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  • Writer's pictureNEMM

Volunteers to complete signposting historical route

Footpath rangers from the Melton & Oakham Waterways Society (MOWS) will shortly complete the marking of the route of the Melton Navigation which linked the town to the national canal network throughout the 1800s.

Leicestershire County Council gave permission for a new “Melton Navigation” symbol to be attached to the hundred of waymarkers along the various footpaths which make up 15-mile trail from Melton to Syston.

Melton & Oakham Waterways Society is a charity formed in 1997 with the aim of restoring the Navigation so that vessels can once again sail into the heart of Melton Mowbray. As we reported recently the volunteers have been successful in sourcing a new boat to offer river tours in the town.

The recognition of the trail by the County Council followed last year’s publication by MOWS of a book of 6 walks along the Rivers Eye and Wreake. The Navigation, which opened around 1794, largely followed the course of the rivers and enabled horse-drawn barges to carry cargo into Melton for nearly 100 years.

MOWS’ five footpath rangers each keep a watch on separate sections of the river and adjoining footpaths and report back on any problems they encounter. The rangers met last week at the Bell Inn community pub in Frisby on the Wreake.

MOWS members after fixing one of the new stickers to a waymarker on the outskirts of Frisby on the Wreake. From left: Rita Leggatt, Jim Leggatt, Organiser Mike Patterson, Lorrie Foreman (ranger for Melton to Kirby Bellars), Rod Axon (ranger for Rearsby to Syston) and MOWS chairman Glynn Cartwright.

Organiser Mike Patterson, who looks after the area around Frisby, said: “The publication of the book of walks last year has encouraged many more people to come and discover the beauty of our rivers and now the addition of Navigation stickers to the waymarkers will make it easier for walkers to keep to the right path.

“We are now planning to hold organised walks along parts of the route where we will be able to point out features of interest, including the old locks which allowed the barges to move up the river.”

The rangers plan to work with other organisations to ensure the footpaths are kept open. Also present at the meeting was David Williams of the Leicestershire Round who provided information on the experience gained since the 100-mile footpath was created in 1987. The Round works closely with the County Council and landowners and organises regular work parties to maintain the path.

The new symbol of the Melton Navigation walking route.

The book with details of the 6 walks was only published a year ago but has been so popular that it has just been reprinted for a third time. Most walks take around a couple of hours for both the outward and return journey and some include a circular route.

It is no longer possible to walk alongside the river all the way because, when the Navigation was abandoned in the late 1800s, the towpath – along which horses would pull their barges – reverted to private landowners.

Most of the 12 original locks which were built to maintain water levels for mills and enable barges to travel uphill, can, however, still be seen. Some are in remarkably good condition.

Costing £3.95, the 40-page book is available at a number of outlets in Melton and the villages along the route. Full details are on the MOWS Facebook page.

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