Boats and cruisers might soon travel again through Melton Mowbray

Plans are being made to offer boats for hire and cruise trips along the river through Melton Mowbray.

By Nick Rennie
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 3:30 pm
Rutland and Melton MP, Alicia Kearns  with Melton & Oakham Waterways Society (MOWS) chair, Mick Clowes, on the River Eye alongside Egerton Park in Melton EMN-220120-151416001
Rutland and Melton MP, Alicia Kearns with Melton & Oakham Waterways Society (MOWS) chair, Mick Clowes, on the River Eye alongside Egerton Park in Melton EMN-220120-151416001

The project has been put forward by the Melton and Oakham Waterways Society (MOWS), a charity formed in 1995 with the aim of restoring the Navigation so vessels can once again sail into the heart of the town.

Members are working closely with the borough Council, Melton Mowbray Town Estate, which owns Egerton Park, and the Environment Agency, the navigation authority for the river, to make it happen.

Canoeists and paddle boarders are already travelling along the Melton Ring, the waterways which loop around Egerton Park, but MOWS members hope to open the waterway up further to enable boats and small cruisers as a tourist attraction as well as a local amenity.

Melton MP, Alicia Kearns, is behind the initiative after taking a trip with society members along the river shortly before Christmas.

MOWS Chairman Mick Clowes pointed out work which has recently been undertaken by members, such as cutting overhanging branches, clearing vegetation and litter picking.

Clearing the obstructions is a first step to eventually opening the old Navigation, which operated in the 1800s along its 17-mile length following the River Wreake to join the Grand Union canal near Syston.

Mr Clowes said: “The waterways around Egerton Park are a really attractive part of Melton.

“Enabling more people to get afloat there will not only be an amenity for residents but also a visitor attraction.

“Mrs Kearns promised to put the society’s three-year business plan before interested MPs and those who form the cross-party waterways group.

“She also promised to support any funding applications the society may put forward.”

Mrs Kearns commented: “It was such a pleasure to spend some time on the waterways – and it really is an astonishingly underused resource.

“The restoration of these waterways is really a community project – and it’s so wonderful to see people coming together for the common good.

“Melton is on the up – and the infrastructure that is coming to our town, like the much-awaited bypass, will only make it a more exciting destination.

“Not only is Melton the Rural Capital of Food and Drink, but our town has something for everyone, and I’m fully behind the society’s efforts to make this waterway a destination for water-users for many years to come.”

Melton Mowbray Navigation operated from 1797 to 1877 following the course of the River Wreake from the River Soar near Syston to a cargo basin where the Melton Council offices now stand.

The basin was also the start of the 16-mile Oakham canal and The Boat Inn there was then a quayside pub.

Horse-drawn barges would bring Derbyshire coal into a basin and agricultural produce, wood and manure would be taken in the opposite direction for export to the rest of the country.

During their voyage, the barges would pass through 12 locks, which controlled the flow of water, and 11 still exist today.