A Visual Inspection of the Stroudwater Canal, Between the Main Line Railway Crossing, Stonehouse and Pike Bridge, Eastington.
A Report by R H Veevers, C.Eng., MICE, MIHE., MIPHE.
C M Povey, B Sc., C.Eng., MICE., MIWES.
For:- Stroudwater, Thames & Severn Canal Trust Ltd.
A visual inspection was carried out on part of the Stroudwater Canal during the morning of Sunday 9th. April 1978. This inspection extended from the main line railway crossing at Stonehouse (map ref. SO 797051) to Pike bridge (map ref. SO 783061), a distance of approx. 1.7 Km.
A report of the inspection follows, and suggests certain maintenance should be carried out to bring the section of canal up to a safer and more visually presentable level.
The work outlined has been devised on the basis of being undertaken as a labour-intensive project. It is estimated that the cost of materials for thework is approximately £4,800.
Report of Inspection of Part of the Stroudwater Canal, as described below.
The inspection proceeded westwards from the main line railway crossing towards Pike bridge, and the report follows this procedure. Lengths of channel are denoted by the main structurres at the extremities.
An estimate of the materials necessary can be found in the Appendix following the Report.
A.Railway Crossing to Hoffmans Water Intake
Debris and reed clearance is required for this stretch, mainly to the towpath (southern) side. The existing towpath gate is decrepit and replacement is necessary. It is recommended that grills be placed over the entrance and end of the by-pass pipe, for safety purposes.
B.Water Intake to Hoffmans Bridge (Bonds Mill)
Clearance of deadwood from the trees on the north side of the canal is required. Some trimming of the overhanging branches may be desirable. The almost-dead willow tree arching over the towpath should be removed, as shouldthe remains of a boat on the bank nearby. Mild debris and reed clearance is necessary.
The southern embankment, which contains the towpath, visibly drops down to, and possibly below, the maximum water level of the canal at the bridge end of this stretch. This depressed part of the embankment, about 100m. in length, will require raising by an average of approximately 0.5m. to the proper level. It is recommended that this is effected by the insertion of suitable timber piling on the water side of the embankment, and the subsequent building- up with imported clay behind the piling to the required embankment level. Existing topsoil to be removed over the affected area, to the clay layer inside the embankment before new clay is inserted. Only good quality clay should be used for building up the embankment, and it should be suitabley puddled in layers to achieve water-tightness. Topsoil can then be replaced over the new clay, and the towpath re-instated.
C.Bonds Mill Bridge to Brick Roving Bridge
A small amount of tree and bramble clearance is necessary on the towpath side. The trees are mainly saplings, although a small number of semi-mature trees (approx. 6) exist. Trimming the overhanging branches of the trees on the north side is desirable.
At the time of the inspection, the Milk Marketing Board (Tilburys or Laings) were laying a pipe across, and presumably under, this stretch of canal, to the new Milk Marketing Board Works. It is assumed that re-instatement of the canal will be to its original state. (No, it was not, and caused great difficulties, compensation claimed, and subsequently was paid JT).
D. Roving Bridge (Newtown Bridge) to East Lodge of Eastington Park
This bridge transfers the towpath from the south to the north side of the canal, in addition to giving agricultural access.The structure is covered with ivy, but parts which are visible encourage the belief that the structure is sound and in fairly good condition. Recent repairs to the north-west road wing wall are evident.
Although not widespread at present, trees arre beginning to infiltrate the lower part of the bridge, especially the abutments and entry wing walls. If left, these will cause serious damage to the brickwork, and one particularly bad example of this exists on the north-east entry wing wall where a tree has dislodged the brickwork and raised the copings by a substantial amount. This sort of damage requires removal of the tree and the roots, and removal of all dislodged building materials prior to relaying or rebedding them.
It is recommended that all greenery, trees, and tree roots are removed from this bridge, and damage so caused repaired as described above. Any other repairs required, such as to loose or missing brickwork, should be similarly dealt with. An example of loose and missing brickwork exists on the wall supporting the western towpath. The removalof the overgrowth will allow repointing of the structure, after any loose mortar has been raked from the joints.
The concrete coping over the new brickwork on the north-west road wing wall is breaking up. The original coping is semi-circular brickwork. It is likely that the original bricks for the stretch of coping now formed in concrete lie in the canal, and it is suggested that these bricks are retrieved and reinstated, after removal of the concrete coping.
Lastly, large hollows exist in the road surface over the bridge, and it is likely that the surface is approaching the arching of the bridge. It is recommended that any loose earth is removed from these hollows and concrete used to fill the depressions to the proper road level.
