Branches West Vale Information
A Canter Through The West Vale Canal Section

Please note: Nearly all of the property the canal passes through is privately owned and has no Public Rights of Way. This article is solely intended to describe the route of the canal through the Branch's area. To help us maintain good relations with landowners please do not enter private property without prior permission from the owner.

We travel eastwards, starting at South Marston.

Leaving Swindon on the Oxford Road (A420), having passed the roundabout at Sainsburys, the railway is very obvious on the left-hand side (northern side). However, after the South Marston road junction, the twin rows of trees and bushes running parallel to the road on the right hand side (south side), with occasional puddles of water, indicate the original line of the W&B Canal. With the twin arches of the railway bridge in sight, the River Cole is culverted under the road to reappear to the north and pass under the railway embankment in a short tunnel visible from the road. The canal at this point (Grid SU215873) passed over the river on a short, single arch, brick aqueduct. Unfortunately, the aqueduct no longer exists, so major structural building work will be needed to be carried out when restoration reaches this point.

The twin arched railway bridge, (or would this qualify as a viaduct?) is known locally as Acorn Bridge (SU218874) but this is incorrect as checks on old maps show the real Acorn Bridge was the road bridge across the River Cole. Shrivenham Historical Society has confirmed that the railway bridge is actually named Akern Bridge.

Acorn Bridge - west elevation

Acorn Bridge - east elevation

 

The canal originally went under the right hand (eastern) arch but the infernal combustion engine rules and the road now has both arches! However, the railway embankment is still high enough to carry a navigable canal through a tunnel if bored to the south of the existing bridge. A mammoth task but a possibility.

 

The canal is again visible adjacent to the road and can be viewed from the lay-by (SU224877). Jack Dalby stated in his book that he noticed a milepost in this area (MS Semington 31), which we hope to find when the towpath is eventually restored. Although the embankments have been breached in two places over recent years to give ease of access to the farmers, the profile looks generally sound.

Turning right at the road junction to Bourton and Shrivenham, the site of Bourton Wharf (SU226879) is seen. This was also the site of Dr. Costers Lift Bridge. costers_bridge

 

The buildings that remain here (the wharfingers cottage), although extended to provide enlarged family accommodation, are the original ones and appear, along with the bridge, in several archive photographs. This junction has been reconfigured to accommodate the Shrivenham by-pass in recent years and sees the canal culverted under the Shrivenham Road in two places. After crossing the second canal culvert, the willow lined banks of the canal are clearly seen heading east, passing south of the village which is on a small hill. Closer inspection of the canal at this point shows a temporary dam that has been built to keep the water level up in the section to the east. This length of canal was dredged in the early 1990s and holds water throughout the year although now heavily reeded in summer. The canal and towpath (not clearly visible) are on private land at this point and can only be accessed with the landowners permission.