Ten days of preparation & planning came to fruition on Friday 2nd February 2018
The Prince of Wales came to Wallbridge in Stroud to perform the official opening of the first phase of the restoration of the ‘Cotswold Canals’.
His Royal Highness arrived at Wallbridge Upper Lock where proof of the restoration to date was clear to see. A veritable fleet of maintenance vessels including dredger, mud boats and tugs were moored above the lock alongside Cheapside Wharf courtesy of Newland Homes.
Cotswold Boatmobility’s Wheelyboat Zephyrus and a flotilla of KataKanus were also above the lock and had a starring role.
Boatmobility Chair Jan Thomas explained the aims and activities of the group to the Prince. The Prince then boarded CCT Trip Boat Perseverance to cruise to Wallbridge Lower Lock.
Photo by Mike Barby
Perfect positioning & timing
The first part of the ceremony involved the cutting of a ribbon across the approach to Wallbridge Lower Lock.
This gesture recognised the navigable re-connection of the Stroudwater Navigation (opened in 1779) to the Thames and Severn Canal (opened in 1789).
Perseverance skipper Bob Mulkerrin steered the boat slowly and skilfully to enable the Prince of Wales to use the ‘Royal Scissors’ to cut the green ribbon.
Photo by Dot Newton
Having entered the lock Perseverance was moored in the chamber for the Prince and official party to disembark.His Royal Highness then spoke to volunteers before unveiling a commemorative plaque.The plaque will be permanently mounted near Wallbridge Lower Lock once landscaping and minor engineering works have been completed.
The restoration project, led by Stroud District Council in partnership with the Cotswold Canals Trust and Gloucestershire County Council, has transformed a scene of dereliction and abandoned towpath into a waterway and wildlife corridor now enjoyed by the local community and a growing number of visitors to the area. The restoration, largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has involved civil engineering contractors working in conjunction with a growing number of volunteers. Those volunteers have contributed over 138,000 hours to the project since 2013. Friday’s activities, waterborne & waterside, were also prepared and performed by volunteers.
Summing up the event
Val Kirby comments…
“The Prince of Wales was relaxed and informal and very interested in the whole project and welcomed things being pointed out to him as we went along.
He was clearly very impressed by the interlocking ‘porcupine block’ revetment wall and restored towpath above Wallbridge Lower Lock. I was able to explain that it had all been carried out by volunteers. Having asked what the next challenge was His Royal Highness immediately understood the need to join up with the national network at Saul Junction – and wished our bid well.”
Dave Marshall recalls…
“His Royal Highness was obviously interested in the project and asked very pertinent questions. We talked about the transformative effects of canals and he was clearly impressed by what volunteers have done. He had previously asked to be briefed on future plans and once we arrived at the Lower Lock he had several questions about the repair work and our screening plans for the bank and concrete above!”
Jim White concludes…
“Once again a big thank you to all our joint volunteer groups who have made this possible. We now have 6.6Km / 4.1 miles of navigation open, with one or two depth restrictions, and when the current dredging is complete — 7.6km/4.7 miles to Ham Mill Lock, where work is in hand to rebuild the channel retaining wall”.