Maiden­head moves ahead

Canal Boat - - Restoration -

Bring­ing boats into Maiden­head may have seemed far-fetched a few years ago, but not now the dig­gers are at work in the town. We catch up on a fast-mov­ing new scheme

The Maiden­head Wa­ter­ways restora­tion may have seemed an un­likely prospect to many read­ers when we first cov­ered it in the May 2007 is­sue. At a time when the ‘Mil­len­nium boom’ of Lot­tery-funded re­open­ings of canals was start­ing to fade into his­tory, and money for restora­tion was some­times prov­ing hard to come by, here was a brand-new pro­ject to open up a wa­ter­way from the Thames into Maiden­head, and to sur­round the town cen­tre with a ring of nav­i­ga­ble wa­ter.

And yet when you looked at it, it had a lot go­ing for it. A se­ries of Thames back­wa­ters, some of them nav­i­ga­ble at var­i­ous

times up to as late as the 1920s, had de­cayed to the point where they were al­most-dry ditches for most of the year, at­tract­ing rub­bish and seen as eye­sores by many. But they couldn’t just be filled in, as they served a vi­tal flood re­lief role in times of heavy rain. And, at the same time, the town of Maiden­head was by­passed by most Thames boaters as the main river skirts the town a mile from the cen­tre.

So why not re­open enough of the old back­wa­ters to en­able boaters to visit Maiden­head? It would bring trade to the town, im­prove the ap­pear­ance of the chan­nels and give them a pur­pose, and give boaters an­other desti­na­tion to visit. And while the start of ma­jor phys­i­cal work was still in the fu­ture, the de­sign, plan­ning, sur­vey­ing and ini­tial clear­ance were al­ready un­der way.

But still, look­ing at that tree-blocked chan­nel lead­ing up from the Thames and those over­grown ditches in the town, I con­fess that I found it took a fair bit of imag­i­na­tion to en­vis­age the sort of progress which might see me cruis­ing from the Thames into the town cen­tre in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

Nine years on, a re­turn to Maiden­head in early 2016 didn’t need any imag­i­na­tion at all to en­vis­age some progress on the wa­ter­ways. Just north of where the York

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