Wildmoorway                                                                                           picture gallery

The Wildmoorway or Wilmoreway Locks are located in a remote section of the canal just east of South Cerney. Even today there is a feeling of isolation between the upper and lower locks and what is left of the moor is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). In the spring wild flowers abound - in the winter, it can be a cold and bleak place.

Wildmoorway Lower Lock in about 1907

   Wildmoorway Lower Lock
             in about 1907.

This lock had a large fall of about 11ft which, after the insertion of Boxwell Spring Lock and consequential reduction in the fall of Wildmoorway Upper Lock from 11ft to only 7ft 6ins, needed a side-pond to conserve water supplies.

The side-pond was built in 1831 and its operation was, perhaps uniquely, semi automatic. The iron connecting pipe between the lock and the side-pond had an iron  hinged  valve at each end and the non-hinged  side of the valve was connected to a rack and pinion mechanism via a hinged connecting rod. As one valve was pulled open by the use of the rack, the hinged connecting  rod allowed the other to open if there was positive water pressure behind the valve. This simplified its operation but nevertheless, the Thames & Severn Canal  Company decided to relocate the lock keeper from Cerney Wick Lock to a new lock cottage adjacent to Wildmoorway Lower Lock.
The Edwardian ladies dressed in white just visible on the bridge are sisters and the nearby Sister's Farm is named after them.

According to Herbert Frankin, the occupant of Sisters Farm and owner of the canal here, both the Lock Cottage and the Lock and its gates were in good condition well into the 1950s. He also mentioned the existence of some kind of water control structure where the Spine Road is now sited which [raised] water from the feeder into the canal - how this was supposed to work is a mystery.

The building of the Spine Road caused a blockage across the canal which resulted in the length immediately downstream of Wildmoorway Lower Lock holding water whilst the removal of a section of the towpath bridge on the downstream side of the Spine Road effectively drained the length down to Cerney Wick Lock in all but the wettest weather.

Even in the 1980s, the wooden frames for the ground paddle gear at the head of both of the Wildmoorway locks were still in place as were substantial remains of the lower lock gates - particularly below water level.
However, much of the lock cottage had, by then and unlike its twin at Eysey, fallen down.

willdmoorway lower lock c.1983  

Wildmoorway Lower Lock in about 1983 after
       clearance but prior to major restoration

The Cotswold Canals Trust (then known as the Stroudwater, Thames and Severn Canal Trust) gained permission and worked on this length of canal initially in the early 1980s. Work included clearing the canal bed of overgrowth including willow saplings and the insertion of stop planks to allow the pound between the two Wildmoorway Locks to fill up when water supply permitted. What is not clear from the picture is just how bad the offside main lock chamber wall was.

Wildmoorway Lower Lock from below after Dig Deep
Wildmoorway Lower Lock in 2002 after
        significant  restoration

Later on, amidst growing concern about the poor state of the bridge at the tail of the lower lock, the Trust working with the Waterway Recovery Group set up a Dig Deep project to carry out major repairs to the lock chamber and the bridge. This work was completed in the late 1990s leaving some work still to be done on the towpath wall and re-gating.

Fragmentary Remains of Humpback Bridge - South Cerney
Fragmentary remains of Humpback Bridge
Wildmoorway Upper Lock is located about a third of a mile upstream (towards the Severn) of the lower one. It was also sometimes known as Humpback Lock after the humpback accommodation bridge which used to be located some distance below it. (This bridge was largely demolished by its owner after a potentially serious accident occurred there when it was being crossed by a farm vehicle - strangely no alternative means of vehicle access was provided. A small portion of the towpath side abutment can still be seen.)

Wilmoreway Upper Lock 2002
Wildmoorway Upper Lock

The Upper Lock has received little attention apart from the removal of a couple of large trees which were beginning to damage the structure. The towpath wall is poor towards the top whilst the offside wall is, for the most part, much better. This is the opposite of the former condition of the Lower Lock
There is some concern that the digging activities by badgers in the past may have damaged the overflow weir culvert which is located under the towpath.

The upper gates have, at some time in the distant past, been replaced by a brick wall in the shape of the original lock gates. An attempt was made to re-water the pound between here and Boxwell Spring Lock by inserting paving slabs in the original wooden paddle guides. This revealed significant leakage towards the far end of the pound in the area of the springs - an area that had been repuddled presumably to overcome the same problem early in the 20th century restoration work. It was only possible to refill the pound full during a very wet spell of weather and this generated impressive fountains in the field below the canal embankment where the lower Boxwell Springs used to flow before the water table was significantly dropped in the 1930s due to water extraction at Latton Pumping Station.

Wildmoorway Gallery

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 Copyright © Ken Burgin 2002