Melton Mowbray Navigation & Oakham Canal
Despite a Covid-curtailed programme of work parties, 2021 saw some remarkable progress with the Melton Ring (the river and canal loop around the town) being cleared in readiness for this year’s Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, which will see an armada of rowing boats, canoes and pedaloes taking to the water. The society hopes that this will encourage one of the latest crop of entrepreneurs to make this a permanent feature of the town, to sit alongside any trip-boat that the Melton & Oakham Waterways Society’s latest funding bid and future business plan may produce.
Elsewhere, the clearance and partial rebuilding of Thrussington Lock continues apace with regular work parties there and, further towards the junction with the Soar Navigation at Syston, a new development of holiday lets will also include the rebuilding of the original toll house.
MOWS has also welcomed borough and county councillors to its AGM and committee meetings, and hosted a boat trip for the local MP, showing that the hard campaigning of previous years is now paying off, as the town (and the people that govern it) is finally realising what a hidden asset the waterway has always been.
The society’s Facebook membership continues to grow, resulting in more volunteers coming forward, and it has also persuaded many to become full-time members, making the last year one of the best for recruitment. The society has now become well established in its new base, with a complete vegetation clearance and new fencing making the area fit for purpose and ready to house any future work- or trip-boats.
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, 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 pathways have been laid, rickety stone steps replaced with new broad staircases, and the old cattle trough replaced with a sturdy wooden bridge. 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 – a core group has been attending weekly work parties, and there are also several volunteer rangers patrolling the length of the canal, clearing litter and keeping an eye out for any issues.
Several other positive moves have occurred in the first year. The project’s Facebook page has almost 700 followers, and its mailing list over 100 people. Early in the summer it was featured on the BBC’s Escape to the Country, and local MP Alicia Kearns visited and stated her commitment to supporting the work. Several local companies also supported with free services, from digging new pathways to supplying hardcore and plant equipment. Some of the original canal furniture has started to come back into the project’s possession, including one of only two known surviving mileposts.
The coming year will see continued improvements in access and pathways, as well as a focus on biodiversity and environment. The project has several site surveys lined up to establish what wildlife is present, and will be encouraging the local community to help in its endeavours throughout 2022.