Meet Jim and John
Jim White and John Newton
Chair and Vice Chair of the Cotswold Canals Trust
“We have big ambitions; we want to help create the UK’s most user-friendly canal and towpath accessible for everyone.”
The Cotswold Canals Trust is a charity run by volunteers from the local community with 7000 members. The charity was formed in 1972 and celebrated its 50th anniversary in May of 2022.
Resident volunteers of Stroud District are committed to preserving, maintaining, and improving the natural environment and restoring the Stroudwater Navigation and Thames & Severn Canal heritage and usage over the past half century.
The Trust is not only committed to maintaining the waterways of Gloucestershire but to restore the canals from Saul Junction (at the western end) to Lechlade (the eastern end), linking the two great rivers of Thames and Severn - this mission will open up endless opportunities providing links to the wider UK canal network.
Restoration of the Cotswold Canals is a labour of love. The project is highly complex due to its enormity and logistics. The Cotswold Canals Trust is working closely with a number of partners including Stroud District Council being the lead partner and have been instrumental in the canal restoration project.
The Trust is the primary charitable organisation leading the Cotswold Canals restoration. In 2001, the newly formed Cotswold Canals Partnership made a commitment to restore the Cotswold Canals to full navigation in the interests of conservation, biodiversity, and local quality of life. The restoration would act as a catalyst for wider social, economic, and environmental regeneration in areas neighbouring the canals. The canal restoration has already generated £115million in private sector investment, 62 hectares of brown field land have been recycled, over 700 jobs have been created and 559 new homes have been built as a result of the multi award-winning project.
In May 2019, the work of The Cotswold Canals Trust was given a significant boost with the award of a £4 million grant from Highways England towards restoring the ‘Missing Mile’. The ‘Missing Mile’ is a mile long section of the Stroudwater Navigation, which was destroyed to make way for the A38 roundabout, A419 link road and the M5 in the late 1960s. The restoration will see excavation to make way for a new canal channel under the M5 along with the construction of two new locks, a new lift bridge, accessible towpath, flood relief, lowland habitat, and wetlands.
Reconnecting and rebuilding the ‘Missing Mile’ of the canal network is no mean feat, due to its enormity and complexity the restoration has been split into four development phases:
Phase 1A: Stroud to Stonehouse
Phase 1B: Stonehouse to Saul Junction – here it will join the existing Gloucester & Sharpness Canal linking to the wider canal network.
Phase 2: The eastern section from the Cotswold Water Park to the River Thames.
Phase 3: The central section linking these two sections including the now derelict Sapperton Tunnel.
After securing £872,000 of development funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2018, the Trust and its partners secured a further £9 million in Lottery Funding in 2020 for completion of the works to restore the waterways between Stonehouse and Saul Junction.
Jim White, Chair of the Cotswolds Canals Trust says: “I’m incredibly proud to Chair the Cotswold Canals Trust. Since joining the Trust, I’ve seen huge transformations over the decades. Stroud District Council has been instrumental in canal restoration over many years. We work collaboratively to achieve the best outcome for our district.”
John Newton, Vice Chair of the Cotswolds Canals Trust says: “Volunteers are our most valuable asset. By encouraging and supporting volunteer teams, we can continue to assist with future restoration. Our canal network is vital for providing economic, social, and environmental benefit. Through greater connectivity we can open up more opportunities for waterside businesses and attractions and create greener spaces to live and move more freely.”
The regeneration of the canal is one of the largest such projects in the country and has already brought major benefits to the district with a living waterway being delivered that runs through the heart of the district all the way to the Gloucester Sharpness canal and the Severn.
The ‘Missing Mile’ before…
The missing mile during construction