Over Canal Basin is located on the west bank of the River Severn on the outskirts of Gloucester at the point where the canal originally connected to the River Severn.
Nearest postcode: GL2 8DB
OS Grid Ref: SO 81604 19770
Turn off the A40 at the traffic lights 250 yards west of Over roundabout (junction of A40/A417).
The Trust’s interests at Over began in 1993 when the Local Health Authority proposed to sell the land for development purposes – the site is that of the former Over Isolation Hospital.
The first clearance work on site began in February 1998. Later in the year work started on excavating the former canal basin, which had been filled in when the hospital was built in 1903.
The work was carried out by volunteers from the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Trust and the Waterways Recovery Group, who had a number of work camps through 1999 and 2000 with up to 50 or 60 volunteers working on the site at times.
The work coincided with the demolition of the Over Hospital, that had at one time stood alongside, in readiness for a new housing development.
Materials from the demolition were recycled by the Trust. This included thousands of heavy Victorian bricks that went into the building of the wharf walls. The brick had to be picked from piles of rubble, sorted and the black mortar chiseled off of the surfaces ready for them to be re-laid.
Once the main walls were completed the curved entrance to the lock was constructed and a gabion wall built along the towpath side of the basin. The wharf wall was topped with blue coping bricks.
A hospital mortuary block had once stood across the line of the canal. Its heavy concrete foundations, although challenging, were successfully removed by the excavator team.
The slipway was laid with granite sets and the banks leading away from the basin sculptured into a gentle slope. These banks were seeded with grass and a wood chip towpath laid.
The clay that had lined the original basin was used to re-line the sides. when all was ready, the new basin was filled with water extracted from the River Leadon, at its confluence with the Severn, just upstream from the lock. The pump, watched by TV cameras, started the flow into the hollow. It took several days until the correct level was reached.
Work continued at Over with the building and fitting out of The Wharf House, and more features have progressively been added to the basin.
A fleet of heritage boats were acquired from British Waterways and restored for use on the canal, and can now be seen moored in the Basin.
More recently, and with more help from the Waterways Recovery Group, the restoration of the next length of Canal at Vineyard Hill has been completed.
The Over Basin Project was completely in 2½ years at approximately 10% of a contractors price of £500,000 and was used as a case study at the World Canals Conference 2000 in New York State to demonstrate the power of not-for-profit commercial partnerships.
The picture below shows Over Basin not long after initial completion. The River Severn is top left, and the entrance from the basin to the former river lock can be seen.
The large building at the top is The Wharf House, developed by the Trust as a restaurant with rooms, now trading as The Lock Keepers.
A boat launching slipway is visible middle left, whilst the restored canal channel exits lower right towards the Vineyard Hill section of the canal.
Over Basin now offers pleasant towpath and riverside walks and is open to the public at most times.
The Lock Keepers, based in the former Wharf House building, now offers acclaimed modern British and European cuisine served in a relaxed setting; seven individual rooms and one family room with great facilities and wonderful views; the perfect setting for an array of functions.
Future plans for further development at Over include construction of the Mill Barn, and eventually restoring a navigable link to the River Severn just alongside the south east corner.
In the meantime, the sheltered waters provide ideal conditions for operating model boats, paddle boarding and sailing for the disabled – more on this here.
More on Over Basin…
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