Wendover Canal Trust update – January 2022
The Wendover Canal, past, present and future
by Nigel Williams, Publicity Director, Wendover Canal Trust
Author’s note: In this article I refer to the “canal” rather than the often used term “Arm”.
The Wendover Canal runs for 6.75 miles from Bulbourne Junction on the Grand Union Canal to Wendover and apart from a short navigable section extending to about one mile was effectively abandoned as a waterway from 1904.
Construction started in 1793 and it was soon discovered that leakage would be a problem; in fact only nine years later leakage was reported, resulting in the canal being closed for some months. Numerous further leakage problems were experienced during the canal’s working life and it closed again in 1855. A stop lock was built in 1896 close to the Pumping Station in an attempt to control the loss of water. During times of low water the lock would be closed preventing loss of water from the summit down the canal. The last business to use the canal was Bushell Brothers who were well known builders of a wide range of craft. Upon retirement of the brothers in 1952, the firm ceased trading. Their premises were adjacent to the current Mill, now operated by Heygates.
The Wendover Arm Trust was formed in 1989 with the intention of restoring the canal to a fully navigable waterway – one of the most attractive in the country and being lock free. The canal is owned by the Canal & River Trust (CRT) but they do not have funds to support restoration. Completion of Phase 1 restoration to the winding hole at Little Tring was completed with subsequent re-watering in 2007. This section required the re-building of Little Tring bridge which had been demolished in 1973. The cost to the Trust was £263,000 and entirely funded by them. This most attractive bridge has won several awards and is one of several bridges on the canal which will require raising or re-building.
Following completion of Phase 1, which allowed boats to navigate to Little Tring, restoration work then commenced at Drayton Beauchamp, by the existing bridge, and this 1.5 mile section forms part of Phase 2, of which re-watering was carried out in June 2010. Two footbridges constructed by the Trust enable walkers to cross the bed of the canal and further re-watering was carried out in November 2021. The final section of this Phase, to connect with the navigable section at Little Tring, is going to cost the Trust a very considerable amount of money owing to having to dispose of an old tip which contains hazardous materials. Whilst the Trust has sufficient funds to complete the restoration as far as the tip, they do not have adequate financial resources to remove this obstacle and are currently investigating possible funding sources, which, during a time of national constraint, is proving difficult.
In 2021 a decision was taken to change the operating name of the Trust from Wendover Arm Trust to Wendover Canal Trust (WCT). We found the use of the word”Arm” was confusing to the public and our previous logo, of lock paddle gear, was irrelevant since there is no lock! A decision to use Little Tring Bridge, with a stylized narrow boat passing under, was taken and has received widespread approval. The change of name will, hopefully, give us added legitimacy and also the canal and ourselves increased recognition. The Trust has been surprised how many Wendover residents are unaware of its existence and the restoration being undertaken.
Work parties continue, normally for two weeks each month, and the Trust has been encouraged by the recent large number of new volunteers. Considerable progress has been made under the supervision of Tony Bardwell, Operations Director and the work can be viewed at any time by using the towpath.
Once finally completed the canal will provide a wonderful local amenity to be enjoyed by all including fishermen, walkers, boaters and all who appreciate the unique area of glorious Chiltern countryside.
Our current objective, apart from continuing restoration, is to source funds for removal of the tip. All contributions are most welcome!
Contact details: Wendover Canal Trust: www.wendovercanal.org.uk Tel: 07547 181857.