The works, near Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire, started last month and will continue through to March 2023. Costing £1.8 million, the project will see the 40-year-old pumps, pipes and electrics replaced with a modern, more efficient and reliable system.
To enable the works to be carried out, a six-mile stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal will close to boats from 7 November 2022 until 17 March 2023. A diversion will also be in place for the half-mile stretch of the towpath near the Crofton flight.
The pumps at Crofton supply water from Wilton Reservoir to the K&A. Soon after the canal first opened, the historic Crofton Pumping Station was built (in 1807-9) to supply water to the highest point of the canal. The pumps were steam powered and continued to operate until 1959. In the 1980’s, when the canal was restored, a new pumping station was installed powered by electric pumps. The steam pumps housed in the historic Pumping Station building, continue to be regularly demonstrated to the public by volunteers at open days.
To enable the upgrade to take place, part of the closed stretch of canal will be drained so that new pipework, pump and electrics can be installed. There will also be works at Wilton Water to improve the flow of water from the reservoir, and the historic water control gates (penstocks) will be restored as a heritage structure.
The work this winter is the second phase of this important project to keep the canal navigable, for the benefit of people and wildlife. Phase one of the works, completed in March 2020, laid new pipes connecting to the existing historic pipeline beneath the canal, and installed new pipework under the railway and up to the canal feeder channel.
Crofton Top Lock is the highest lock at the head of the eastern descent of the Kennet & Avon Canal which links the Bristol Avon outside Bath to the River Thames at Reading. The pumping system at Crofton keeps the canal summit topped up with water. After 40 years of service, the 1980’s electric pumping system has become unreliable and less efficient. With this iconic waterway more popular with people and boats than at any time in history, the new pumping system will increase efficiency and the amount of water that can be pumped into the canal.
The upgrade to the water pumping system at Crofton will help to improve resilience in our network and the maintenance of water levels, so that the Kennet & Avon Canal can continue to operate at its full capacity.