Community Canal Project

The Stroudwater Canal Community Project

Working to improve the section between Upper Framilode and Saul Junction

 

 

Historical Background

The Stroudwater Canal was built between 1775 and 1779 from Framilode on the River Severn to Wallbridge, Stroud. It was built as a branch canal from the Severn to bring coal and other merchandise to the industry centred Stroud. The canal was a local canal, built by local men and paid for by local money. Old Stroudwater is a term that has been used to describe the section of the canal between Saul and Upper Framilode. The entrance to the canal from the River Severn at Framilode was close to the mouth of the River Frome which had long been a dock for trading vessels. Before the opening of the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, this was the route taken by the Stroudwater Navigation to connect into the River Severn.

Initially, there was just a lock that could be used by vessels around the time of high tide on most days. A basin and connecting warehouse were also built in the 1790s to cater for visiting ships that did not want to continue up the canal.

 

 

The Canal Company also built a house beside the bridge for their lock-keeper and toll clerk and they also owned other houses nearby. The long row of houses backing on to the towpath was built by the owner of Framilode Mill which produced tin plate and other metal products until it closed in the 1830s. Further along the towpath were two beer houses: the Bell and the Ship Inn which served the bargemen who had arrived from up the Severn or were waiting for the high tide so they could leave the canal. The Ship is still functioning as a pub.

After the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal opened in 1827, as well as the development of the railways this stretch between the junction and the Severn declined and in the 1920s, the section was blocked and fell into disuse. The right of navigation was withdrawn in 1954 and the bridge hole was filled in. The canal became semi-derelict.

Cotswold Canals Connected (CCC) is currently working to reopen 6km of the Stroudwater Navigation (SN), including restoration of derelict sections and the reconstruction of a ‘Missing Mile’ of former canal which was destroyed in the 1960s. This will result in 16km of restored canal and the reconnection of this canal to the rest of the UK’s canal network. However, the section between Familode and Saul has not been include in this restoration.

Below are some photos of the areas from the 1800s.

 

The restoration of The Stroudwater Canal

In 1979, this section of the canal was bought by the Fretherne and Saul Parish Council. There has been attempts over the years to maintain the canal, but much of it has become overgrown with reeds and the water level can be significantly reduced during dry weather conditions. Over recent years, a team of volunteers has started to worked on clearing out some of the dense reeds that have taken over and to improve the towpath. FwS Council are supporting these efforts and have joined forces in helping out.

Already, there are signs that some wildlife has returned (even a kingfisher has been spotted) and the ducks and moorhens are taking full advantage of the new spaces that are being cleared.

This work needs to be continued on a regular basis and if anyone would like to get involved please contact the clerk at the Fretherne with Saul Parish Council at fwsparishclerk@gmail.com

 

In 2023, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust contacted the Parish Council as it was thought that there was a possibility of Water Voles being present on the canal. Water Voles are a protected species which if there is any endangerment to either the animal or their habitat comes with serious legal implications. Most of the work on the canal had to be suspended until a clearer picture of what work could be done and how to do it was understood. At the end of 2023, the Parish Council commissioned Wild Service to carry out a survey of the canal, you can read the report and their findings by following this link. Wild Service Stroudwater Canal PEA  .

The report has been shared with the Canal Group, it is hoped that in the months to come a plan on how best to approach the work will be formulated.

In the report Wild Service referenced Azolla, a highly invasive plant, which is now seen on the surface of the canal. The Parish Council are presently taking advice from CABI (Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International) as to the best way in which to treat the weed. 

What is Azolla: Azolla filiculoides has a remarkable ability to multiply. Fronds grow rapidly and elongate until fragments break off to form new plants. Mats that form on the water’s surface can be 30cm thick and can double in size in hot weather.

The mats block out light, kill rich and diverse aquatic flora and reduce available oxygen which can lead to the death of fish and invertebrates, impede flood defences and water-based recreation and block irrigation pumps.

Azolla has escaped from gardens into the wider environment, becoming a problem on ponds, lakes, rivers and canals throughout the UK. Azolla was one of five aquatic weeds banned from sale in the UK in 2014. (Taken from the CABI web site, www.cabi.org ) 

The recommended treatment of Azolla is putting North American Weevils into the water to eradicate the weed. This is a natural way in which to treat the Azolla and has been used effectively by Canal & River Trust in other parts of the country. The weevil can only feed on Azolla, it will not harm other plants. When used ‘en masse,’ the weevils consume large quantities of the weed and they can be targeted at very specific sites where the weed is considered a problem. 

The Parish Council are working towards acquiring a supply of weevils and hope that the canal will soon be clear as soon as possible.