THE continuing story of how a long lost canal is being “rescued from obscurity” by local volunteers has been given an update.
The Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal Trust has worked since the early 90s to restore the canal, built in the early part of the 1800s and closed in the 1880s, from Hereford to Gloucester via Ledbury and Newent.
A new book, ‘Rescued from Obscurity 2 - The Continuing Story of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal’ provides a history of the canal and update to its popular first edition, written by local author Richard Skeet, as to how much has changed in the last 35 years.
The old canal, which in its heyday was some 34 miles long and used to transport cargo including Forest of Dean coal, was emptied of water in the 1880s to develop a railway, with the line through Newent eventually closing in 1964.
Since the trust was established in the early 90s, works have been ongoing to restore it, with 600 metres of canal near Newent the group’s main project site currently.
The trust secured permission to work on the three-quarters-of-a-mile stretch at Malswick from the Forest Council in 2021.
With “huge progress” having been made at Malswick in the spring, the next stage of the project will see the team plant trees, develop wildlife habitat and construct a community picnic area.
The trust say they’re not only focused on restoring the canal, but also “helping ecological diversity on the way”.
Author Richard Skeet published a history of the canal and the early days of its restoration back in 2014, and has produced the new updated second edition on the request of the trust.
The blurb on the back of the book reads: “David Bick, writing in 1979, described the Hereford and Gloucester Canal as being more ‘lost in obscurity’ than any other major navigation in England.
“This book tells how much has changed in the last 35 years.
“This waterway, running through some of the most beautiful countryside in England is now the subject of one of the leading canal restoration projects in Britain spear-headed by the Hereford and Gloucester Canal Trust.
“In this richly illustrated book a former Chairman of the Trust tells the story of the building and operation of the canal, not as a textbook of industrial archaeology but as a narrative drawing on the words of those involved with the Navigation Company itself or watching from the side-lines.
In the second half of the book Dick Skeet describes how the Hereford and Gloucester Canal Society and later the Hereford and Gloucester Canal Trust has set about the enormous task of restoring the 34 miles of this historic canal, reconnecting two ancient Cathedral Cities.”
The original canal ran from Hereford to Gloucester and was linked to the River Severn.
It was opened in two phases in 1798 and 1845, and closed in 1881.
The trust’s ultimate aim is to fully restore the canal, with works having so far been carried out at several sites in the two counties, including at Over back in 2012.
The restoration near Newent was kicked off in 2017 when the land was purchased.