Maidenhead moves ahead
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