OAKHAM CANAL ROUTE
The canal, marked in red, heads north from its former terminus in Oakham to join the Melton Mowbray Navigation. Its route can be divided into several distinct sections, each with its own characteristics.
Section 1: former Oakham Canal wharf
The original Oakham Canal wharf now lies entirely within the grounds of Oakham School. The former canal warehouse is now the Queen Elizabeth theatre. The original wharf entrance still forms the main entrance to the school. Please note that there is no public access to the canal here.
Section 2: former canal line to the rear of properties to Springfield Way/Schofield Road
A narrow strip of land, once the route of the canal, runs south from Oakfield to the rear of gardens between Springfield Way and Schofield Road. This tapers at the southern end, where the course of the canal has been removed by modern housing at Barmstedt Drive. The route of the canal is clearly distinguished by the large trees that once lined the banks.
Section 3: Springfield estate
The southernmost in-water section of the canal lies to the south of the A606 Burley Park Way, forming part of the Springfield housing estate. The canal can be accessed at the southern end from Griffiths Close or Oakfield, in the centre from Ashfield, and at the northern end from the A606 Burley Park Way. A permissive footpath to the eastern bank of the canal provides an accessible route along the entire section.
The canal here is shallow and significantly silted from the trees and other vegetation, but nonetheless provides a significant wildlife habitat, particularly for water fowl. The area is enjoyed by walkers, and those who bring their children to feed the ducks and other birds. Here we aim to work with Rutland County Council, who own the canal at this point, to improve the footpath and develop a long term maintenance strategy to improve the wildlife habitats and water quality.
Section 4: north of A606 Burley Park Way
The former canal line continues immediately to the north of the A606 Burley Park Way. At the southern end, the canal is largely derelict. Further north the canal is infilled with a large hedgerow to the former western bank.
Here, with the permission of the landowner, we hope to formalise and improve the footpaths, and secure access to the canal bed and adjacent woodland. Informal routes would be encouraged though an improved and maintained woodland and, where possible and practical, footpaths would allow increased accessibility.
There are opportunities for the creation of an accessible wetland habitat with the potential for pond dipping. At the northern end, the footpath would emerge from the woodland with the existing open field to the west and the hedgerow to the east.
Section 5: south of Burley Road
To the south of Burley Road, the canal is preserved much in its original condition, with a wide body of water and a public right of way along the original towpath close to the water’s edge. This section has been leased to the Oakham Angling Society for many years. The Society did make significant improvements to the footpath surface, but it has been agreed it would be advantageous to all to bring the path up to the standard of Section 6, described below. We are actively seeking funding to complete this work.
Section 6: Burley Road to Ashwell Road
This section, North of Burley Road, is the last of the current sections that is "in water". Previously neglected, the Towpath was very treacherous and difficult to negotiate.
After a long period working with Rutland County Council and the Angling Society to agree a solution, we started a programme of works in October 2021. Due to the soft nature of the path and bank side, all work had to be completed manually. Our team of volunteers dug out and levelled the foundations for the new path, then transported aggregate, by wheelbarrow, from the Ashwell Road layby to be laid and compacted as the new surface. This resulted in a brand new, level footpath along the entire 460 metres of the Northern section, from Burley Road to Ashwell Road layby, being completed by February 2022.
During the programme, we also replaced the unstable steps leading down from Burley Road to the Towpath, installed a new bridge over the "cattle drink" section, a new hand gate at the northern end of the section and added four seating benches.
In parallel, we also worked with the landowner and tenant farmer to secure formal permissive access to the footpath routes on the western banks of the canal, which creates looped return routes around Sections 5 & 6. The surfaces of these permissive footpaths are reasonable, but we plan to improve the surfaces during the winter months with wood chippings, where required. To improve accessibility, we created a new more gentle sloping path, laid with aggregate, to access the permissive path from the Ashwell Road layby.
Section 7: Beyond Ashwell Road..
At the northern end of Section 6, the Ashwell Road was built across the route of the canal. Water from the canal now passes under the road via a sump and pipe, resurfacing on the eastern side of Ashwell Road, just north of the Oakham Enterprise Park. Whilst there is a reasonable area of water immediately beyond Ashwell Road, the canal soon dries out and much of it was filled in over the years, but the route is plainly visible on maps and Google earth.
The route crosses multiple privately owned lands and does not currently enjoy public access. Looking forward, once we have restored access to the sections up to the Ashwell Road layby, as per our original remit, we will potentially turn our focus to gaining agreed access beyond Ashwell Road. We doubt that we will see canal boats once again making the passage from Melton to Oakham, but a footpath is definitely achievable.
Who knows what is achievable, if we put our collective minds and funding to the challenge!
MILEPOSTS ALONG THE OAKHAM CANAL
In its heyday, the canal had a series of mileposts along its entire length. These were vital for the bargemen to know exactly where they were and just how far they had to go before they reached the Inns of Oakham and Melton!
Ian Thompson, Conservation officer at The Milepost Society, recently wrote to us, filling in some fascinating details about the Oakham Canal mileposts.
Ian used the geo-referenced "Ordnance Survey 25” map of 1902 (Revised 1904), from the National Library of Scotland website, to locate mileposts along the canal between Oakham and Melton Mowbray. The canal was marked ‘disused canal’ on the map since it had ceased operations over fifty years before the map was produced. Despite this, five mileposts were marked ‘M.P.’ along the route of the canal. Using the measuring tool on the website, Ian calculated the positions of the other ten mileposts and noted the Ordnance Survey grid references of those locations. The results are shown below:
A = The distance from Oakham Canal basin
B = The distance to Melton Mowbray canal basin
C = Ordnance Survey grid reference.
A B C
½ /15 SK862099
1½ /14 SK866114 (near Turnover Bridge)
2½ /13 SK877123 (Now in Rutland County Museum)
3½ /12 SK881136
4½ /11 SK882150
5½ /10 SK877163
6½ / 9 SK86253 16834 MP (Now on Burley Park Way)
7½ / 8 SK849171 (Now in Cordhill Lane 450 metres away)
8½ / 7 SK83551 16642 MP
9½ / 6 SK82543 17774 MP
10½ / 5 SK82315 19183 MP
11½ / 4 SK80872 19157 MP
12½ / 3 SK793187
13½ / 2 SK778183
14½ / 1 SK769192
As you can see, we only know of three surviving mileposts and would be delighted to uncover any more that happen to be out there!
Check out our gallery for pictures of mileposts. I you'd like more information on The Milestone Society, click on this link.
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