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Activity at Eastington

An update on Blunder Lock & beyond… from Ken Burgin

There has been a flurry of lockside activity at Eastington recently in preparation for the re-gating of Blunder Lock.

The oak gates built and installed in 1992 had reached a state of decay which rendered them unusable.

Cycles 'recycled'

Preparatory work involved the removal of the old gates and the clearing of accumulated rubbish in the bottom of the lock – including a moped and a bicycle!

One pair of new gates…

The current programme will install a new set of bottom gates. These will be built using Forest Stewardship Council approved, and sustainably grown, tropical hardwood called Ekki. The gates are being built by Hargreaves of Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire and are expected to arrive in May. They will cost over £30,000.

The work is being paid for by the Stroud Valleys Canal Company, the charity set up to maintain and run the canal and which has a long lease on the canal from the Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation.

One pair of refurbished gates

Blunder Lock’s top gates will be replaced by a set of refurbished lock gates once used on the River Thames. Refurbishment was carried out by CCT volunteers at the nearby Western Depot.

These gates have been sitting in the top of Pike Lock for many years but were slightly too tall to be used there. The main frames of these gates are made out of greenheart, another tropical hardwood, and although already very old, it is expected that these will last until the full restoration of Phase 1B from the Ocean Railway Bridge to Saul Junction.

Local landowner assistance

The Trust is very grateful to local farmer Tim Wyatt who allowed access to the locks across his fields and also helped lower the replacement top gates into the top end of Blunder Lock using some of his farm equipment.

Eastington and beyond

The completion of the re-gating work will see the Eastington stretch of water navigable from the slipway near Pike Lock to Bonds Mill Bridge.

Newtown Lock was cleared out at the same time. The gates on this lock are still in good condition.

An interesting railway time-table

Network Rail have recently indicated a probable scheduled temporary closure of the Bristol to Birmingham railway line in 2015.

The company, which runs, maintains and develops Britain’s rail tracks, signalling, bridges, tunnels, level crossings, viaducts and some stations, suggest that this would be an excellent opportunity to install a new railway bridge across the Stroudwater Navigation at The Ocean.

A steel tube has carried canal water beneath the tracks since the railway bridge arch was infilled in the 1960's. This infill was reportedly carried out because cracks appeared in the bridge abutments.  

 Photos 1 – 4 taken by Mike Gallagher
Photo four looks westward into the steel tube as a train speeds by overhead

Photo 5 is from a 1950's postcard

Whilst canoeists take great delight in navigating this bramble guarded, low level watercourse the possibility of linking Eastington to the long length of canal already under restoration on the far side of the railway is a welcome look into the future.

Only a £2mil job

The bridge replacement will require something of the order of £1.5 – 2 million to be raised to make it happen. It is undoubtedly an ideal opportunity not to be missed either as part of the full Phase 1B project or as a stand-alone ‘quick win’ project.

Perhaps the message to supporters of the restoration might be… keep buying those lottery tickets… and if you should win, do keep in touch!