Navigation at Crofton: re-opened!

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The Kennet & Avon Canal has re-opened to navigation at Crofton, following five months of closure to allow the Canal & River Trust to replace the canal’s pumping system at Crofton.  A section of the towpath at Crofton will remain closed until July 2023.

Kennet & Avon at Crofton PHOTO: Janet Richardson
Kennet & Avon at Crofton PHOTO: Janet Richardson

The pumping system at Crofton, near Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire, keeps the summit of the Kennet & Avon Canal topped-up with water for boats, towpath users and wildlife. The works have replaced the 40-year-old pumps, pipes and electrics with a modern, more efficient and reliable system.

To enable the works to be carried out, a six-mile stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal, from Lock 52 (Heathy Close Lock) to Lock 65 (Burnt Mill Lock), has been closed to boats since 7 November 2022.  A diversion is in place for the half-mile stretch of the towpath that remains closed between Lock 58 and Lock 61 on the Crofton flight until July 2023.

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The work this winter is the second phase of this important project to keep the canal navigable, for the benefit of people and wildlife.  Phase one of the £1.8 million works, completed in March 2020, laid new pipes connecting to the existing historic pipeline beneath the canal, and installed new pipework under the railway and up to the canal feeder channel.  Phase two has seen the installation of new pipework, pump and electrics beneath the canal and towpath.  Work has also been carried out at Wilton Water to improve the flow of water from the reservoir, and the historic water control gates (penstocks) are being restored as a heritage structure.

Charles Baker, the Canal & River Trust’s senior project engineer, explains: “Crofton Top Lock is the highest lock at the head of the eastern descent of the Kennet & Avon Canal.  The pumping system at Crofton keeps the canal summit topped up with water, which is vital for boaters and wildlife, as well as the thousands of people who visit the canal towpath each year for the health and wellbeing.

“After 40 years of service, the 1980’s electric pumping system had become unreliable and less efficient.  With the Kennet & Avon Canal more popular with people and boats than at any time in history, the new pumping system will increase efficiency and the amount of water that can be pumped into the canal.

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“We have completed the works beneath the canal, so we’ve been able to re-open the navigation to boats.  Work continues to install and commission the pumps beneath the towpath, so the towpath will remain closed until July.  Diversion routes are in place for walkers, and although boats can now pass through this section of the waterways, some temporary restrictions remain in place for boaters, including restricted opening hours while the works are completed.”

Mark Evans, the Canal & River Trust’s director for Wales & South West, adds: “The Kennet & Avon Canal links the Bristol Avon outside Bath to the River Thames at Reading.  Built to transfer goods and materials between Bristol and London, today the Kennet & Avon Canal is used for leisure.  With over 5,000 boats using the Kennet & Avon Canal each year, it’s one of the most popular canals on the inland waterways network. 

“The Canal & River Trust wants to make its canals more welcoming, safe and clean to encourage more people to use them, and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of walking, boating and cycling, and being by the water.  The upgrade to the water pumping system at Crofton will help to improve resilience in our network and the maintenance of water levels, so that the Kennet & Avon Canal can continue to provide benefits for people and wildlife.”

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To find out more about the project, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/croftonpumps

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