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The first boats pass under the new Ocean bridge

Published: Friday, 8 April, 2022

Boats have sailed under the railway bridge at Ocean, near Stonehouse on The Stroudwater Canal for the first time in 70 years.

Members of canal-based charity Cotswold Boatmobility made the inaugural trip in three katakanus, stable catamaran canoes that each seat up to six people.

The charity provides accessible boating for people with mobility or learning disabilities allowing them to take part in water-based activities along The Stroudwater Canal.

Cotswold Boatmobility chair Jan Thomas said:

“We didn’t actually plan to be the first boats under the Ocean railway bridge, it happened by accident. Now the Ocean has been refilled we were simply returning to our usual trip of sailing under the Ocean swing bridge, then turning round. However, once we were there, we realised we could get underneath the new bridge – so we carried on!”

The group included residents from care homes in Stonehouse and Nailsworth, a 13-year-old and Cotswold Boatmobility volunteers.

The trip has been made possible only since the Ocean railway bridge was replaced between Christmas and New Year by Network Rail on behalf of the Cotswold Canals Connected partnership. The previous bridge with its narrow opening was too small to allow boats to pass underneath.

Canal volunteers will now begin to carry out work on the towpath between Ocean and Bonds Mill, replacing the path, installing edging, and cutting back overgrown vegetation.

The work is due to finish mid-May, allowing the towpath to re-open. Until then an alternative walking and cycling route will continue.

Cotswold Canals Connected Project Director Chris Mitford-Slade said: 

“I am delighted that it was members of Cotswold Boatmobility who were the first boats to sail under the new Ocean railway bridge as they provide a valuable service in ensuring the canal is accessible to many people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to enjoy it.

“One of the core aims of Cotswold Canals Connected is to broaden opportunities and inclusivity, ensuring that those people and communities most at risk of exclusion are supported to have as many opportunities as possible to participate in the project.”

Network Rail project manager Deborah Elliott said: "This has been an exciting and rewarding project and it's great to see all our hard work coming to fruition. It was a joy to watch Cotswold Boatmobility paddle up the canal and underneath the new bridge. Congratulations to them on being the first vessels through."

Cotswold Canals Connected is a partnership of organisations which are restoring the canal network. Phase 1A, which is now complete, restored the section between Stonehouse and Thrupp. Phase 1B, which includes the works at Ocean railway bridge, will restore a further four-mile section between Stonehouse and Saul Junction providing a connection to the national waterway network.  

The partnership is committed to significant outcomes for wildlife, people and communities, and our canal heritage. 

To find out more about Cotswold Canals Connected, including how to get involved, or make a donation please see the website or follow the project on social media.

Cotswold Boatmobility takes regular trips along the canal on Mondays and Wednesdays, as well as additional outings on request. You can find out more information here.

Published on behalf of the Cotswold Canals Connected partnership

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