The 8 mile Stroudwater Navigation is one of the "Cotswold Canals", joining the Thames & Servern Canal at Stroud.
On 29th September 2020, the National Lottery Heritage Fund Main Board approved the Phase 1B Delivery Stage grant application for £9m. The total value of the Phase 1B project is some £26m, which includes £6.2m in donations from Cotswold Canals Trust donors and £3.2m of volunteering input. This was a momentous occasion for the Cotswold Canals Connected Partnership (Stroud District Council, CCT, Gloucestershire County Council and CRT) following years of campaigning and volunteering effort, dating back to the 1970s and largely thanks to the members and volunteers of CCT.
This major grant will enable restoration of the Saul Junction to Ocean Rail bridge, Stonehouse section of the Stroudwater Navigation and thus finally reconnect Stroud, Stonehouse and other local communities to the inland waterways network. Canal engineering and restoration works are due to be completed by the end of 2024.
This huge achievement would not have been possible without the successful development of a complex partnership. Many other organisations, including parish and town councils and, in particular, four other partners, have contributed significantly to the successful NLHF bid application.
• Stroud Valleys Canal Company – the effective owner of the canal and responsible for its ongoing viability and maintenance;
• Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (21 hectares of new biodiversity land to be created);
• Stroudwater Navigation Archives Charity – guardian for some 100,000 canal documents stretching back to the 1730s;
• And a huge effort by over 150 partners to ensure ongoing and community engagement.
Continued restoration: In 2020 there was a lot of progress on several important projects on the Stroudwater Navigation, even completion in some cases. In November 2020, the channel crossing at the A38 Whitminster Roundabout (old Bristol Road) was completed, despite Covid-19. Also on the Stroudwater Navigation the compound was built for the Ocean Rail Bridge replacement, due in May 2021.
The Western Depot in Eastington provides CCT’s manufacturing, maintenance and support services to volunteers working along the canal length west of Brimscombe Port. The site has provided a base for volunteers for around 25 years and served the charity well. With volunteer numbers and workload increasing in 2020, CCT took the decision to prepare the site so it was fit for purpose during Phase 1B and beyond. The upgraded and expanded Western Depot will be able to resource the increased workload and provide improved volunteer facilities.
Access for all
In 2020 CCT launched its fully accessible and electric trip-boat. Adventure is a 54ft x 10ft semi-trad craft powered by two electric motors linked to a single prop and has a wheelchair lift at the bow. It will carry 12 passengers and three or four crew, and has a cruising range of around eight hours.
Volunteer work parties led by Stroud District Council, Stroud Valleys Canal Company and CCT have worked hard throughout 2020 to improve access and safety for towpath users. They have laid new access ramps, cleared wider paths, improved signage and publicised community safety notices trying to bring positive enjoyment for all.
The Lottery-winning Waterway Waterways World January 2021