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Walkers looking for new ways to enjoy their physical exercise during the pandemic restrictions are invited to learn more about the local history on their doorstep.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has updated its popular leaflet which retraces the route of the former waterway through the Melksham. The illustrated trail, available on the charity’s website at www.wbct.org.uk/ walk-leaflets, takes around an hour and includes several sites where the remains of the canal are still visible today.
The walk begins at the southern end of Melksham and follows some of the original towpath adjacent to the canal, which is now buried behind homes in Kenilworth Gardens.
It continues to Spa Road where the hump in the road is the site of the former bridge over the waterway.
On one side is Wharf Court standing on the site of the former Melksham Wharf, and on the other side is Rope Walk where a rope factory loaded its goods onto barges to be transported to the Thames and beyond. It was also where grain and coal were unloaded for local residents and businesses.
It continues along Sangster Avenue and Pembroke Road into Ruskin Avenue and towards the Army Cadet Force building, where the large embankment took the canal above Clackers Brook – the culvert below, between Ruskin Avenue and Hampshire Place, is still in good condition.
The trail continues to the parapet of Lowbourne Bridge, which is the most significant structure to survive in the town, before continuing north along Forest Road, Murray Walk and Methuen Avenue where it ends near the former Melksham Forest Lock and lock-keeper’s cottage, now demolished.
Canal Trust volunteer Brian Wright said, “The pandemic restrictions mean people are keen to make the most of local walks, so we hope the canal trail will provide a new route for them to enjoy, as well as generating interest in our ongoing restoration campaign.
“Much of the original line through the town has been lost under modern roads and housing, so we hope to gain planning permission to utilise the River Avon instead.
“This would help to provide a new link between the Kennet & Avon Canal to the south and the historic line to the north where we’ve already bought some of the land and started clearance work.
“Our ultimate aim is to connect the Melksham stretch with the line which has already been successfully restored between Lacock and Chippenham, providing a major new asset for recreation, wildlife, tourism and employment.”
The aim of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is to restore the waterway from the Kennet & Avon Canal near Melksham to the Thames & Severn Canal near Cricklade and the River Thames near Abingdon, connecting Chippenham, Calne, Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon.
Visit www.wbct.org.uk for more information.