A significant step toward the £1.3m restoration of Oil Mills Bridge in Ebley took place yesterday (Wednesday 23 January), with installation of a new bridge deck that will carry Bridge Road over the Stroudwater Navigation.
This work is part of the Cotswold Canals restoration project to restore a 650-metre stretch of the Stroudwater Navigation and Oil Mills bridge. Over the last four months nearly 10,000 tons of earth has been removed from the canal; a gas pipeline has been rerouted; building of a temporary diversion around Oil Mills Bridge; Slow Worms and Grass Snakes have been moved and the channel has been lined with clay. The majority of what was removed was 1970s domestic waste which had to be taken to Hempsted Tip on the southern side of Gloucester.
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Funding from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), Interreg (EU), Gloucestershire Environmental Trust and from funding within the Cotswold Canals Partnership has made this part of the project possible.
The vision for the project is to restore the stretch of canal between Stonehouse and Brimscombe that will help regenerate the Stroud Valleys and open up opportunities for local businesses – particularly the creative industries which is a thriving sector in the Stroud District.
Initial preparation work on the bridge had revealed the towpath and lower sections of the arch to be almost entirely intact under the ground. Rope marks were also found worn into the edge of the brick arch where the towing rope from horse drawn boats has rubbed a groove. The aim is to use and retain as much of the original bridge as possible, modernising and reconstructing as necessary to meet the changing local needs since the bridge was demolished in 1973.
The work is being project managed by British Waterways and undertaken by Morrison Construction. The Oil Mills part of the project is due to be completed by the end of April. Regular updates can be seen on www.cotswoldcanalsproject.org in the ‘What’s Happening’ pages.