E Roving Bridge to Newtown Lock
The towpath continues on the north side of the canal.
There is evidence of an old timber revetment at water level along the entire length of the north side. There is also evidence to suppose that the north bank is not entirely stable, as some looseness of the bank occurs near the house with the dovecote. Near Blunder Lock the A419 main road converges on and lies adjacent to the canal. It is recommended that a new timber revetment approximatley 0.5m. high is introduced along the full length of the north bank of this stretch, a length of approximatley 280m. Any filling or stablilisation of the bank can then take place behind a stable structure. There are no depressions in the level of the north bank of any consequence, and any filling or stabilisation can be effected with good quality earth.
Overhanging branches from the trees on the south side require trimming. A significant number of semi-mature trees exist on the north side, mainly at the bridge end. The felling of these trees is the optimum solution, thereby leaving the towpath bank clear. If, however, tree-felling is undesirable, all low-level overhanging branches should be trimmed to present a tidy appearance. All saplings should be lopped off, regardless. When trees are felled, roots should be left in the bank, and the trunks trimmed tidily.
The hedge between the towpath and the main road needs trimming, and gaps in it should be reinforced by the planting of new quickthorns.
F.Newtown Lock and Associated Structures
The structure associated with this lock is the overflow weir on the northern bank, just upstream of the lock. The weir directs surplus water away from the canal, but as the structure is overgrown it can only be assumed that the passage of water is under the main road to a ditch on the other side. The weir basin extends through the road verge. Handrailing exists around the structure on the towpath side, but no such protection exists from the road. It is recommended that the weir and basin is cleared of undergrowth, stone or brickwork repaired as necessary, and suitable protection for road-users erected around the structure.
The lock itself is constructed from brick with stone copings. Vegetation covers parts of the walls, and small trees are beginning to take root in the brickwork. At present the structure looks generally sound, but it will only be a short time before substantial damage occurs from these growths. The overgrowth requires removal, and the trees and roots should be grubbed out to ensure decent repairs to dislodged or loose brickwork. Pointing of the structure should follow, after all loose material has been raked from the joints.
The upper gates of the lock were removed to enable a concrete weir to be placed across the upstream entrance. However, the lower gates exist, albeit in a decrepit state. These should be removed, and all fittings and iron work taken from them.
The area around the lock is very overgrwon, and as such is dangerous to walkers. The area should be cleared of growth, thereby revealing hidden edges of the lock, and made into a tidy lock surround. It is not clear where the southern lock boundary is, as no fence seems to exist. A new fence is desirable to denote this boundary.
The present hedge between the lock and the road requires trimming, and reinforcement with new quickthorns where gaps exist.
G. Newtown Lock to Blunder Lock
Very little work is required to this stretch. Overhanging branches on the south side require lopping, and undergrowth between the towpath and the canal ought to be trimmed. The towpath hedge should be tidied and reinforced as mentioned previously.
H Blunder Lock and Associated Structures
A similar overflow weir to that at Newtown Lock exists here, in a similar position. The work required to this weir is the same as that outlined for Newtown Lock weir, in section (F). Some straightening of the towpath handrail is necessary.
Blunder Lock itself is constructed of stone. A concrete weir exists across its upstream entrance and the bottom gates, with balance beams, are extant. The lock looks sound and in good condition.
Similar work to that described for Newtown Lock in section (F) is necessary here. One of the bottom gates looks in fairly good condition, and it may be thought desirable to preserve it intact after removal.
I Blunder Lock to Pike Lock
Again, almost no work required on this section, except general bank clearance and hedge tidying.
J. Pike Lock and Associated Structures
An overflow weir exists here, but the weir itself appears to be in somebodys private garden. The handrailing to this weir is visible in the towpath boundary fence, but the weir itself seems to be filled in. It may be thought desirable to investigate the ownership aspect.
The lock is brick-built, but has been filled with earth at the upper gates cill to form a sloping ramp down to the downstream end. A concrete weir exists, but its downstream side has been filled with concrete, and forms a funnel at its lower end to channel water down the open concrete channel which exists in the middle of the earth ramp. The water eventually enters an Armco' duct underneath the now filled-in Pike Road Bridge.
The partial filling-in of this lock leaves only a small wall area visible. However, these walls should be cleared of vegetation, and repairs and pointing carried out as necessary. This will be mainly to the coping stones, which are misaligned.
The area around the lock would benefit from a tidy-up, similar to that previously described.
Two pages of estimates for materials and plant follow, amounting to £4,800.
[ NB not in fact present]