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THE BASINGSTOKE CANAL

SHCS logo (3K)last 5 miles (4K)
Restoration
The last 5 miles to Basingstoke

 

The prospect of restoring the last five miles, or at least part of the way, to Basingstoke has always been the Canal Society's aim. But the project presents some difficulties.

 

 

The Greywell Tunnel is a winter habitat for bats protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1986.

east portal of tunnel (8K) 

  map (11K)

From Mapledurwell much of the bed of the canal has been filled in and the M3 motorway crossing at Hatch eliminated what remained of the canal, while other parts have been built over.

 

 

Basingstoke Wharf, the original terminus of the canal, was filled in and became the bus station. This in turn has gone and the whole site has now been extensively re-developed.

Basingstoke bus station (7K) 

 

Ambitious restoration scheme proposed

 

 

In the mid-1990s Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council began to consider an ambitious scheme to restore the last five miles from Greywell Tunnel to New Market Square in Basingstoke. This had many interesting points -

 

 
New Market Square (5K)
site of New Market Square


Haymarket Theatre (5K)
Haymarket Theatre


Eastrop Park (4K)
Eastrop Park


Basing House gateway (6K)
Basing House gateway
  • Restoring the last five miles would provide another key feature in the changing face of Basingstoke, offering a range of benefits.

  • Linked to the redevelopment of New Market Square, the canal can be returned to the heart of the town, creating an exciting new town centre which would attract both shops and shoppers.

  • Canals are major tourist attractions generating 160 million visits annually across the UK. This restoration would attract an additional 570,000 visitors spending a total of around £1 million in Basingstoke each year, also creating the opportunity for links with other attractions such as the Anvil and the Haymarket.

  • The Canal from New Market Square to Basing House would link Eastrop Park, Basing Fen, Basing Lime Pits, and Basingstoke Common. Joining these open spaces would provide the catalyst for the creation of an urban country park.

  • Restoring a significant feature in the town’s history has a heritage value in its own right. This is enhanced by the physical link with Basing House and the historical link with the proposed industrial heritage museum at Basingstoke Leisure Park.

  • Canals can provide an attractive residential environment where housing is linked to moorings and to the towpath. A specific opportunity is presented by the proposed residential development on land east of Riverdene. In addition, research has shown that property values within existing developments can be enhanced.
 

 
 

An engineering study completed in November 1994 by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick concluded that restoration of the last five miles is technically feasible and generated 4 possible route options. The study produced the following information:

 

 
  • Costed engineering solutions for the full restoration.

  • Options for providing a reliable water supply.

  • An initial appraisal of environmental aspects.

  • An assessment of usage, costs and benefits.
 
 

Basing Wharf

 

  artist's impression (12K)

The provision of additional leisure facilities at Basing Lime Pits around a wharf with boat moorings would complement the attractions at this site and expand it’s desirability as a visitor destination.

 

 

Basing Fen Nature Reserve
The wetland site at Basing Fen is recognised for it’s nature conservation value as an unusual habitat with rare flora and fauna.

 

  artist's impression (13K)

Circular trails could be provided by use of timber board walks, with information on the natural history of the Fen displayed at key points.

 

 

Basingstoke Canal Visitor Centre
A visitor centre to serve all the attractions could provide an information point for visitors.

 

  artist's impression (12K)

This could also provide interpretation facilities and a retail outlet. Canal trip boats could operate between here and the town centre canal basin.

 

 

Eastrop Park

 

  artist's impression (9K)

Construction of the canal would provide the opportunity to enhance and extend the appeal of this popular park. The aim would be to retain existing features and create a "City Park" catering for office workers shoppers, nearby residents, families and children.

 

 

Following the engineering study, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council applied for Grant money for the scheme, but this was not successful. Interest then declined and there are now no plans to restore the canal into Basingstoke.

 

 

An alternative project ?

 

 

Since the prospect of restoring the link to Basingstoke is somewhat improbable and arguably not particularly useful, it has been suggested that it could be better to resurrect the idea of a link to the Kennet & Avon Canal. This was first suggested in the 1820s.

It is just over 12 miles as the crow flies from North Warnborough to the arc of the Kennet between Aldermaston and Reading, so it would require something like 16 to 18 miles of new canal. Whilst this is clearly more than would be required to get to Basingstoke, the idea of creating a through route direct to the canal system and with it a Surrey, Hants and Berks ring would be much more likely to catch people's imagination.

Initially it would need a preliminary study. Such a new link may possibly only be a 'pipe dream', but it is a more interesting one than just going to Basingstoke.

More information on this interesting project will appear here, after necessary approaches and consultations have been made.

If anyone has any relevant observations on this subject, please contact the webmaster.

 

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Last updated February 2004