A lovely stroll to find the Sapperton Tunnel and disused Thames & Severn Canal.

This was a lovely walk we took on a sunny Monday morning recently. It comes with a bit of a back story so pour yourself a cuppa and settle in.

I am based on the Gloucester & Sharpness canal and back in the early 1800’s the waterways were linked from the River Severn all the way to the River Thames. With more direct waterway links and eventually railway competition, they declined in the 1920’s and by the 1950’s they were derelict. A lot of passionate people in the area have been campaigning to get this passage to the River Thames back and operational and they have had some fantastic success so far.

The project is in phases, with no guarantee that all of it will be completed as some sections have large, expensive obstacles in the way. That being said, from the map below, Phase 1A is complete and they are currently working on Phase 1B. You can click in to make the image larger if you prefer.

This Phase 1B will link where I am based on narrowboat Māhina to the town of Stroud. They have just won a £8.9 million bid with the Lottery Heritage Fund to complete this phase so it’s full steam ahead on that. The nearby large roundabout at Whitminster is already nearing its completion to have the canal running through the middle of it!

Phase 2 sees the other end of the link being rebuilt with Phase 3 being the hardest as it is well known that the Sapperton Tunnel has collapsed in several sections and would need serious investment to be navigable again. It’s a little bit longer than Wast Hills & Harecastle tunnel which I went through on my recent trips on Māhina. It is 2.1 miles long and would take around an hour to pass through. We were looking for a nice place to go for a walk so decided to go for an explore to find the tunnel and we were not disappointed. I think it is the most ornate lovely entrance and no, I could not see past the face with its crying eye!

Although the tunnel is surrounded by woodland today, I found this old photo which shows its setting back in its heyday.

The photograph has been reproduced courtesy of the Edwin Cuss Photographic Collection and has appeared in the series of books entitled ‘The Stroudwater and Thames & Severn Canals from Old Photographs’.

I for one support the project and would love to see this whole section reconnected and operational again and look forward to following its progress. The rest of our walk took us through Siccaridge woods which with the autumn colours was beautiful.

Never seen these sort of sheep before. Balwen Welsh Mountain sheep – they look like Sheepdogs with those tails!

As we walked down from the woods we then followed the towpath along the Thames & Severn canal, where its locks remain, albeit overtaken by wildlife. You can still see the lock chambers, cills and where the gates would have been.

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