April 2, 2023 -

£1.8m Kennet & Avon Canal investment at Crofton Pumping Station

Great news for boaters as the Kennet & Avon Canal bolsters its water resilience.

The navigation at Crofton reopened in April 2023, following five months of closure to allow the Canal & River Trust to replace the canal’s pumping system at Crofton.  This £1.8 million investment is part of CRT’s continued commitment to keep the beautiful Kennet and Avon Canal viable and efficient, not only for the many visitors each year, but also for the varied wildlife.
The pumping station uses electric pumps for day-to-day operation, these works have replaced the 40-year-old pumps, pipes and electrics with a modern, more efficient and reliable system.  However, this Grade 1 listed pumping station built in 1807 still contains two steam-powered beam engines. The original steam driven pumping equipment has been preserved and is still operational.
Engine number 1, installed in 1812 and is the oldest working beam engine in the world, in its original location and still able to perform its original task.  The original steam pumps, housed in the historic Pumping Station are owned by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust and are open for demonstration to the public on their open days. To find out more visit www.croftonbeamengines.org

The pumping system at Crofton keeps the canal summit topped up with water, which is vital for boaters and wildlife

The works this winter is the second phase of this important project to keep the canal navigable, for the benefit of people and wildlife.  Phase one of the £1.8 million works, completed in March 2020, laid new pipes connecting to the existing historic pipeline beneath the canal, and installed new pipework under the railway and up to the canal feeder channel.  Phase two has seen the installation of new pipework, pump and electrics beneath the canal and towpath.  Work has also been carried out at Wilton Water to improve the flow of water from the reservoir, and the historic water control gates (penstocks) are being restored as a heritage structure.
Charles Baker, the Canal & River Trust’s senior project engineer, explains: “Crofton Top Lock is the highest lock at the head of the eastern descent of the Kennet & Avon Canal.  The pumping system at Crofton keeps the canal summit topped up with water, which is vital for boaters and wildlife, as well as the thousands of people who visit the canal towpath each year for the health and wellbeing.
“After 40 years of service, the 1980’s electric pumping system had become unreliable and less efficient.  With the Kennet & Avon Canal more popular with people and boats than at any time in history, the new pumping system will increase efficiency and the amount of water that can be pumped into the canal.
“We have completed the works beneath the canal, so we’ve been able to re-open the navigation to boats.  Work continues to install and commission the pumps beneath the towpath, so a small section of the towpath will remain closed until July.  Diversion routes are in place for walkers, and boats can now pass through this section of the waterways, some temporary restrictions remain in place for boaters while the works are completed.”
Mark Evans, the Canal & River Trust’s director for Wales & South West, adds: “The Kennet & Avon Canal links the Bristol Avon outside Bath to the River Thames at Reading.  Built to transfer goods and materials between Bristol and London, today the Kennet & Avon Canal is used for leisure.  With over 5,000 boats using the Kennet & Avon Canal each year, it’s one of the most popular canals on the inland waterways network.
“The Canal & River Trust wants to make its canals more welcoming, safe and clean to encourage more people to use them, and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of walking, boating and cycling, and being by the water.  The upgrade to the water pumping system at Crofton will help to improve resilience in our network and the maintenance of water levels, so that the Kennet & Avon Canal can continue to provide benefits for people and wildlife.” To find out more about the project, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/croftonpumps