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Capels Mill Open Days Report

Hundreds walk on the bottom of the canal

Over 1,800 people took the unique opportunity to walk along the bottom of the new canal channel at Capels Mill, Stroud, on Friday & Saturday 10th & 11th May.

Background

The need for the new channel was created by the construction of the by-pass Dr. Newton’s Way in the 1980's. The road took the route and level of the canal through the multi-arched railway viaduct.

Timely & effective objection

Local objection at the time persuaded the County Council to raise the road on a bridge over the canal's future route. Those who visited the site on Friday and Saturday witnessed the benefit of that early well presented protest.

The result

A concrete canal channel has been constructed through what was Stroud’s domestic waste landfill site until the 1970’s.

Landfill is not strong enough to support an excavated water channel. This fact, plus the obvious environmental need to keep water away from waste, resulted in a concrete channel that runs close alongside the River Frome.

Keeping the public informed

The Open Days were masterminded by Stroud District Council’s Dave Marshall working closely with Griffiths Construction’s Project Manager Dr Simon Dunn.

Dave explained, “This is the largest and most demanding project on the restoration and the work has been going on for eighteen months.

“Topography, safety and environmental needs meant that the engineering had to take place within a secure area. This has meant that the public have had no opportunity to see at first hand the solutions to the challenges this massive piece of engineering has presented.”

The 330 metres of new canal at Capels Mill has cost in the region of three million pounds – that is to say £10,000 per metre. The majority of the cost has been met by the Heritage Lottery Fund.   

Dave described the importance of keeping the public informed… “Public consultation took place before the work commenced. Open days were held earlier in the project. The contractors have worked closely with the Cotswold Canals Trust to produce monthly progress reports on the Trust website.

"This coordinated approach has proved popular with the public, hence the Open Days as the project nears completion”

Leaving nothing to chance Dave Marshall recognised the need for well-informed stewards to assist the visitors. He recruited key members of Stroud District Council’s Canal Team together with local volunteers who have worked on the towpath restoration.

Cotswold Canals Trust Visitor Centre staff completed the team who dealt with hundreds of visitors and their many questions.

CCT’s Jackie Harrison and Des Rolfe staffed the reception area to sign in visitors prior to entering the work site.

Jackie commented, “It has been a great couple of days, so many people expressing so many positive views and so many words of thanks.

"It was interesting to meet the families, often three generations, who could be heard explaining the significance of the canal to the children and then taking pictures for posterity and the family album.”

'Giant artwork'

Jackie’s Visitor Centre colleague Andy Berry remarked… “It has been really interesting talking to the visitors about the old waste tip. Lots of rubbish can be seen sticking out of the piles.

"It surprised me how many people said that it should be left on show as a giant piece of artwork, and to demonstrate how things have changed… we now recycle instead of burying our rubbish.”

 Key to pictures

  1. Jackie Harrison & Des Rolfe sign in the visitors

  2. Visitors descend the entrance ramp

  3. The Arundel Aqueduct end of the channel

  4. CCT Chairman Mike Guest with Dame Janet Trotter

  5. CCT's Alan Beard takes questions

  6. Terry James of Alun Griffiths Contractors points out the landfill capping work in progress

Some of the above pics were taken by Mike Gallagher

Click here to view his bumper collection of
Open Days Pictures 

Stroud Community TV
Click here to view Phillip Booth's video piece 

VIP group

On Friday Stroud District Council's Canal Project Manager Ian Edwards hosted a group that included Dame Janet Trotter – H.M. Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire and Cotswold Canals Trust Chairman Mike Guest. The group also included representatives of the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Canal & River Trust. After visiting Capels Mill the group took a fact finding cruise on the CCT Trip boat Endeavour from Ebley to Stonehouse.

The next steps

The new channel will soon be filled with five million litres of water to a depth of 1.5metres.

Water will be pumped slowly from the canal east of Capels Mill. The gradual nature of the filling process will ensure that the aquatic life supported in the length of shallower canal will remain unaffected.

Landscaping preparation

In the meantime the Alun Griffiths Construction team will cap and seal the high ground above the rubbish encrusted piles. This ground will then be landscaped and hydro seeded. Mature trees will be planted in the autumn.

The Stroud Valleys Project will assist with the planting and landscaping.

The future

The Capels Mill area with its iconic railway viaduct, canal channel, the River Frome and access to spectacular views across the valley is set to become an asset to be enjoyed once more by so many.

Click here & here, or on the icons below to learn more about Alun Griffiths Contractors and The Stroud Valleys Project.