In 1954 the British Transport Commission planned to close the canal, but this triggered a major outcry. John Gould appealed to the High Court for an injunction
to prevent the BTC allowing further deterioration of the Kennet and Avon. He delivered a petition of 20,000 signatures to The Queen. Questions were asked in parliament, and a Committee of
Inquiry was set up.
A new dawn in the life of the Kennet and Avon canal was about to appear.
Volunteers were enthused to begin the process of clearing the canal of years of debris. In 1961 the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust established; in 1963 the
Kennet and Avon was taken over by "British Waterways".
Restoration work began. After huge endeavours by keen volunteers and other professional workers, the restoration gathered pace.
On 20 July 1974 the canal was officially re-opened to Hungerford wharf (175 years after its original opening to Hungerford).
Work continued to restore the entire canal to service, and on 4 August 1990 the re-opening of the entire canal was celebrated at Hungerford wharf.
The grand official opening was by HM The Queen on board The Rose of Hungerford at Caen Hill on 8 August 1990 - recognising both the importance of Hungerford in
the original conception of the canal, and the fact that it was at Caen Hill that the canal had been completed in 1810 (180 years earlier).
The restoration had taken about 30 years of hard work, but even then it was not absolutely complete. Much further work was required to install back pumps at
several locations, and to improve further various locks and bridges. The Kennet and Avon project was successful in achieving the largest ever National Lottery funding - £25 million in
Now fully restored, the work of ongoing maintenance continues.
The canal is in greater use now than at any time in its 200 year history. Its activities include:
- Narrow Boats
- Day trips (e.g. The Rose)
In 2010 the Kennet and Avon Canal was reclassified from "remainder" waterway to "cruiseway" status – ensuring its future funding.
Its engineering highlights include:
- Caen Hill flight
- Avoncliff Aqueduct
- Dundas Aqueduct
- Bruce Tunnel
- Crofton Pumping Station
Claverton Pumping Station
Above all, it passes through some magnificent scenery. The bicentenary was recognised by Kirsten Elliott in her book "Queen of Waters".