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The Bridgwater Way

PUBLISHED: 09:00 30 May 2014

Chris and Val Whitcombe of Maunsel Lock

Chris and Val Whitcombe of Maunsel Lock

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A project aimed at transforming travel in Bridgwater moves its attention towards the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal

"We feel the canal is a special place and needs a little bit of TLC"

A £600,000 improvement project for the towpath on the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal has begun. The work is part of The Bridgwater Way project, which aims to encourage cycling and walking in the town.

Funded by the Department for Transport, The Bridgwater Way includes 6.5miles of new or improved cycle paths and walking routes and a host of activities to encourage sustainable transport and ease congestion. It is being delivered through a partnership between Somerset County Council, Sustrans and Sedgemoor District Council.

The current towpath work, carried out by the Canal & River Trust, will include the widening and improving of a mile long section, from Hamp Bridge to Albert Road, creating a top quality cycle and walking route with better lighting and sign-posting. It’s part of a series of improvements carried out alongside the canal and when complete it will make the towpath a valuable route into the town centre for those who want to leave the car at home but are not comfortable cycling or walking along the busy A38 Bridgwater Road.

The works will open up a new link from the south for anyone going to work, school or college.

Chris and Val Whitcombe of Maunsel Lock Canal Centre say they have already seen an increase in the number of people using the towpath, including commuters cycling to work.

The route is also enjoyed by walkers on the Somerset Space 
Walk – a true scale model of our 
Solar System placed along the Bridgwater Canal.

Visitors unsure about embarking on the 15 miles by bike or foot need not worry, explains Chris.

“There are three car parks along the lengths of the canal plus parking in the towns at either end so you don’t have to do the whole length.”

Maunsel Lock sits midway along the canal and is a popular attraction for visitors. The teashop, with its new conservatory, is open throughout 
the year and a 12-seater trip boat takes passengers along the picturesque waterway.

But Maunsel Lock is much more than a teashop business. It is also a focal point for members of the community eager to preserve this special piece of Somerset history.

The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal Association (BATCA) has been formed with the support of the Canal & River Trust in order to promote, protect and raise awareness of this lovely facility.

The volunteers have already been busy hedge laying and have been trained to skipper the trust’s workboat for carrying out jobs in more remote areas along the waterway. They have also restored two huts once used by canal workers.

“We feel the canal is a special place and needs a little bit of TLC,” says Val.

“We are fully supported by the Canal & River Trust and have been supplied with the tools and training.”

Volunteers have helped to create wildlife habitats and visitors love to see the animals and birds such as kingfishers, while the boats on the water are a big attraction. Children, in particular, are fascinated to watch the lock in action.

Val says: “Children like to help with the lock under supervision. They are the next generation coming along.”

Meanwhile, the latest addition to Maunsel Lock, the Wheelyboat craft, designed to help disabled people access the waterways, is currently undergoing maintenance after being put into action in flooded Muchelney. The boat was used by fire service crews on humanitarian journeys; for 56 days it transported stranded people in and out of the village.

If you are interested in joining the BATCA volunteers please call 01278 663449 or e-mail batcasecretary@btinternet.com

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