MORE than 100 volunteers flocked to the banks of the Stroudwater Navigation at Dudbridge last week to witness the first boats passing through the double locks in 70 years.
Four boats went through the flight in convoy, cheered on by volunteers from the Cotswold Canals Trust (CCT), from Stroud District Council’s Tuesday and Thursday groups, and from the Stroud Community Land Trust (CLT).
The volunteer workforce also enjoyed a barbecue, laid on by the Council and the two Trusts to say ‘thank you’ for their efforts.
The Dudbridge locks were restored by the District Council, and volunteers had been kept busy fitting paddle gear to the locks, laying new towpath and concreting the area to make it ready for the event.
The celebration also marked the completion of a project by Stroud Community Land Trust (CLT) to restore the derelict pleasure gardens of The Lawn, the Victorian mansion which adjoined the canal prior to its demolition many years ago.
Volunteers spent 18 months transforming the Lake at The Lawn, next to Cainscross roundabout, into a two-hectare green oasis for local people and wildlife.
The charity, formed by local residents to save the site, had raised £150,000 to complete the work, with the bulk of the funding coming from the Big Lottery's Changing Spaces Fund.
Four schools were involved, 76 trees were planted, and the charity worked with 23 different partner groups during the project.
Restoration of the locks also created a footpath link into the Lake At The Lawn from the canal towpath. This was a key request from the local community when the project was launched.
Dave Marshall, canal partnership manager with Stroud District Council, said: “The two projects were very different entities, but both were driven by volunteers so we felt it was appropriate to have one party to celebrate all their effort.”
And the celebration was also joined by a group of volunteers from Stroud Valleys Project, which helped with The Lawn project and is now busy creating Stroud’s waterside park at Capel’s Mill.
Jack Telling, chairman of the CCT, said: “Both the Lawns and the canal projects simply wouldn’t have happened without volunteers.
"They do a fantastic job in all winds and weathers – they are the unsung heroes. This event is a small thank you for a job well done.”
• The Stroudwater Navigation dates from the 1740s when a waterway was built near Wheatenhurst for pleasure use. The Kemmett Canal was then constructed from Framilode to Stonehouse, between 1759 and 1763, chiefly by making sections of the River Frome navigable between weirs and millponds. And the waterway was completed between 1775 and 1779 when it was extended to Wallbridge in Stroud.