Luke’s Patch

Luke Walker puts pen to paper in order to help members locate
the restoration sites and canal landmarks frequently
used in his ‘Foxham & Lyneham’ report.

[All references are from OS Pathfinder map 1153, Swindon & Wootton Bassett.].

The relevant OS Landranger sheet is 173.

After reading an article entitled ‘Henry’s Patch’ in the last issue of Dragonfly, followed by an invitation from Tim for other branches’ to write similar articles describing their respective patches, I started drafting ‘Luke’s Patch’ the very same evening although I had to wait until Sunday evening to refer to my Pathfinder maps (which are normally kept at Warwick) to check the Grid References.

The Foxham Branch’s section of the main line starts at Bremhill Wick Bridge (ST 96947457), and ends at Trow Lane (SU 03538138). It is usual to describe the end points in those terms on account of the historical construction of the canal which started at the Melksham end.

People intending to visit sites in our ‘patch’ should be aware that all of them are on private land, and we are indebted to a number of landowners for their support which has enabled us to make such significant progress over many years. The sites where restoration work has been done can be found as follows:­-

There is a finger post, marked Foxham Lock, at the bottom of a lane at ST 98177725. If you walk that track, the remains of the lower lock are visible through the hedge on the right hand side, as the track goes up a slight rise. This lock was cleared many years ago, but, following a change in landownership, was filled again.

Continuing up the track leads to a cluster of houses around a green area. The tailbridge over the Upper Lock will be fairly obvious, the lock chamber and the new Bascule Bridge are both visible looking northwards from the tailbridge.

The towpath leads along the left hand side, for a distance of approximately one mile, passing, in order:- a seat in memory of Paul Rigby, one of the stalwarts of our working parties years ago; the new Bascule Bridge under construction; a crossing which that Bridge is intended to replace; a timber Lift Bridge; and a valve chamber/spillway (in the towpath). There is a stile where you cross from one farmer’s land to the next, and further points of interest include (in order):- a rebuilt accommodation bridge (restored by the farmer, Bob Kinch); a seat in memory of Jack Dalby, who’s research was a essential part in the founding of W&BCAG, facing, on the offside, a memorial milestone; a former lift bridge, the present deck being fixed at low level; and the Elephant Lift Bridge, currently awaiting the lifting structure. Beyond the Elephant Lift Bridge is the Elephant Spillway.

The above is what we refer to as the Foxham section — a circular walk (of about 2¾ miles) can be achieved by walking down the long narrow field (green lane) from the Elephant Bridge back to the road, turn left, then turn left at the T­-junction just after the Foxham Inn.

Our second restoration site is usually referred to as Dauntsey, and is centred around the historic canalside settlement of Dauntsey Lock. The lock chamber itself is visible from the B4069 road, at ST 99538018, and the towpath is walkable and the canal channel re-watered for a distance of about mile to the Dauntsey Upper Spillway, at SU 00188033. On the west side of the road, accessible via the cluster of canalside cottages, about half a mile of canal channel, towpath and hedge have been restored. The level is maintained by a spillway at the far southern end, at ST98887995. You are asked to seek permission from Rachael Banyard (Branch Chair) if you wish to visit the site at Dauntsey.

The third area where we currently aim to keep the towpath in a condition suitable for walking is part of Seven Locks. The Western point of access to this section is Bowds Lane, the canal crosses this very minor lane at SU 01978066. Lock 2 of the flight is under the road. The relevant landowner owns a short length of the canal channel to the east of Bowds Lane — but not as far as lock 1. The towpath can be walked from here to lock 6, and there is a farm track close to lock 7 (turn left onto it) which leads to Trow Lane.

For the next few months, the best time to visit the Foxham section is a Sunday, when you can be fairly confident of seeing a real volunteer working party in action. You might even be able to coax one of us ‘workers’ away from our tasks to talk to you about what we’re doing!

 [reprinted from DragonFly 79]


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