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Canal Restoration wins National Award

Waterways Rennaisance Awards 2012 – Report by Dave Marshall

Canal restoration at Wallbridge, Stroud, has won a major national award for the Cotswold Canals Partnership.

Works at Wallbridge, known collectively as the ‘Wallbridge Project’ won the Partnership category of the 2012 Waterway Renaissance Awards. The Project covers the new Stroud Brewery Bridge, the Canal Visitor Centre, the restored Wallbridge Upper Lock, the Lock Keeper’s Cafe and the general upgrading of the area.

The project began with Gloucestershire County Council leading construction of the new bridge. The Cotswold Canals Trust then saw the potential for siting a Canal Visitor Centre in the old Bell Hotel. Canal volunteer Wendy Townsend saw the potential of opening up a cafe, and invested her own money in it. Stroud District Council then completed the package by restoring Wallbridge Upper Lock well ahead of schedule. Volunteers have spruced up the area, with Stroud Town Council taking on the grounds maintenance.

The judging panel commended the Partnership, saying “Throughout this project, the Partnership worked together flexibly, with a ‘can do’ attitude and have delivered a package which will ultimately become one of the signature projects of the entire Cotswold Canals. 

Pictured at last week’s Waterways Renaissance Awards ceremony are (l-r): Jim Hancock (compere), Mark Seward (Canal Engineer, Halcrow), Cllr Keith Pearson (outgoing SDC Cabinet Member for Regeneration), Cllr Steve Hurrell (Stroud Town Council) and Guy Wilson (Galliford Try, Award sponsor) 

The winners were announced at a ceremony held last week in Birmingham. Since its inception 10 years ago, the Waterways Renaissance Awards, run by The Waterways Trust, has recognised over 100 exceptional projects that are using canals and rivers to enrich people’s lives across the UK.

The award was received by Cllr Keith Pearson, Stroud District Council’s outgoing Cabinet Member for Regeneration, who said “This is a huge feather in the cap and puts the Cotswold Canals restoration firmly on the map. Wallbridge is important because it is the interface between the canal and the town. It’s now a place to go, but only a couple of years ago the opposite was true. The Cotswold Canals Project was highly commended two years ago for the new bridge at Oil Mills and last year Ryeford Double Lock was runner-up. It’s nice to be the bride rather than the bridesmaid!”

Cllr Steve Hurrell, Chair of Stroud Town Council’s Finance, Community and Policy Committee said “I am delighted the Wallbridge Project has been identified as the very best example of Partnership at the Waterways Renaissance Awards 2012.

Clive Field, Manager of the Cotswold Canals Visitor Centre added “This truly is the result of a range of groups working together successfully. Stroud Town Council was first to step forward in support of the Visitor Centre project. This resulted in further financial support from Gloucestershire County Council, Stroud District Council and the Inland Waterways Association.”

It has certainly brought a rebirth right at the heart of Stroud's town centre, and at a pivotal position on the ongoing Cotswold Canals’ long-term regeneration. Hopefully the recognition of the Wallbridge Project's success will demonstrate what is possible when different bodies all agree to work together in the common interest.

We hope it will bring even more support, as well as financial backing, for all of the potential developments related to the canal, which can only benefit the whole of Stroud and its communities.”