The Current Situation


The Stroudwater Canal leaves Saul Junction on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and heads eastwards to Whitminster Lock which is undergoing restoration by the Cotswold Canals Trust. This lock has conventional mitred gates at its head but will have a guillotine gate at its tail in order to allow the River Frome to be drained down in the event of a pollution incident on the M5 or A38. Whitminster Lock raises the canal about 10cm to the level of the River Frome. The integrity of the flood bank of the river is being maintained by building new flood banks which will interface with the bottom gate of the lock prior to connection of the lock to the river channel.

Original plans of the Stroudwater Canal show the canal and river sharing the same channel for a length of about 600m before diverging. However, at some point it was decided to run the canal in a parallel channel to the south of the river with an aqueduct crossing (Lockham Aqueduct) to take the canal over to the north side. Since the canal and river levels were the same, the river ran under the canal in a deep sump and this lead to its removal following the abandonment of navigation as a flood prevention measure. The canal and river channels were subsequently merged into the current configuration.

All of the proposed routes use the combined channel from Whitminster Lock to the site of Lockham Aqueduct.

The 1779 Stroudwater Canal Route       Map

The 1779 canal is now cut off from the river at the site of Lockham Aqueduct by a high flood bank and follows its route eastwards via Stonepitts Bridge (culverted) and Occupation Bridge (restored). Pictures   It is crossed at low level by an MOD fuel pipeline just west of Occupation Bridge and this pipeline also crosses the River Frome at low level.

The 1779 canal channel is in water and intact as far as the A38 roundabout. Bristol Road Lock (8ft 9ins rise) and the whole canal eastwards from this point was obliterated for almost a mile at the time of the building of the M5. The original course is obstructed by the A38/A419 roundabout, part of the A419, the M5 and its Junction 13 southern slip roads. All of the canal land not covered by roads was filled in and given to the landowners affected by the construction of the M5 as part of their compensation package. Picture

There is a 3m wide by 2m high concrete cattle crossing under the M5 close to the route of the 1779 canal. It is used to link farm land on either side of the motorway. Pictures

Remnants of the 1779 canal appear again at the restored Westfield Bridge (which was saved by its then owner from the M5 demolition men) and Westfield Lock which was partially blown up and infilled without permission. All of the route options converge at or near Westfield Bridge and the section of canal beyond is in water and being restored or is already restored and in use.

The River Frome        Map

The River Frome continues upstream from the site of Lockham Aqueduct and passes under a small low level farm bridge. This length of river was made navigable in the 1740s by Richard Owen Cambridge and was then used, and possibly further improved, by John Kemmett for his navigation in around 1760.

Between the farm bridge and Fromebridge Mill, the river is crossed by a MOD fuel pipeline at a low level. Picture

Until recently, Fromebridge Mill was operational and still derived its power from water. This placed considerable constraints on the potential use of the river for navigation and for any proposed flood relief works upstream. Pictures

Fromebridge Mill is now a public house and restaurant and the presence of boats would be a positive benefit to its owners.

At Fromebridge Mill the river passes over a weir with a fall of about 1.5m-2m. The operating level of the river upstream of this weir is very high in comparison to the surrounding fields and is frequently only constrained by its flood banks.

A little upstream of Fromebridge Mill, the river is crossed by the A38 on two bridges with limited headroom and then a little further on by the M5 with a headroom of about 1.5m. In between the A38 and the M5, the river is wide and is crossed by major gas and water pipes below its bed level. Vestiges of the original pre 1760 meandering course of the River Frome can be seen in the fields adjacent to the current course of the river. Picture

The M5 river bridge has a very wide crossection for flood capacity reasons but has a limited headroom of about 1.5m (5ft) over the current river level. The river channel under the bridge is heavily silted on both sides. Pictures

To the east of the M5 the river takes a fairly sharp bend to the south and becomes narrower. Picture It continues with a number of bends to its confluence with Oldbury Brook just to the west of Meadow Mill. The whole length of river between the A38 and Meadow Mill once formed part of the Kemmett Canal.

Oldbury Brook used to flow across the Stroudwater Canal above Whitminster Lock on the level and its out fall from the canal was at the large Meadow Mill overspill weir. Following the building of the Motorway and the development of the Industrial site at Meadow Mill, Oldbury Brook has been lowered through the bed of the canal and follows a new course to the west of its original.