Branches Melksham Calne & Chippenham News
New Signs Retrace Route of Melksham Canal
Thursday, 01 March 2012 00:00

W&B Melksham walk signs, vols Brian De'ath and Peter Henden

Walkers will find it easier to retrace the route of Melksham's former waterway, thanks to generous grants which provided new signs.

Volunteers with the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust have just finished placing the markers at various points where it once passed through the town.

The 19 signs were funded thanks to a £200 grant from Melksham Town Council, £300 from the charity itself and almost £500 from Wiltshire Council's Melksham Area Board.

It follows an earlier £250 grant from Melksham Town Council which funded more than 3,000 leaflets encouraging people to follow the trail.

Complete with illustrations based on archive images from more than a century ago, the leaflets are available from Melksham's tourist information centre and highlight remaining evidence such as bridge parapets and culverts.

Trust volunteer Brian De'ath said:

"We are very grateful to Melksham Town Council and Wiltshire Council for funding the production of the new signs.

Together with the new leaflets, we hope it will encourage people to learn more about our campaign to bring this important waterway back to life.

The charity has already restored significant stretches in the local countryside, but we would have to avoid the original line through Melksham due to modern housing and roads.

A new route would probably have to travel through the town centre using the River Avon instead.

However, the signs will be an important reminder of our local heritage – we were pleased to see so many people coming up to us with questions about the canal, wondering where it went and how it might be rebuilt."

The one-hour walk begins at the southern end of Melksham opposite the West End Inn and follows part of the old towpath behind houses and around to the site of the Spa Road Bridge, lowered in 1924, which once carried the Devizes road over the canal. Melksham Wharf was on the left and the former Maggs rope factory on the right.

The walk continues along alleyways to Pembroke Road and the site of the old Gallows footbridge (possibly so-called as a place of execution for sheep-stealers in the 1800s) then past the Brookside residential home built directly on the line of the canal and across the embankment which carried the waterway above Clackers Brook.

The walk continues north to the junction of Sandridge Road and Forest Road where a bridge parapet is still clearly visible, and ends just beyond Methuen Avenue and the site of Forest Lock.

Walkers can see some of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust's latest achievements when the charity holds its annual sponsored walk on the morning of Bank Holiday Monday, May 7th.

The five-mile route from Chippenham to Lacock includes a tree-lined towpath and a rewatered section which has become a haven for local wildlife.

For further information, visit www.melkshamwaterway.org.uk