Historic canal from Gravesend to Higham restoration nears completion
PUBLISHED: 12:30 20 January 2011
Rowing, canoeing and fishing are to become a permanent fixture on an historic canal for the first time in 60 years as the first phase of a £900,000 project nears completion.
Volunteers at the Thames and Medway Canal Association, founded in 1976, have worked tirelessly towards the restoration of the early 19th century waterway which runs from Mark Lane, Gravesend, to Higham.
This month final touches to a one kilometre stretch are to be completed, with the installation of pumps and connection by electricty firm EDF allowing the canal to become operational.
Water will then constantly feed the section via a nearby weir pond.
Chairman Brian Macknish, who founded the association, said: “This is a very important month for all involved. It signals the completion of the first major phase which will allow the slipway and docking area we have created to be freely used on a permanent basis.
“It means rowing, canoeing and fishing will return to the area for the first time since the 1950s.
“This is a great achievement for the many volunteers involved as it provides a great stretch of water to be enjoyed, a linea waterway of a kilometre when up to full capacity.”
Although construction work will be completed this month it is hard to say exactly how long it will take to become fully usuable.
He added: “Everything is in place but obviously we need the water, it will feed itself and gradually fill up and could take a couple of months.
“The work has been surveyed and is constructually sound, everything will be in place and certainly with a few months I expect to see this area a buzz of activity.”
This month contractors for Sustrain, the national cycling network, started work on restoring the route running on the Canal towpath to Shornemead Crossing, another key factor in the areas preservation. It also runs alongside the RSPB marshes near the Met Police Public Order and Firearms Training Facility.
Despite the success of the project many more trickier sections of the overall project are still being worked towards.
Eventually it is hoped small trail and narrow boats will be able to use other sections of the canal, which enthusiast hope will eventually be linked to the nearby Canal Basin, a plan under consultation with housing developers.
Mr Macknish added: “This is the ultimate aim and its rightful course. It will be a great facility for residents in the area and unltimately property overlooking water is a lot more valuable and sought after.”
He added: “I have always enjoyed the canal and in 1976 permission had been granted for more industry to be built in this area. It was at this time the decision was taken to form an association to look after and keep it in order.”