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This section of the canal has received attention both from canal obliterators and canal restorers. Into the 1950s, much of the canal in this stretch would have been in good condition with original gates still holding water following its closure in 1933.

Picture: Swimming in Griffins Mill Lock in the 1930s

However, the 1960s saw the destruction of Brimscombe port then infilling west of the port, Hope Mill Lock end up infilled and under the Airplants site and this was followed in the 1980s with the infilling of the canal at the eastern end of the section to allow the Stroud east-west bypass to use the canal bridge under the railway viaduct. Although a navigation bridge was built to carry the canal under the road, the canal was not re-linked at the time in order to save money.

But things could have been much worse. Gloucestershire County Council had previously come up with three schemes to implement the bypass - two would have obliterated the canal over a considerable distance and the third involved knocking down rather a lot of Stroud! The residents of Stroud were given the opportunity to choose which they wanted.

The Canal Trust managed to identify a fourth route which avoided the canal except for the bridge under the viaduct and, after a lot of lobbying and a helpful vote by Stroud District Council which effectively killed the GCC schemes, the bypass was built  to the Trust's design. This battle effectively ended the threat to the canal from road builders - except for when the Dept of Transport decided not to bother with a canal bridge at Latton (see Latton Page).

The Stroudwater Canal Society, finding itself largely prevented from working on the Stroudwater Navigation, started work at Bowbridge in the early 1970s. It is due to this work that much of the canal in this length still holds water and supports such a rich environment - indeed, the whole length would have been dry and totally overgrown by scrub without this work. In 1974, the Stroudwater Canal Society became the Stroudwater, Thames & Severn Canal Trust and this now operates under the Cotswold Canals Trust name.

Picture: Installing paddle gear at Bowbridge Lock in the mid-1970s

Following river "improvement" works (a euphemism for taking away the low weirs in the river needed to maintain a water feed into the canal) by the NRA (now EA) and the obstruction caused by the bypass, much of these once well supplied lengths struggle to stay full in the summer.

The restoration works between Bowbridge and Hope Mill were quite extensive involving major structural repairs to the heads of Bowbridge and Ham Mill Locks and whole of Griffins Mill Lock. Indeed, had there not been a problem with a landowner, Griffins Mill Lock would have been re-gated.

Stantons Bridge and Bagpath Bridge, both of brick, were restored from a fairly rough state as was Jubilee Bridge with its wrought iron balustrades which carries a footpath.

A great deal of dredging was carried out by volunteers using an old Priestman dragline crane although over time, the effects of this works has become less apparent as reed growth has encroached and even choked the channel with no boats to keep it at bay.

In the late 1980s, a large chunk of Ham Mill Bridge collapsed into the canal. A few years earlier and this would have resulted in its demolition and culverting. As it was, attitudes were changing and the bridge was restored by the County Council who then went of to carry out repairs and preventative maintenance to many other original canal bridges within their ownership.

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Copyright Ken Burgin 2002 - all rights reserved