Branches Melksham Calne & Chippenham News
Charity discovers 'Lost' canal crossing
Sunday, 01 March 2009 00:00

2009_march_1The remains of a 'lost' canal crossing have been uncovered by volunteers working in the local countryside.

The site of a ‘lift bridge' has been found by members of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust working to restore the former waterway between Melksham and Chippenham.
Buried in bushes near Reybridge for almost a century, it was used by local residents to cross the canal as it ran parallel to the River Avon.
Narrowboat owners would raise the bridge when they passed and then lower it behind them.
It is thought that a wharf was located nearby, where coal and other goods were delivered to local traders and families.
The charity hopes the bridge, located at the point where the cyclepath turns away from the towpath, might eventually be restored when the waterway is returned to navigable status at some point in the future.

Rob Jones is the chairman of the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust.
He said: "The brickwork was discovered by local volunteers who were carefully clearing away the undergrowth on a new stretch of land. "Since then we've had lots of walkers and cyclists stopping to take a closer look and wanting to learn more about our campaign.
"It's always fascinating to find another missing piece of our local heritage, especially when it can be linked to old photographs.
"Other lift bridges have already been reconstructed along other parts of the Wilts & Berks and give a glimpse of how the countryside can be opened up for the benefit of the local community."

In 2007, local volunteers contributed more than 3,000 hours of free labour at work parties between Melksham and Chippenham, where they helped to clear rubbish and restore towpaths, culverts and other structures.
However, in 2008 this soared to almost 4,000 hours worth around £50,000 if paid contactors had been used. New volunteers are always welcome.
The charity's ultimate aim is to link the Kennet & Avon Canal near Melksham to the River Thames near Abingdon and The Thames and Severn Canal near Cricklade, connecting Chippenham, Calne, Wootton Bassett and Swindon.

Supporters hope it will provide a multi-million pound boost to the local economy through increased tourism and employment.

People can take a closer look at the restoration when the charity holds its annual sponsored walk from Chippenham to Lacock on the morning of Sunday April 26.

For further information on the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, or the sponsored walk, visit www.melkshamwaterway.org.uk