The aim of the Trust is to restore the 6¾ miles of the Wendover Canal to full navigable order, from its junction with the Grand Union Canal at Bulbourne to Wendover. The sections below describe our completed Phase 1 restoration, our current Phase 2, and the future Phase 3.
Phase 1: The quarter-mile at Little Tring
The construction work to restore Phase 1 began in earnest in 1997 following ground clearance. As part of the restoration of Phase 1, Little Tring Bridge, demolished in 1973, had to be rebuilt. Volunteers undertook the clearance work but re-building of a road bridge necessitated the use of professional contractors. The bridge was completed in 2001 and is a concrete box brick-faced in traditional style.
While the bridge was being rebuilt restoration of the first quarter-mile of canal began; owing to various requirements laid down by the local authority and British Waterways, concrete walls had to be built along both sides of the canal. The walls were completed in 2004 and the bed lined, and the re-watering took place in February 2005. March 2005 saw the first boats to go through the stop-lock and under Little Tring Bridge in over 100 years. The provision at the end of the restored section of an 80-foot winding hole (turning point) allows any boat that can use the English canal system to navigate the Arm; before the completion of phase 1, only boats less than 45-feet in length could cruise the Arm and turn around for the return journey.
Phase 2: The 1½ miles from Little Tring to Drayton Beauchamp bridge
With the successful completion of Phase 1 the Trust began work on the “dry” section between Little Tring and Drayton Beauchamp. One of the first tasks in 2006 was to build two new wooden bridges over the line of the canal to divert footpaths that had, since de-watering early in the 20th century, crossed the canal bed.
Simultaneously a 60-yard section of canal was restored at Drayton Beauchamp to test the practicability of various restoration techniques and this section was re-watered in 2008.
With the restoration technique defined and agreed, work began in earnest to continue to restore the canal back to Little Tring. The work consists of several stages: first the under-bed pipe that takes water from Drayton Beauchamp to Little Tring has to be capped to prevent any problems should it collapse after the canal is re-watered; then the banks are profiled and mooring bays constructed. Following this a layer of the waterproof material Bentomat® is laid down the banks and across the bed. The Bentomat® is held in place on the walls with dense concrete blocks and on the bed with a covering 300mm of spoil. At water level coir rolls on top of the blocks provide a habitat for water-margin plants.
440 yards was completed and re-watered in 2009 and the next section, 440 yards in length to Bridge 4a, was completed and re-watered in 2015. Restoration to Bridge 4 is almost complete and is expected to be re-watered in 2021.
Phase 3: The 3¼ miles from Drayton Beauchamp to Wendover
Although still in water and not subject to the leakage problems historically experienced by the section of canal covered by the Phase 2 restoration, there is much work to do along the Phase 3 section before the restoration to Wendover is complete.
Achievements to date
1990-2003: The Trust argued successfully for the provision of a navigable bridge under the A41 Aston Clinton bypass. Initially the Trust would have had to acquire land so that the canal could be diverted under the bridge; in the end the Department of Transport did this to avoid having to build balancing ponds for storm water from the new road and 440 yards of new canal as far as Drayton Beauchamp bridge and a new winding hole (turning point) was constructed.
1992: The Trust was instrumental in preventing the demolition of Rothschild bridge and its subsequent restoration.
Necessary work for full restoration
The work necessary to achieve full restoration to Wendover is as follows:
Towpaths and banks
Over the years the towpath and banks have been subjected to wear and erosion. Although not serious whilst the water is at its current low level it will not be possible to raise the water level to its correct, navigable depth if the banks and towpaths are left at this level so work will have to be done to raise them to their correct height.
There are several bridges that over the years have been removed and replaced with concrete culverts or low bridges and these will all have to be replaced with fully navigable alternatives. Two examples of this are at Buckland Wharf (7) and Halton (10). Other obstacles include the old A41 bridge (8) at Buckland Wharf, at present simply a low arch that will require raising. There are various pipes that cross the canal at low level, installed after the canal was abandoned which will need work. Finally the Arm will need a general clearance and dredging. When Phase 2 is complete and the work to raise the towpaths and banks along Phase 3 has been done, boats will be able to navigate from Bulbourne to the west of Drayton Beauchamp providing a very enjoyable cruise through a little over three miles of the Chiltern countryside.
The problems faced in Phase 3 are very different from those faced in Phases 1 and 2. However, in Phase 1 there was the problem of having to rebuild Little Tring Bridge which the Trust accomplished with great success and is confident that the same will be achieved in Phase 3.