pounds 25m grant unlocks historic waterway

Heritage share-out: Future assured for Kennet and Avon canal but Birmingham and Liverpool orchestras may not get funds
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The Heritage Lottery Fund announced its largest award to date yesterday - a pounds 25m grant to complete the restoration of the Kennet and Avon Canal.

The 87-mile canal crosses the widest part of England, linking the Bristol and English channels via the rivers Thames, Kennet and Avon. Opened in 1810, it was one of the greatest engineering achievements of the early industrial revolution. Designed and engineered by John Rennie, it includes two magnificent aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, and the famous flight of 29 locks which take it more than 200 feet up a hill at Devizes. But within a few decades of its opening, the Great Western Railway, which runs parallel to it, was in business and the canal's decline began.

Most of the money will be spent on engineering, with nearly pounds 10m devoted to strengthening and underpinning the earthen and clay embankments which carry large lengths of the canal above ground level. Nearly pounds 8m will be spent on dredging, relining of the canal sides and refurbishing locks.

"We need to do some serious preventive engineering, to make sure the canal survives another 200 years," said Simon Salem, marketing director of British Waterways, which has responsibility for the structure.