A SPECIAL event to celebrate the completion of the award-winning A38 Whitminster roundabout canal restoration project - the first section of the 'missing mile' - has been celebrated with a tree planting ceremony.

The roundabout project is part of the restoration works of the Stroudwater Navigation canal, which will allow the reopening of a section of waterway which was lost when the A38/A419 roundabout and M5 were built in the late 1960s west of Stonehouse.

The entire canal from the point where the surviving canal approaches the A38 Whitminster roundabout to Westfield Lock were lost – a distance of about a mile, the so called ‘missing mile’.

Andrew Page-Dove, South West Regional Director for National Highways, joined Jim White, John Newton and Matt Lee, all trustees of the Cotswold Canals Trust, and Cllr Vernon Smith, Gloucestershire County Council cabinet member for highways to plant trees at the special event.

A commemorative plaque was also unveiled at the pandemic-delayed ceremony to celebrate completion of the National Highways-funded project and the start of the next stage of the missing mile - the M5 crossing and digging of the missing mile.

Work will start afresh in the new year to progress the ambitious project, which will eventually see a newly restored canal travel under the M5 near Junction 13.

Despite taking place during the pandemic, and with significant challenges including maintaining traffic flows on a busy roundabout, the teams delivered the works on time, and recently won two awards at the Institute of Civil Engineers South West Awards 2021: The People’s Choice award and Project Under £8million Award.

The rest of the `missing mile’ project will see a new canal channel dug between Whitminster and Eastington, crossing under the M5 underpass, the building of two new locks and the reconnection to the historic canal channel at Eastington.

Cllr Vernon Smith, Gloucestershire County Council cabinet member for highways, said: “It will be great to see this part of the canal reopened and I’m sure it will attract many visitors to the area.”

As well as the canal, the whole restoration will provide a new walking and cycling route, environmental improvements with more than 21 hectares of wildlife habitats and a safe crossing for people under the A38.

This project is the first of many, and next May the Ocean Rail Bridge in Stonehouse will be replaced and Walk Bridge will be re-commissioned.

To read more about the works visit www.cotswoldcanals.org