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The Wilts and Berks Canal

The Wilts and Berks Canal ran from the Kennet and Avon Canal at Semington, just 2 miles to the south of Melksham, through Melksham to Swindon, Wantage and Abingdon on the Thames. Branches lead to Calne and Chippenham.

Map locator - Wilts_and_Berks_Canal

[imgl=wbhump]Where the Wilts and Berks canal used to pass under the Melksham to Devizes Road[/img]It passed within 100 yards of our Hotel at Well House Manor - just outside our entrance, the road rises up to pass over the former canal's path, now on an embankment which perhaps hides the old bridge. Close by would have been Melksham Wharf.

You can follow quite closely the path of the canal through Melksham, although much of it has been built on now, and hardly anything remains. Ah hardly anything ...

[imgr=wbfwall]Remains of a Bridge, Wilts and Berks Canal[/img]Set into the wall of No 1a (see from the numbering - an extra house built on the canal bed!) is this brickwork and curious ground level arch. The road at this point would have been passing over the bridge, of which other traces have been lost, on its way from Melksham to Lacock, with a side road heading off to Calne.

[imgl=bridgebolt]Wilts and Berks Canal, Bridge Bolt[/img]The bridge was clearly in need of maintenance even during its working life - here's how it was held together

[imgr=wbforest]Wilts and Berks path, behind Melksham Forest[/img]Through much of the way, the former canal route has become a road - for example up Kenilworth Gardens. And in other parts, it's a path, sometimes overgrown. Here's Lisa looking for anything historic in the undergrowth:

[imgl=wbarch]Clackers Brook culvert, Wilts and Berks canal, Melksham[/img]The canal crossed Clackers Brook on a substantial embankment, and the earthworks are largely intact. Indeed, the culvert that carries the stream is still functional - probably the only part of the canal structure in Melksham that still fulfills its original purpose.

To give you an idea of the scale

[imgr=wbcb]Lisa stands halfway up the Wilts and Berks embankment over Clackers Brook[/img] Perhaps the best preserved structure from the canal is Coate Water which fed water to the summit level in Swindon.

See also Doublebridge Wilts and Berks Canal history and father and son Whitworth, canal engineers and proposal to reopen canal using river navigation
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