A GIANT amphibious machine from Holland is digging deep to help restore the Stroudwater Navigation to its former glory.

The 15-tonne excavator is making its UK debut, dredging 4,500 tonnes of material from a 300 metre stretch of the Cotswold Canals between Lodgemore Bridge and Wallbridge Lower Lock in Stroud.

Dave Marshall, canal partnership manager with Stroud District Council, said: “This is a specialist machine that’s been hired by our contractors, Land & Water Services.

“The work has been made possible by a generous £100,000 grant from the Veolia Environmental Trust.”

Chris Spencer, senior site manager for the firm, said: “Our contract is to return the canal, disused for about 80 years, from an overgrown water-borne rubbish tip to a fully navigable canal.

“The challenge is to remove the material while working within a live watercourse, and to retain all the dredged material on site.

“That means we reduce the carbon footprint and save money, which can then be spent on restoring more stretches of the canal.”

The project is expected to take six weeks, during which time footpath diversions are in place.

Environmental considerations are important to the operation.

Before dredging starts, several hundred fish have been rescued and relocated back into the canal downstream below Dudbridge.

The site was checked for wildlife and a management scheme introduced to deal with invasive plants on the site, such as Himalayan balsam.

A curtain is suspended across the canal to prevent silt washing downstream and trees have been cut back with heavier timber being left by the canalside to rot down gradually and create a wildlife habitat.