Our Progress

Below you can read about our progress in the restoration of our canal. Our aim is to restore the 6¾ miles (almost 11km) of the Wendover Canal for everyone to enjoy, from its junction with the Grand Union Canal at Bulbourne, to Wendover. The sections below describe our completed Phase 1 restoration, our current Phase 2, and the future Phase 3.

Our First Progress, Completed Phase 1: The quarter-mile at Little Tring

The construction work to restore Phase 1 began in earnest in 1997 following ground clearance. Little Tring Bridge, demolished in 1973, had to be rebuilt. Volunteers undertook the clearance work but re-building of a road bridge necessitated the use of professional contractors. The bridge was completed in 2001 and is a concrete box brick-faced in traditional style.

Restoration of the first quarter-mile of canal began while the bridge was being re-built. We had to build concrete walls along both sides of this section. The walls were completed in 2004 and the bed lined, and the re-watering took place in February 2005. March 2005 saw the first boats to go through the stop-lock and under Little Tring Bridge in over 100 years. At the end of the restored section, we built an 80-foot winding hole (turning point). This allows any narrow boat that can use the English canal system to navigate this part of the Wendover Canal. Before the completion of phase 1, only boats less than 45-feet in length could cruise the canal and turn around for the return journey.

Our Current Progress (Phase 2): The 1½ miles from Little Tring to Drayton Beauchamp bridge

We then started on the “dry” section between Little Tring and Drayton Beauchamp. In 2006 we built two new wooden bridges to divert footpaths that had been crossing the canal bed. Simultaneously a 60-yard section of canal was restored at Drayton Beauchamp to test the practicability of various restoration techniques. This section was re-watered in 2008, and since then, we have gradually completed further sections.

The work consists of several stages. First, the under-bed pipe that takes water from Drayton Beauchamp to Little Tring has to be capped, in case it collapses after the canal is re-watered. Then, the banks are profiled and mooring bays constructed. Following this a layer of the waterproof material Bentomat® is laid down the banks and across the bed. The Bentomat® is held in place on the walls with dense concrete blocks and on the bed with a covering 300mm of spoil. At water level coir rolls on top of the blocks provide a habitat for water-margin plants.

440 yards was completed and re-watered in 2009. The next section, 440 yards in length to Bridge 4a, was completed and re-watered in 2015. By 2021 we thought that restoration to Bridge 4 was complete, but we then had to resolve some leaks. The major leak turned out to be at the paddle installed by a CRT contractor, which we fixed. In 2024 we are still fixing a minor leak through the wall at Bridge 4.

For the last few years, we have been working on the remaining section between Bridge 4 and the winding hole. Once that is complete, the water level all the way to Wendover can be restored to its original Tring summit level. Then, the water supply from Wendover can resume flowing to Grand Union Canal by gravity.

Future Phase 3: The 3¼ miles from Drayton Beauchamp to Wendover

This is still in water and not subject to the leakage problems historically experienced by the section of canal covered by the Phase 2 restoration. But there is much work to do along the Phase 3 section before the restoration to Wendover is complete. These Phase 3 problems are very different from those faced in the current Phase 2. However, in Phase 1 there was the problem of having to rebuild Little Tring Bridge, which the Trust accomplished with great success. So we are confident that the same will be achieved in Phase 3.

Our Progress: Achievements to date

1990-2003: The Trust argued successfully for the provision of a navigable bridge under the A41 Aston Clinton bypass. Initially the Trust would have had to acquire land so that the canal could be diverted under the bridge; in the end the Department of Transport did this to avoid having to build balancing ponds for storm water from the new road and 440 yards of new canal as far as Drayton Beauchamp bridge and a new winding hole (turning point) was constructed.

1992: The Trust was instrumental in preventing the demolition of Rothschild bridge and its subsequent restoration.

Necessary work for full restoration

The work necessary to achieve full restoration to Wendover is as follows:

Towpaths and Banks

Over the years the towpath and banks have been subjected to wear and erosion. This is not serious whilst the water is at its current low level. But it would not have been possible to raise the water level to its correct, navigable depth if the banks and towpaths had been left in this state. We believe that these issues have been resolved in 2023 when the towpath was reconstructed, but we will need to check as the water level is raised.


There are several bridges that over the years have been removed and replaced with concrete culverts or low bridges and these will all have to be replaced with fully navigable alternatives. These are at Buckland Wharf, Wharf Row (5b) and the old A41 bridge (6), plus Halton Bridge (9), and the footbridge known as Olivers Bridge (11). There is also a sewer pipe that crosses the canal next to Perch Bridge (10) at low level which will need raising or burying. Pictures of some of this can be found in the Spring 2007 newsletter . Finally the Canal will need a general clearance and dredging, which should resolve the repeated current issues with the shallow channel being repeatedly blocked by reed growth.

When can I bring my boat?

When Phase 2 is complete and the water level has been restored to Tring summit level, boats will be able to navigate from Bulbourne to a winding hole just beyond the A41 Aston Clinton bypass (Bridge 5a), west of Drayton Beauchamp. This will provide a very enjoyable cruise through a little over three miles of the Chiltern countryside. Boats will only be able to navigate past Buckland Wharf to Wendover when the bridges have been raised.

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