All Change at Newent

Restoration of the canal at Newent has been heavily compromised by the construction of the Ledbury to Gloucester Railway over much of the canal below Oxenhall. The railway chose a high-level crossing at Bridge Street which involved lowering the road level. The canal must now pass above the road, with boats raised sufficiently to satisfy modern highway standards for headroom.

Five years or so ago in The Wharfinger we were all beguiled with pictures of boats moving along the canal between the platforms at the old railway station at Newent. Sad to say – wonderful though it looked in the artists impression – this option has proved not to be the way forward.

The local community, and many canal trust members, felt that the proposed embankment was totally out of scale with the environment. In addition, the proposal to drastically raise and widen the existing station embankment would involve massive engineering works and the loss of many specimen trees. This was considered impractical. Following these objections, the current trustees therefore asked for a review of the scheme.

The Newent Project Team therefore reinvestigated various ways of taking the canal across Bridge Street.

Following a presentation in late July to the trustees a new method has now been accepted as the way forward – an inclined plane.

Boats travelling down from Oxenhall will be cradled out of the water onto a wheeled trolley, up an initial slope, along a level track through the station – between the platforms (thus fulfilling part of the original vision), up another small incline to reach the required height over Bridge Street and then down the other side to be set afloat again at a basin located behind the fire station. Boats travelling up towards Hereford will of course make the journey in reverse.

The weight of a boat will be no greater than the railway engines and carriages of old so no reinforcement of the existing embankment will be needed.

The only section required to be raised will be the short section up and over Bridge Street.

Newent station can therefore be restored at its historic level. The team are looking at designs for the station building and signal boxes to be as close as possible to the style of the originals. They have some pictures of the old station but if anyone knows of any other pictures please get in touch – they will be very welcome.

Another major benefit to this scheme is that the extant 18th century section of canal below House Lock will not be buried under an embankment but can be restored at its historic level. This includes the reconstruction of No.2 Lock, the one below House Lock. Below this there is a slight increase in the height of the original bed of the canal due to the work undertaken at the Ell Brook aqueduct.

Through the Willows the towpath will only be about one metre above the existing ground level. There will be some earth movement required but lorry movements compared to the original scheme, will be enormously reduced and as much material as possible will be retained within the site.

The quick witted amongst you will have realised that the insertion of the double incline into the canal will interrupt the flow of water. There are various options for moving the water around the obstacles and these will all be investigated to choose the best way.

A lot of the work can be done by volunteers who will – have a great time rebuilding the canal and reduce the cost at the same time.


So – we have the concept.

The technicalities and design considerations still need to be fully investigated and worked out, but we have assurances that this is a feasible and viable project.

A unique series of working inclined planes on our canal – a canal enthusiasts dream and a major tourism attraction for the area.

What a project to be involved in!

Think we are crazy!!!

Visit the canal at Blists Hill, Coalport and see views of an inclined plane that was used to lower boats by 63m. Think how many locks that would be – see Wikipedia page on this.

Looking on the web it is not that crazy, Foxton Locks Inclined Plane may not be in place, but other are.