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Kennet & Avon Canal

Kennet & Avon People

A stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal was closed in the early 1950s when some of the locks fell into dangerous condition, and, through disuse, severe deterioration of the remainder locks followed. Eventually the Kennet & Avon Canal became un-navigable and its future was threatened by legal closure.

In response, the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust was formed - originally as the Kennet & Avon Canal Association - and in 1956 they successfully petitioned against the closure of the canal.

These early days signalled the start of the momentous restoration of this dramatic and beautiful waterway, but it was not until 1961 that the Inland Waterway Redevelopment Committee recommended that restoration work on the canal should begin.

Many years of vigorous and determined fundraising by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, plus financial assistance from the local authorities along the route of the canal, contributed to the funding for the restoration works achieved.

The first phase of this great restoration project ended in August 1990 when Her Majesty the Queen declared the 87-mile (140 kilometres) canal open to navigation. Although open to boating between Bristol and Reading, much still remained to be done to complete the canal's full restoration. Further improvements were needed, both structurally and to the water supply, as was the development of further visitor facilities and services.

In October 1995, a grant application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund to complete the canal's full restoration. This very detailed bid asked for a grant of £25 million towards a project of £29 million. A year later (1996) the Fund granted the sum, the largest ever awarded to a Heritage Lottery Fund project. This enabled a five-year project which made the restoration of the waterway possible.

This potted history reveals the importance of people and partnership. These relationships that made up the successes of the past are to this day firmly in place for even though the Lottery grant achieved was large so much still needs to be done.

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The Kennet & Avon Canal Rural Transport Partnership

The Kennet & Avon Canal Rural Transport Partnership was set up in November 2003 using Countryside Agency funding. Its aim is to improve and promote transport and access to the Kennet & Avon Canal corridor.

The partnership comprises local authority, voluntary and business sector representatives from a wide range of organisations including: North Wessex Downs AONB; Sustrans; the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust; and the three councils West Berkshire, Wiltshire and BANES.

The partnership meets quarterly to discuss and approve present and future projects, share information and common issues and discuss continuation funding for the partnership.

The partnership has a range of projects which it has established over the past two years. The Kennet & Avon Canal Access Audit was completed by the Fieldfare Trust and surveyed and audited access for disabled visitors on key lengths of the K&A towpath. This survey has assisted British Waterways in identifying and prioritising access for all improvements on the Kennet &Avon Canal.

A summer Sunday bus shuttle service was established in 2004 in partnership with Wiltshire County Councils. 'Wigglybus' is a fully accessible demand responsive bus service operating in the Vale of Pewsey. Carrying passengers between Bradford-on-Avon and Great Bedwyn, the service has grown steadily in the past two years of operation and now carries up to 70 passengers each Sunday. The service has received excellent support from locals and visitors alike and when coupled with the Wigglywalks makes an excellent car free day out.

The partnership also seeks to influence the County Council Local Transport Plan ning process seeking recognition of the canal towpath as an important traffic free link between towns and countryside. The partnership also see access to leisure and recreation as an important factor when planning new routes and services. The partnership has had considerable success in this area, in particular the West Berkshire LTP makes reference to this important aspect of accessibility planning.

For more information on the Kennet & Avon Canal Rural Transport Partnership contact Oliver Giles 01452 318000 or email

For information on public transport and recreation routes on the Kennet & Avon Canal visit

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The Kennet & Avon Canal Education Pack

Every waterway has a story to tell that can thrill and excite school children of all ages. We have focussed much of our education effort on Key Stage 2 pupils through our education initiative Wild Over Waterways (WOW) On the Kennet & Avon Canal there was an initiative to get a group of people together to create its own pack for school children. With sponsorship, and advice, a pack has been produced and is now sold through the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust shops not only providing an education resource but also creating a cash flow for more canal improvements.

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Sit down and be Quiet!

The provision of seats and perches are an important aspect of providing access for all and encouraging visitors to enjoy the canal and its surrounding environment and to walk that little bit further. The commemorative benches scheme was started during the restoration of the Kennet & Avon Canal and has been continued by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust. For a small fee members of the public are invited to sponsor a canalside seat which British Waterways install and maintain. A brass plaque is fixed to the seat with the sponsors' message. Often they are devoted to deceased loved ones but the messages can also be witty or humorous.

Although hawse have taken over administration of the scheme from the Trust, volunteers from the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust still fix the plaques in place.

The scheme has also inspired a guide to commemorative benches which also provides information to people wishing to join the scheme and promotes access for all on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

As well as raising money (each bench raises £350 for small access improvements on the canal), the scheme fosters ownership and good relations between us and our visitors and stakeholders.

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