The Newent Project Group is dealing with the station restoration and their remit now includes the length of canal as far as the House Lock and Cottage at Oxenhall.
They have been in discussion about the first phase of this project which will extend from House Lock as far as the aqueduct over the Ell Brook and will include a new Iock (formerly No 2 Lock), and recreation of the canal channel either side together with work to the length of canal channel which still exists.
The position of the old Iock is clearly visible by the change in ground Ievel along the towpath, but there are no visible signs of stonework or brickwork and it is safe to assume that all the stone has been taken away, probably by the railway builders in 1883 who had bought the old canal. Trial excavations have taken place to look for any sign of the brick base but nothing definite has been found.
An environmental inspector has been on site to discuss our plans and has advised on the best way to approach the task of clearing the area so that precise measurements can be taken and detailed plans drawn up for the construction of the Iock. These will then be presented to the Iocal authorities to consider for planning permission.
Work to clear the vegetation growing on the site of the former Iock has now started revealing a quagmire of mud, brambles and loose bricks which are swamped by the water which constantly flows down the canal from the Oxenhall tunnel.
It is clear that this water needs to be diverted away from the planned working areas so an early task will be to create a temporary channel around the site to take the water away and yield a dry area to work in and build the replacement Iock structure.
During any such work we have to consider what impacts on nature will occur, and plan works accordingly. This includes taking account of the bird nesting season. Brambles and Iow Iying vegetation have been cleared along the non-towpath side of the canal so that a start can be made on pollarding of several willow trees at the appropriate time.
Hawthorn trees alongside the towpath are also being attended to as they are becoming unsafe. Over the Iast two years four have been Iost as they have become too tall, and together with the ivy growing around them has made them top heavy so that they are blown over by strong winds. There are several still standing and some of these are in the process of being cut down or laid over to create a hedge which will be more easily managed in future.
As is said elsewhere on this website, this is a major project, with specific funding and volunteering needs.
A considerable amount of new funding will be needed to meet the costs of lock chamber construction, reforming the canal channel and of all the associated groundworks.
In addition, new teams of volunteers will be needed to boost the existing capability, and address a variety of needs including planning and design, programming, management of health and safety, operation of mechanical plant and equipment, and the good old fashioned plain and simple grafting that is canal restoration.