The Melksham, Calne and Chippenham Branch
of the
 Wilts & Berks Canal Trust

This is the Unofficial Website for the Melksham, Calne and Chippenham Branch

MCC Branch, FAQ (Up-dated January 2015)




Please visit the trust website :-

For an introduction, try

Introductory facts and figures

Enabling Act of Parliament: 1795, building began: 1796, completed: 1810, abandoned: 1914.

By issuing shares in the Co., raised £411,900 to build the canal & pay off debts.

Built to carry coal from Somerset coalfields to local towns, Oxford and London.

Main line: 52 miles, branches: 6 miles (58 in total).  Semington on the K& A via Swindon to Abingdon on the Thames.

Acquired North Wilts Canal in 1820, connecting Swindon to Thames and Severn Canal at Cricklade: length about 11 miles.

When fully restored: ~60 locks on main line, ~15 locks on branches (~75 in total).

 Time scale for planning approval for the Melksham Link project

What is the Melksham Link?  A brand new canal re-connecting Melksham the Kennet and Avon Canal, to replace the original line lost under the development of Melksham.  It will parallel the old line, but further to the west. 

We are hoping to get planning approval in the first half of 2015, but first we need to complete an Environmental Statement. Work is still going on in a number of areas including archaeology, ecology of the river, water quality, water resource and the hydro-electric scheme.

Other work associated with the Melksham Link Project.

A 1940’s Bailey Bridge that was saved from the scrap yard after years of service in Frome town centre is being restored for the Melksham Link Project. The component parts are currently being repainted with paint supplied by Hempel Paints, and should be ready for re-assembly in late 2015.

We are developing a Masterplan for the whole canal corridor of the Melksham Link, including commercial, residential, tourism and environmental areas.

We are hoping to start work in early 2016, and complete by 2018/19.

Time scale planning approval for the Pewsham Lock complex

Planning approval has now been granted for Top Lock and the Lock Keeper's Cottage. Funding will be raised locally for these projects. Planning for the rest of the complex is still subject to approval while we wait for the outcome of a newt survey on bottom lock.

A funding application, for the rest of the project (2 locks, carpenters' workshop, saw pit, dry dock, and lime kiln, is being prepared to be submitted early 2015 to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and it is hope that we will receive a positive response in  2015. Preparation work for the restoration has been started.

 When will we see boats at Pewsham?

Private canoes and the Branch trip boat, Willow, have been used on this stretch.

The ex-British Waterway’s workboat, Boswell, has been modified and upgraded and is now in moored against the waiting wharf.

Working towards having a continuous stretch of water from bottom lock to Double Bridge at Raybrook.

Boats up from the K&A and Melksham? Maybe 2020, possibly earlier.

What constraints does the Trust & Branch face in making progress with the restoration?


Have to work around wildlife constraints, such as habitat restrictions for badgers, bats, great crested newts, etc.

Must be sensitive to the wild bird nesting season and meadow flower seed head timings.

Must ensure we have habitat surveys in place and agree work methods so as to minimise wildlife disruption.

We are working with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Friends of the Earth to ensure the work we carry out has a positive effect on the wildlife.

Land and Authority access and permissions;

After the Act of Abandonment 1914, the land was sold off or reverted to the original owners, so some has been built on, some incorporated into farmland and some now back gardens. The Trust has to acquire a lease or buy the land as it becomes available, hence the islands of development.  As a charity we cannot spend charitable funds unless we have 'security of tenure' ie legal rights in the form of ownership or a lease.

Negotiate with land owners and tenants for access and long term rights to work.

Seek permissions from councils, and the Environment Agency on factors that would affect the environment before, during and after the canal has been reinstated.

Other factors;

Weather suitability, funding availability, volunteer availability.

 How do we ensure we protect the environment during the restoration process?

Engage ecologist before projects start. Commission fauna, flora and habitat studies. Draft and get approval of work method statements. Create alternative habitats.

For every tree necessarily cleared; plant >10 replacements - mixed indigenous hardwoods.

Installed bird & bat boxes along the tow-path (20 of each) and bat slit-bricks in Double Bridge.

Adhere to National guidelines such as timescales for cutting hedges to avoid nesting times, recommended times of year to mow meadow grasses, etc.

 What progress is being made to acquire Land for the canal

We have a separate team who negotiate land acquisitions and leases. By their nature these negotiations are confidential and we are only able to publicise details of them once they are complete, if then.

Where does the money come from?

Major projects

Landfill Tax grants, charitable trusts, Area Boards, Lottery, annual draw tickets, member donations and loans.

Local industry, to a point, but need to get more local industry on board.

The Trust is also working with other interested parties to develop sustainable initiatives associated with the restoration and reinstatement of the Canal and would provide an income stream for the Trust.

Day to day running cost

Membership, donations, Underwood Trust, (a charitable trust which supports our objectives).

Local branch fund raising - raffles, sales, quizzes, events, etc.

When will the total project be finished?

The County Plan shows completion by 2025.

Recent advances (2014)


Landowner Agreement has been granted for MCC to progress work on the land either side of the A4 at Pewsham

Major repair to the collapsed culvert near Pewsham Locks. Funding provided by Yorkshire Building Society as part of their 'Lasting Legacy' fund.

Further afield

Further afield the Trust received funding of £50K from the ITV / BIG Lottery People’s Millions to create a 1km stretch of canal with a multi-use tow path and wildlife area at a landfill site near Royal Wootton Bassett.

The Trust has also purchased the Peterborough Arms, a canal side pub, at Dauntsey Lock.  We are planning to refurbish it and hope to re-open it in late 2015 / early 2016.

Will the Calne and Chippenham Arms be reinstated and if so what route will they take?

Calne arm: yes, in time, restore the original line.

Chippenham arm: the original Chippenham Arm, no, lost under the Pewsham estate and the Bus Station. However exploring possible new Chippenham Arm, from Studley Bridge along old railway line. This would enable boats to go to the Avon in Monkton Park.

Will the route of the canal follow the original line?

The line of the canal will follow the original route where possible. However, alternative routes will be taken where the original line has been built over or is longer a viable route. The two main variations are the route from Semington to Melksham and the route around the south of Swindon. It is still proposed to have a basin in Swindon.

How will you get the Canal across the A4

The A4 was carried over the original canal by means of a road bridge, parts of which can still be seen on the North side of the A4. Our preferred option would be to have a new bridge built on the line of the current A4. This is however subject to discussions, at the appropriate time, with the Department for Transport and Wiltshire Highways.


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