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Gloucestershire Business News

Boat trip makes canal history

Restoration of the Cotswold Canals has taken a huge leap forward with the first boat journey between Stonehouse and Bowbridge for over 80 years.

The main passengers on the trip were a team from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which has been the main funder of the project. Members were seeing the restoration for themselves prior to 'signing' off the project.

Under the leadership of Stroud District Council (SDC) since 2009, the project has seen restoration of 4.5 miles of canal, 9 locks, 6 miles of towpath and huge benefits in terms of leisure and wildlife. Inward investment in the canal corridor stands at £117 million. Much of the work has been carried by volunteers working for both the Council and the Cotswold Canals Trust.

Completion of the Stonehouse - Bowbridge section clears the way for the Council and the Trust to submit a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for restoration of canal between Stonehouse and Saul Junction.

The HLF team— James Dennis, Patrick Moss and Sarah Coffield - made the journey on Stroud Valleys Canal Company (SVCC) maintenance vessel Wookey Hole. Also on board were Stroud District Council chief executive David Hagg and canal manager Dave Marshall, together with Stroud town mayor Kevin Cranston and Cotswold Canals Trust chief executive Ken Burgin and vice chair John Newton.

James Dennis, the senior HLF monitor said: "We are impressed with the tremendous achievement in restoring the canal channel and its structures. Thanks are due to the restoration team and all the volunteers and engineers. But we must remember that it's all been made possible by everyone that buys National Lottery tickets. It's great for them all to see and appreciate the results of the various parts they have played in this project."

David Hagg, SDC's chief executive, said: "Nine years ago, the council courageously came to the rescue of the canal project. Thanks to a lot of great people, the first part is just about complete and the canal is there for the enjoyment of the whole community. Now we've got to carry on the momentum and get connected to the national waterway network."

Jim White, chair of the Cotswold Canals Trust said: "People with devotion, commitment and energy have made all this possible. But of course there is more restoration to be done which in turn increases the ongoing maintenance programme. Let's hope today's voyage attracts even more volunteers who can enjoy that work into the future."

Picture: The Wookey Hole carrying the HLF team, SDC's chief executive and the chair of the Cotswold Canals Trust arriving at Wallbridge Upper Lock, Stroud.

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