The Hereford & Gloucester Canal
The Hereford & Gloucester Canal is being rebuilt to join Gloucester and Hereford once more by a navigable stretch of water. The Newent section is progressing well and is a credit to all the volunteers who are involved in the restoration.
Building work on the Hereford & Gloucester Canal started in 1793 with the aim of exporting coal from the newly discovered seams at Newent and increase trade between Ledbury and Gloucester. The main engineering feat was the one mile long Oxenhall Tunnel near Newent. This stretch of the canal was completed in1798.
Stephen Ballard from Malvern Link, a former clerk in the canal company had worked his way up to be appointed Canal Engineer in 1837 and was appointed the taskof extending the canal to Hereford. He had the drive, enthusiasm and technical knowledge necessary to see the project through to completion.
Work started in 1839 but he encountered many problems, mostly connected to the shortage of funds for continuing the work. The basin at Hereford was filled with water in May 1845 viewed by not a single onlooker. Stephen Ballard�s greatest engineering achievement is Skew Bridge at Monkhide. It is built at an severe angle of more than 60 degrees to the road.
On the completion of the canal Ballard wrote: �The country looked beautiful and I could not refrain from shedding tears.� Unfortunately the mid 1800s was already the age of the train. The GWR bought and subsidised the running of the uneconomical canal for a number of years and eventualy filled in sections to provide a base for the new �Daffodil Line� railway.
In 1986 a decision to renovate the full 34 miles of the canal and more than twenty two locks from Gloucester to Hereford was undertaken. To date restoration and new building has taken place in Oxenhall - Newent, Over Basin - Gloucester, Hereford, Monkhide, Ell Brook and Yarkhill. It is an ambitious plan but judging by the work completed so far the canal is expected to be completed within the next ten years.
The canal, lock and cottage at Oxenhall have been restored and are a credit to the volunteers who have worked hard to complete this stage of the project. Also at Ell Brook the stone-built aqueduct is being repaired. A Bailey Bridge has been erected as a temporary crossing. The �18,000 bridge was bought for just 10% of its value allowing funds to be spared for other parts of the project.
It is possible to view the lock and canal at Oxenhall, however it is best to park at the village and walk down the hill towards Three Ashes as the road isn�t wide enough to park safely. The canal route extends from both sides of the lane alongside the public footpath. Please respect the privacy of the residents at Lock Cottage as this is a private property.
The Oxenhall volunteer group normally meet on Tuesdays at the lock, you are welcome to come and help. Please contact Brian Fox 01432 358628 for further details. Please check out the Trusts website for photographs and more information.