Melton and Oakham Waterways Society

The Melton Mowbray Navigation, a canalisation of the Rivers Wreake and Eye was opened in 1797 and runs for seventeen miles from Turnwater Meadow Syston to Melton utilising fourteen locks. At the Syston end, the Wreake becomes an essential part of the Soar Navigation becoming part of the canal section from Thurmaston to Cossington. In its heyday the Melton Navigation carried mainly coal from Derbyshire up to Melton, with the return journey cargoes comprising agricultural produce such as wheat, cheese, milk and vegetables. Six years after completion trade virtually doubled with the opening of the Oakham Canal. Sadly, with the coming of the railways in the mid 1800’s, trade dwindled and the Oakham Canal was sold to, the Syston to Peterborough railway. The Melton struggled on for a further thirty years and finally ceased trading in 1877.
One hundred and twenty years later, and following a waterways themed social evening, the Gate Hangs Well played host to the infant Melton and Oakham Waterways Society (MOWS). Their mission statement to ‘open up the corridor of the rivers Wreake and Eye for the use of all, and to realise the social, economic and leisure opportunities contained therein all based around a restored Melton Mowbray Navigation’. This has been their steadfast aim ever since. The society campaigned long and hard for a ‘disabled friendly’ replacement bridge at Syston, and to ensure that it had navigable headroom. This is the Navigation’s ‘front door’ and should be an impressive first sight for visitors. The old toll house which stood against the bridge is scheduled to be rebuilt as a visitor centre and tea room. The adjacent dilapidated isolation hospital ‘tin sheds’ could also be rebuilt as a canoe storage facility. In Melton regular work parties take place utilising MOWS river clearance vessels ‘Mole’ (a fully trailable dredger) and ‘Badger’ a general purpose workboat.
A slipway has been built in preparation for the National Trailboat Rally to be held around the waterway ring in Melton, and plans are in hand to locate the two workboats next door in a custom built boathouse. Future ideas include the reinstatement of the one missing lock at Syston Mill and projecting this further, hopefully to collaborate with the brewery to place some moorings at the Gate Hangs Well. There are also plans to reinstate the infilled Eye Kettleby Lock, extending the waterspace out of Melton. The most recent innovation is the primary formulation of an East and West partnership, involving every parish and borough council along the route working alongside local big businesses and influential groups to further their ambitions.
It is a well established fact that local spend increases by 8% once an adjacent waterway is restored. In this respect there is no reason why Syston and its surrounds should fare any differently.
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