The Hereford and Gloucester Canal followed an almost entirely rural course for 34 miles through the glorious countryside of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. As the canal's heydays waned, a railway was built over the canal from Gloucester to Ledbury, but then too closed in 1964, and subsequently taken up and removed. Our work to restore the thirty-four miles is not therefore easy or straightforward.
The line of the Canal is however protected on local authority plans in both counties so this helps enormously when developers show an interest in land along the canal corridor.
Although much of the canal has been filled in and in places has disappeared without trace, a surprising number of lock cottages, wharf buildings, original bridges and sections of canal in water remain to be seen.
A Short History of the Trust
Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Society
With the above in mind, in 1982 an ‘informal steering group’ came together on a number of occasions in Hereford to discuss the potential to form a proposed Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Society.
Public interest in the revival of the long-forgotten Canal began in April, 1983, when the Society was inaugurated at a public meeting. The Society formed with no more substantial aims than raising awareness of the Canal and preserving what structures remained. At that time there was little thought that full restoration might be possible.
The Society however quickly identified opportunities to start canal restoration and much work was progressed at Oxenhall just south of the tunnel, and at Monkhide east of the A4103 at Crew's Pitch.
This lead to the canal being restored to the point where a narow bboat and range of smaller craft were able to cruise the canal at Monkhide on a series of Open Days.
Launch of the Trust
Things took a great step forward in 1992 when the Society was re-constituted as the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Trust with the stated aim of complete restoration of the canal.
The Trust became a registered charity and as interest and membership of the Trust grew, additional lengths of the Canal were worked on at various sites in Hereford, including Aylestone Park, at Yarkhill and Kymin, at Llanthony Lock and of course, Over Basin. Slowly the vision began to reveal that one day, Hereford and Gloucester might once again be joined by a navigable Canal!
Today the Trust has an ordinary and corporate membership of some 1,400 from all over the country – and abroad.
During the ensuing years the Canal Trust has gained national recognition of its success in working in partnership with developers and Local Authorities in order to secure the future of the restoration for the whole community.
Working with the Waterways Recovery Group, the original canal basin at Over, where the canal connected with the River Severn, was reconstructed. This was the largest all volunteer canal restoration project in the UK in 1999-2000.
Regular weekly volunteer restoration groups work at various sites restoring and then maintaining their sections of the canal. These sites include those mentioned above, and more recently also at Newent, Malswick and Moat Farm.
In 2016 our volunteers were awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
To ensure the line of the Canal is not obstructed in the future the Trust has worked hard to ensure that the entire canal corridor is protected in local authority plans. Not only does this protect the route of the Canal from adverse developments, it also shows local authority recognition of the benefits that the rebuilt canal will bring to the economy and environment. As a consequence, where planning permission is sought for development alongside the Canal, a public benefit element of the scheme must be support for the Canal.
When completed, it will rank as one of the most attractive cruising routes in the country. But the Canal is not just being restored for boaters, as most visitors to canals are not boaters, but people who come on foot, just to enjoy being near this beautiful and peaceful waterway.
Passing through unspoilt countryside, this Canal will provide recreation for tourist and locals alike, whilst providing a natural habitat for a large variety of wildlife.
As restoration work progresses, the canal increasingly offers opportunities for cyclists, anglers, walkers, historians, engineers, model boat operators, paddle boarders and more to come and Enjoy the Canal.
- 34 miles of canal to deliver
- 10% restored or under restoration
- A further 10% in active negotiation
- We lead the way in sustainable income streams to ensure no future liability on central or local government for maintenance or management.
- A British Waterways report predicts the canal will generate £20 million a year and around 400 jobs.
The Trust's stated objective is:
“The reconstruction of the full length of the canal from Gloucester to Hereford. The vision is a sustainable, fully-navigable waterway and towpath, reconnecting the rural communities between the cities of Hereford and Gloucester, and bringing environmental and economic benefits to both counties as well as recreational opportunities for local people and visitors alike.”
The way this is achieved has to be flexible as opportunities and resources are available, and reviewed annually.
The Trust has a “Restoration Strategy Framework” – The Trustees want the direction of the Trust and the strategy to be inclusive and contributed to by members and volunteers. Those volunteers working in each geographical restoration area will help to produce an annual plan of their restoration and maintenance intentions along with the resources required. The overall direction, prioritisation, and coordination will be managed by the board of Trustees to ensure focus within the resources and opportunities available. Members will be invited to provide their thoughts and suggestions, and to be involved with the planning and development.
