A pair of surprisingly well-preserved locks on a derelict canal in the Oxfordshire countryside.
The Wilts & Berks is a derelict former canal that once connected the Thames at Abingdon with the Kennet & Avon Canal at Semington near Melksham. A more in-depth description can be found on this site's Grove lock flight page, for the purposes of this report all that needs to be said here is that it has been out of use since 1901 and has since fallen into dereliction.
locks are a pair of canal locks either side of the Great Western
Railway main line to the east of the road connecting Grove and East
Hanney. The canal here is mostly intact with a small amount of water in
it and both the lock chambers have avoided infilling in the century
since they were abandoned. In addition both locks have surviving lock
gate remains, unlike the rest of the Grove flight.
Ardington Lock lies in woodland a short walk south of the railway line. Its deep chamber still holds about a foot of water and well established trees have displaced the brickwork along the top of the walls.
One bottom gate survives in a degraded state, leaning against the wall of the chamber. It retains the bottom gate paddle gear.
Unlike the other locks from the Grove flight, in this lock the upper paddle chambers are intact and accessible.
Ardington Marsh lock is to the north of the railway. The canal here is mostly dry, in a line of trees between fields. This lock is the most intact of all, with one of the lower gates and the frame of the upper gate surviving in situ, as well as the remains of one of the upper paddle gear. The earth banks are home to a large badger sett.
The bottom gate is the star attraction here. For this to have survived a hundred years in situ is nothing short of amazing.
The top gate has mostly rotted out, leaving only its metal parts and its half rotted balance beam.
These two locks have probably survived as they are because of their isolation. Out in the Ock flood plain you are about as far from a road or settlement as it is possible to get in Oxfordshire so to reach these locks you have to be prepared for a lengthy walk. They are easy enough to find if you can read an Ordnance Survey map but they are not something you would find by accident.
Unfortunately Ardington Marsh lock is threatened by a plan from Thames Water to build a reservoir covering most of that part of the Ock floodplain to the north of the railway. See now while you still can.
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