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 had hoped to get planning approval in 2018, having completed all the necessary surveys and statements however ongoing issues with the EA are preventing plannng from being granted at this time (Aug 2020).

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 is now ready for re-assembly.

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


Time scale for the Pewsham Lock complex

Full plaaning for the restoaration of Pewsham Locks was granted in 2015 and we have started restoration and rebuilding work at the site with funds donated due to the generosity of Players of the Post Code Lottery and a grant from Chippenham Area Board.

The site consists of : 3 locks, lock keepers cottage, carpenters' workshop, saw pit, dry dock, and lime kiln.

we plan to start work on the Top Lock bridge in 2020 and hopefully the Dry Dock in 2021.

 When will we see boats at Pewsham?

Private canoes and the Branch trip boats, Willow & Mary Archard, have been used on this stretch.

The ex-British Waterway’s workboat, Boswell, has been modified and upgraded and in May 2018 was the first narrow boat in over 100 years to crusie under Double Bridge.


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.


Recent advances


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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