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The Wilts & Berks Canal

March 25, 2021 11:25 AM

A message from the WBCT:


The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is a registered charity, manned 99% by volunteers. We are working in partnership with Wiltshire, Swindon and Oxfordshire Councils to restore 70 miles (112 km) of a heritage canal that runs from Semington to the Thames at Cricklade via Swindon and also eastwards to Abingdon, again on the Thames. We want to brief you about our work, plans and ambitions. We hope that you will be supportive of our efforts to replicate the benefits of canal restoration in public wellbeing and the enhancement of the natural environment that have already been delivered across much of Britain.

Canal restoration creates a tranquil and environmentally friendly green and blue linear park for the benefit of everybody of all ages, whether walkers, joggers, cyclists, anglers, canoeists or boaters. Here is an overview map of our route.

It is estimated that restoration of the Kennet & Avon canal has benefited the Wiltshire economy by some £20 million annually. Our own Melksham Link, to be funded by enabling development, is projected to bring £7.5 million annually to Melksham alone. Elsewhere, the canal offers significant environmental, social, leisure and health benefits for local people even where not fully restored.
Wilts & Berks Canal map
The Wilts & Berks Canal is of great importance to the natural environment. The canal provides valuable habitat for colonised plants and animals, including fish, birds, invertebrate species and waterside mammals. This is vital at a time when UK biodiversity is experiencing a decline with 13% of species threatened with extinction. Restoring the canal will allow new sustainable blue and green habitats to establish resulting in greater biodiversity occurring. The canal features a diverse range of habitats, including the chalk downs of Wiltshire and Oxfordshire. These will be connected to form a habitat corridor allowing species migration and access to food and shelter. The Trust ensures that all restoration is conducted in a manner that works with nature. For instance, designing locks with crevices for crayfish movement and ensuring soft banks allow for burrowing to occur as well as providing escape routes for species such as newts and hedgehogs. With greater biodiversity along the canal route the public will be able to see and connect with nature allowing them to experience a greater sense of appreciation and wellbeing. This is becoming increasingly important as highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project will bring the benefits of canal restoration to some 376,000 residents of communities along its 70 mile route.

We have demonstrated that much of the necessary funding will come from enabling development, the remainder being from grant-giving bodies. We do not wish to call upon significant amounts of public funding, though councils may wish to consider following Swindon's excellent example by including the canal when developing infrastructure.