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Group Theme 1 The Stroudwater Canal
Historical Aspects and project overview.
This project focuses on a stretch of the Stroudwater canal that runs from Stonehouse to Saperton. A number of exhibitions are planned to show the work which will vary from pottery finishes, sounds, film, prints, photography, sketches, sculptures and paintings. The canal is eight miles in legnth and rises to 102 feet and plans began in the 17th century but looked at more seriously in 1730. However the mill owners opposed the initial plans, worried about the loss of water. In 1759 it was agreed that the canal could be built but without any locks to avoid the loss of water. Cranes and cuts were used to raise the barges but the work focussed on the development of the river not a new canal. In 1779 a new canal was built this time with locks and dividends were paid by mainly coal companies for shipment to fund the development. In 1863 the Nailsworth Railway Act was passed which competed directly with the canal but it was faster and cheapper to run. In some stretches throughout the country violence broke out between the two concerns but change and therefore decline was inevitable. This art project will consider mondern day impacts that will include the re-engineering of a canal that has been taken back by nature. By 1954 the canal was largely abandoned. Today the canal is being restored and cleaared with progress behing hampered by a number of key issues particularly the building of some modern road bridges and some poorly built walls that require rebuilding. The plans are to develop Brimscombe port and to eventually enable travel by tourists using the water way up to and beyond this point. From the current Stroud Brewery to Saperton Tunnel the walks become more naturalistic in nature revealing a very overgrown but stunning valley landscape. Bridges provide ideal spots to view the valley but also to paint and sketch, they are quiet spots and most run off paths up onto the commons above Stroud. Many were orginally built using wood as well as stone but these are worth pondering over. Stand under the bridge and you will notice the arched engineering walls that are seldom straight and bricked paths with wear and tear from boots to this day. Along the stretch there are many superb woolen mills now used now for a wide variety of purposes from offices and appartments to bike shops and art spaces. The pathways currently provide safe transport for cyclists working and travelling to Stroud, joggers, dog walkers, ramblers all utilise the narrow footpaths with some beautifully restored locks to admire along the way. Unsurprisingly the canal is teeming with a wide variety of wildlife and those living along this stretch benefit from a natural park on the doorstep , a place for leisure and relaxation. Chalford, Thrupp, StMarys all provide stunning villages as well as locations for industry and hospitality. Several walking groups exist in and around Stroud which offer social as well as artistic opportunities in a town where so many gifted artists thrive.