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Welford Arm Canal 50th Anniversary

In the 1960s, when canals were at a low point after the end of commercial freight, and before the rise in leisure use, British Waterways pursued a strategy of neglect leading to disuse in an attempt to build a case for laying a closure notice before Parliament for the Leicester Line summit canal.

The 11/4 mile branch to Welford was un-navigable at this time and, due to silt, also becoming restricted in its ability to pass water to the summit from the Welford, Sulby and Naseby reservoirs which supply the whole of this part of the canal system.

Following campaigning by the Old Union Canals Society, the then fledgling Inland Waterways Association and others, as well as some ‘guerrilla’ restoration work, in the middle of 1967 British Waterways changed its approach and started an 18 month project which involved piling collapsed lengths of towpath, dredging 10,000 tonnes of silt, rebuilding the lock, installing new lock gates, and building two new bridges.

The significance of this project was not lost on British Waterways, and their chairman Sir Frank Price, performed the grand opening ceremony from his narrowboat ‘Telford’ on 17 May 1969.

This was the first full restoration of an un-navigable canal, the first in which BW accepted the participation of volunteers working on the canal and, had this restoration not taken place, the Leicester Line summit would have been lost: no Foxton Locks, no Watford Flight, no Crick Boat Show!

On the weekend of 18-19 May, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the restoration and re-opening at Welford Wharf, with Historic Working Narrowboats, Boat Trips, Vintage Tractors, Local Stalls and Canal Crafts, Pop-up Canal Museum, Souvenir Shop, and Trading Boats with live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday provided by the Wharf Inn.

Entry is Free - come and enjoy some time by the canal.

Steve Braund
07836 503987

Issue 412
May 2019

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