Where has all the water gone?

The dried up canal in Buckingham
The dried up canal in Buckingham

A new stretch of canal which was launched with great fanfare in 2013 has mysteriously disappeared – but it will be back.

The 350m stretch of the disused Buckingham Arm of the Grand Union Canal at Bourton Meadow was restored by volunteers from the Buckingham Canal Society and rewatered in summer 2013.

The canal at an open day in September 2013

The canal at an open day in September 2013

It was officially opened by MP for Buckingham John Bercow in October 2013.

But last summer, the canal mysteriously dried up, and currently resembles a ditch rather than a canal.

In order for the canal to hold water for the first time in nearly 100 years, the stretch was lined with a special clay liner made from sodium bentoline, which was as near to the traditional ‘puddle clay’ lining material as possible.

But due to a chemical reaction with the soil, which is very high in calcium, water has been escaping, said canal society trustee Terry Cavender.

Following months of discussions between the canal society, the contractors, the manufacturers and the insurers, an agreement has finally been reached.

Mr Cavender told the Advertiser: “We’ve managed to come to a mutually acceptable way forward and it’s all going to be sorted out in the spring – at no cost to us. It’s the right outcome for the canal.”

The stretch will be re-lined with high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which should not react to the chemicals in the ground. Work should be carried out in February/March, after the relevant permissions have been obtained.

The canal society hopes to salvage about half the 6,000 plants thatwere planted at the canal’s margins, and another 6,000 are due to be planted as part of a project with Bourton Meadow Academy.

Originally, the waterway to Buckingham ran for just under 11 miles, from the Grand Union Canal at Cosgrove Lock along the Stony Stratford and Buckingham Arms.

Buckingham Canal Socitiey’s next aim is to rewater a similar length of canal at the nature reserve near Hyde Lane Lakes, starting by building an earth dam at each end this summer.

All residents are invited to the canal society’s annual meeting and cheese and wine evening on Saturday, January 31, at 7.15pm at Buckingham Community Centre, when Richard Parry from the Canal and River Trust will speak about the future of the canal network and restoration.