisure, environmental, tourism and economic benefits to all.

Oakham Canal

The Oakham Canal Green Corridor Project was established in October 2020 and has quickly become a well-supported and popular local cause. The initial aim is to improve the environment and access to the canal as it heads north from the Springfield area of Oakham, Rutland, creating a 5-mile linear green corridor for the enjoyment of the local community and to nurture important wildlife habitats.
The project’s first year saw permissive rights gained over pathways to the west of the canal banks, and work with Rutland County Council to make pathway improvements on the area around Ashwell Road. New signage, gates and fences make this area much more attractive and inviting than previously. The hard work was made easier by a committed team of volunteers.
In the last two years, the project saw the relaying of around 1½ miles of paths between the Oakham bypass and Ashwell Road, which is the extent of the current official public access.
Beyond restoring infrastructure, the project also pursues an agenda of widening knowledge and engagement with various groups and community members. The project’s Facebook page has more than 1,200 followers and its mailing list over 180 people. Local MP Alicia Kearns has continued her commitment to supporting the work. The walking routes have also appeared in a well-known local guide, Will’s Walks, which has attracted additional footfall. Several local companies have contributed support with free services, from digging new pathways to supplying hardcore, wood chippings and plant equipment. 
Recently, a new information board has been sited at the start of the canal paths. A highlight of the year is a series of guided walks, where volunteers tell the history and story of the canal and the people affected by its passage. The latest exciting development is a ‘Talking History’ which will be a downloadable audio track, narrating the history and impact of the canal through a number of historic voices. It will be launched in 2024, allowing people to enjoy the narration as they walk the canal. 
At the end of 2023, the project has now restored and improved access to all of the existing footpaths, so will be undertaking a review of its strategic objectives and whether it can extend the footpaths further along the route of the canal towards Melton, across what is now private land. There is much to look forward to in 2024 and beyond.

April 2024

Melton and Oakham Waterways workboat.



Navigation Authority


Melton &Oakham Waterways Society