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Waterside walking route prospects boosted

Posted 14 June 2012
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Waterside walking route prospects boosted
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Those who like to go walking in Berkshire will not be able to tackle high mountain crags or rugged moorland, but there is still plenty to enjoy.

Apart from being home to part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, walkers may enjoy trekking alongside canal towpaths, an activity enjoyed by people all over the country.

At present, the main opportunities to do so are on the Kennet and Avon Canal, which stretches from Reading westwards to Keynsham, on the edge of Bristol, as well as a spur of the Grand Union Canal which runs out of London as far as Slough.

Another area of canals - or at least drainage channels - exists in Maidenhead. Ostensibly connected to the Thames, the reality is that these waterways - which split at town moor to form the loop of York Stream and Moor Cut to technically make part of the town an island - have been heavily neglected.

A plan to change this has been on the drawing board since 2006, with the Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group (MWRG) gaining planning permission this week for a project that would see these restored and enhanced, becoming attractive waterways that would be pleasant to walk along and navigable by narrowboats and other water traffic.

The local council has now voted to back the plan, with councillor Richard Kellaway calling it the area's "most important project since Brunel built the railway". He noted MWRG can now confidently apply for grants.

MWRG technical leader John Morgan told the BBC the "derelict" channels with hardly any water will be transformed under the scheme and walkers may be among those reaping the benefits.

It is not the only canal project that may enhance the towpath walking experience either. The Waterways 2025 document indicates the backing British Waterways has given to a number of canal extension and restoration schemes, which includes - albeit in its third and lowest category of priority - an extension to the Thames at Windsor of the Slough Arm of the Grand Union Canal.

Boaters may be very keen on this as the Thames could then provide a link to the Kennet and Avon Canal, while a restored York Stream will link the river with central Maidenhead. But for those in walking trousers, the potential for these links to create new waterside walking routes may be equally exciting.ADNFCR-2803-ID-801385283-ADNFCR