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Towpath project paves way for canal restoration
A £1M PLAN to link Oxford and Bath via a network of towpaths could pave the way for a historic canal to be fully restored.
The Wilts and Berks Canal Trust hopes to restore forgotten stretches of path within five years.
In all, the Towpath Challenge aims to connect Oxford to Bath with a 90-mile route.
Oxford and Abingdon are already linked by the Thames Path, following the old river towpath, and the project hopes to restore a stretch of canal towpath between Abingdon and Grove within three years.
The trust is now working with landowners and applying for grant cash.
Trust director Tim Pyatt, also project manager of the Towpath Challenge, said: “This will hopefully pave the way for the restoration of the canal, locks and bridges.”
He said the restoration of the whole canal would cost more than £200m and could take 25 years to complete.
The canal took 15 years to build and was officially opened in 1810 but was abandoned in 1914.
The trust was created in 1977 and initially campaigned to preserve the route before moving to restore it 10 years ago.
Mr Pyatt said the restored route would be an asset for rural areas, tourism, recreation and wildlife.
He said: “Canals are a great national asset and if we lose them, we lose them for good.
“This is our chance to save them for the next generation.”
Fundraising began in November and the project is likely to cost between £20,000 and £50,000 for every kilo-metre of towpath.
Brian Stovold, chairman of the East Vale branch of the trust, said: “This has been a labour of love for some time.
“The thought of being able to cycle or walk through the Vale with the White Horse on the hill in the background is great.
“This Towpath Challenge is about trying to join the dots.
“Once you have the towpath in place it makes it more likely to move to stage two.”
He said the project would be good for boaters, cyclists, pubs and local bed and breakfasts.
He added: “There is no end to the economic add-ons.”
For details visit wbct.org.uk