The society’s latest online gathering on Feb 18th, 2021 was another well-attended session. Members and guests continue to support and enjoy these “at-home” evenings. This one was no exception, not least due to the obvious enthusiasm and commitment which our speaker gave to his subject.
The talk – on The Wilts & Berks Canal – was given by stalwart supporter and onetime project director Martin Buckland. It featured a synopsis of the history of the canal’s development. It also covered the canal’s eventual decline (in common with the entire canal network due to the coming of the railways) and then the revival of interest by local communities to revive the waterway for social and tourism development.
We learned that the canal opened in 1810 after 15 years of construction but had a chequered career until its legal closure in 1914. In 1977 restoration of the canal began in a few places.
However, in 2004, a full restoration of the entire 62 miles was decided upon.
Martin’s talk looked specifically at the restoration progress and future proposals for the canal. It focussed in detail on the development and opening of a 150-yard cut near Abingdon at the Eastern end of the canal, named the Jubilee Junction. Running from the River Thames to the edge of a former gravel pit south of the town, it is a key section of the project to reopen the canal for its entire length.
Martin’s talk also showed a tantalising number of images taken from key places along the canal. These were of various projects – past and current. Included was a particularly stunning development at Shrivenham, involving the delivery of vast quantities of ash from the Didcot power station in the days it was operating. All these images represent subject-matter, certainly, for further focus on similar projects. These are, as Martin called them – “pearls” along “the string of pearls” which describes the canal in an apt metaphor
About Martin Buckland
Martin Buckland has been interested in Industrial Archaeology from the age of 4 when watching Great Western trains with his Dad at Iver where he was born.
Nearly seven decades later he is involved with the Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre and with the restoration of the Wilts & Berks and other canals.
He gives talks at Abingdon Museum to primary school children and leads walks along the historic and proposed routes of the Wilts & Berks Canal and another covering the rivers of Abingdon.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust https://www.wbct.org.uk/
History Synopsis appears here:
Oxford Mail Report on the Jubilee Junction . (The name was chosen to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of IWA)