SECTION 26

WEST LEAZE AND KINGSHILL

M4 CROSSING TO KINGSHILL ROAD

STATUS
We have permission in principle to restore the whole of this section.
About two thirds of the section were restored between 1999 and 2003 funded largely by a Heritage Lottery grant.
The length lies within the Community Forest area, but is now scheduled for development as part of the Swindon "Front Garden" scheme.

Length: 2M/3.25km approx.
O.S. Reference: 120823 to 141840
Height of water level A.O.D.: 99.1m

Features:

  • South Leaze Bridge (new line) 124824
  • Badger Bridge 132827
  • Beavans Bridge 135829
  • Wroughton Brook Aqueduct 137883
  • Swindon Cross 137883
  • Skew Bridge 137834
  • Spillweir 136836
  • Head of Navigation 139839
  • Kingshill Road Bridge (destroyed) 141840
Map of section

DESCRIPTION

What Jack Dalby said in 1985.
"...up to the over Wroughton Brook at 137883....crossed the M4at Wharf Farm (128822). Wroughton Brook, one of the headwaters of the River Ray,was one of the original summit water supplies.
Beyond the aqueduct a beautiful skew brick bridge carried the now defunct Midland & South Western Junction Railway high overhead. From this bridge (137834) the bed has been cleaned out and is watered up to 139838, 200 metres short of Kingshill Rd., Swindon. It is a strange irony that this section which gave such trouble to the builders now holds water best of all!"

Where the Canal originally crossed the line of the M4, the road is at about water level. However the road rises to the east to cross the Great Western Railway, so sufficient headroom can be achieved by moving the crossing further to the east.
There is also a new road crossing planned in this area, but since a road crossing requires a much greater headroom than a canal, it should not affect the Canal unduly.
From the culvert under the M4, the Canal will turn eastward and run along near the base of the M4 embankment in a new cut, passing under a minor road by a new bridge, until it meets the old line.

The first field length north of the M4 has been filled in and incorporated into the field.

The canal is still visible, unfilled but generally dry, from here up to Badgers Bridge.

 
WIDTH=320 HEIGHT=240
Canal line 32.7kB
The next field length is not infilled but has not yet been cleared.
This view is taken from Badger Bridge, at the northern end of the field.
Badger Bridge
So called because it was infested with badgers, which we spent a lot of money to have oficially relocated.
The bridge has been lowered and is infilled and piped. It carries a public right of way, and also provided farm access between the fields on either side.
Hence although we have permission to restore it, there are practical problems. There are also questions about whether it will be compatible with the planned housing development in the area.
Badger Bridge 33.8kB
Looking north towards the old PM Hospital 17.8kB
A few yards further on a bund limits the dredged section to the north.
The next two field lengths are dredged and watered, and the towpath has been restored, as far as Bevan's Bridge. (The northern field was infilled and incorporated into the field; the southern was not infilled.)
This photo is now out of date - the Princess Margaret Hospital on the top of the hill has now been demolished.
Bevan's Bridge was lowered and completely buried, and carried a farm access track. It was dug out in 1999 and rebuilt to the original design in March to November 2000. Bevans Bridge 19.9kB
The next field, up to just south of Skew Bridge, was dug out in late 1999; Wroughton Brook Aqueduct passes under here.

This is the site of the future Swindon Cross. Probably.

The Canal has been dredged to within 200 metres of Kingshill Road.
Just north of Skew Bridge is a water supply entry; this carries the runoff from part of the escarpment, and the overflow from a reservoir at Okus.

Spillweir 27.6kB

A little further on is a spillweir, built in 1999/2000.

 

Approaching Kingshill Road 29.1kB The final 200 metres formerly had a 600mm water main running along it. This was removed in early 2000. There is still a substantial gas main in this section which must be removed before the length can be dredged.
There is now no trace of Kingshill Bridge. Restoration of the bridge will be further complicated by the side turning which has been built just east of the bridge site.
The canal continues over the road behind the bus shelter in the centre of the picture.
Kingshill Road crossing 18.9kB

RESTORATION

The two fields between Badger Bridge and Bevan's Bridge were dredged in 1996-7.

In 1999 Swindon Borough Council were awarded a Heritage Lottery grant to create a Canal Park in this area.
Notice board

This included dredging right up to Kingshill Road and restoration of Bevan's Bridge.
However, dredging was only completed to a point about 200 metres from the road. A major water main was re-routed by Thames Water as part of the scheme; a major gas main remains to be moved before dredging can be completed.

Looking towards Skew Bridge, 9th March 2000. A mud barge is being pushed down towards the dump site. Mud barge south of Skew Bridge
Just east of Skew \bridge, a major landslip occurred. Land and Water Services, the company who are dredging this section, installed some seriously large piles, and re-profiled the bank below the houses.
The picture shows the escarpment, re-profiled, with the piles installed and cut to length, before the top bits were removed.
Escarpment stabilised
Thames Water have re-routed a major water main at the Kingshill Road end of the arm.
Somewhere under here; looking towards the Kingshill Road crossing, awaiting dredging.
Head of navigation

WATER SUPPLIES

Thames Water have built an outflow arrangement to deposit the overflow from a reservoir at Okus into the Canal.

HOSTELRIES

Since we are now in Swindon, there must be places of refreshment within striking distance. Needs some investigation.

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Updated 25.10.2004