We call on individual benefactors, corporate sponsors, statutory funders, grant-making trusts and the gifts of the wider community to help raise the funds needed for this phase of our work. See our pages on Supporting the Trust for more on this.
- Enabling work has recently commenced on restoring the section of canal between the already restored House Lock and Ell Brook Aqueduct structures at Oxenhall. This project will include re-construction of a lock chamber destroyed during the building of the Gloucester-Ledbury railway and excavation of a much overgrown and infilled section of canal channel
- Plans have also been recently announced for the creation of an inclined plane arrangement to facilitate the passage of boats through the Newent station site
- A variety of new structures have been created by a well-established team carrying out conditional works of the river bridges and other agreed work on a farm as part of an arrangement to secure land transfer to the Trust at Malswick. Once this work is finished we will move onto several other bridges over streams, a new swing bridge off the B4215, a new lock and ¾ mile of canal channel restoration. This will include considerable areas for conservation in the cuttings and years of work from undergrowth clearance, machine work and two major structures. Above all, this delivers a very high-profile site alongside the main road and directly accessible from Malswick House
- Canal channel maintenance continues at Aylestone Park in Hereford, Yarkhill and Kymin East
Just a few of our other achievements to date …
- Hereford Retail Park – we assisted to secure Retail Consent, gaining £1.5 million of developer investment/land on a £10 million scheme
- A new bridge at Hereford’s Roman Road – constructed 32 miles from nearest point of navigation..
- At Over – a significant section of the canal was restored by H&G Canal Trust volunteers at the Gloucester terminus – a contract value of £750k delivered for £65k on site – showing the power of volunteers and private sector working together with public sector facilitation.
- Working with the Waterways Recovery Group, the original canal basin at Over, where the Canal connected with the River Severn, has been reconstructed. This was the largest all volunteer canal restoration project in the UK in 1999-2000. Since then, Vineyard Hill, a stretch of similar length, has also been brought back into water
- The Wharf House at Over Basin, just west of Gloucester was built on the site of the old lock cottage that once stood overlooking the banks of the River Severn. The shell of the building was constructed for the Trust by Swan Hill Homes. Inside, Trust volunteers completed the entire fit-out, much of it using material recycled from the Hospital buildings that once stood near by, to provide a restaurant, offices and visitor centre.
- We secured the crucial Asset Transfer of the shell of The Wharf House which volunteers have transformed into an AA Red Rosette Restaurant with Rooms – directly creating employment and enhancing Gloucester’s tourism. Our volunteers later added seven luxury bedrooms. In 2019 the building was let out to a third party providing an ongoing income stream for the Trust, and is now trading as The Lock Keepers and The Moorings.
- A significant length of functioning canal channel was recreated at Vineyard Hill, working away from Over Basn towards our goal in Hereford
- Work, has been carried out at Burcott Road and Aylestone Park in Hereford, At Aylestone Park a significant length of canal was cleared of years of infill including contaminated silt, a network of footpaths created and later a boat launching slipway constructed by our volunteers
- A new section of canal has been created at Dymock as a condition attached to a recent residential development
- Stretches of the canal at Monkhide, Yarkhill, Kymin East, Moat Farm, and Oxenhall have been restored by Trust volunteers
- The stone chamber of House Lock and the Ell Brook Aqueduct at Oxenhall have been completely restored by Trust volunteers
- At Llanthony Lock, the lock cottage has been restored by Trust volunteers to provide an incomne stream for the Trust, whilst clearance work has taken place to reveal and allow conservation work to the original river lock chamber
- In 2016 our volunteers were awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
Why not show your support by becoming a Member of the Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal Trust
Anyone can join the Trust – Armchair members are just as welcome as “muddy ones”. You will be surprised at the number of ways in which you might be able to help us.
Your Membership will demonstrate public support for the Canal Restoration to funding bodies. You can meet new people at our range of regular social events – from open days at one of our restoration sites to monthly social evenings. Members of the Trust receive our quarterly magazine, The Wharfinger, which contains news of restoration and the many other activities of the Trust. We would very much value your support as a Member of the Herefordshire & Gloucester Canal Trust.
Please help us restore the Hereford & Gloucester Canal by joining the Trust TODAY! Subscription rates start from as little as £7.50 per annum.