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Griff hails historic lock restoration for opening up the River Stour through Constable Country

PUBLISHED: 15:08 13 May 2018 | UPDATED: 15:13 13 May 2018

River Stour Trust vice-president Griff Rhys Jones. Picture: ROSS BENTLEY

River Stour Trust vice-president Griff Rhys Jones. Picture: ROSS BENTLEY

Archant

The official opening ceremony of a historic lock on the River Stour which took 12 years to restore took place on Saturday.

Passing through the restored lock at Stratford St Mary. Picture: ROSS BENTLEYPassing through the restored lock at Stratford St Mary. Picture: ROSS BENTLEY

Supporters of the River Stour Trust, the charity which has overseen the ambitious restoration, congregated at the lock at Stratford St Mary on the Suffolk/Essex border to mark the occasion.

They were joined by a number of guests including the trust’s vice president, TV personality and comedian Griff Rhys Jones who hosted proceedings.

Speaking to the crowd, Mr Jones said: “I feel strongly that the trust is doing so much good work and a vital element of this is that it is keeping the river navigable.

“When Constable painted this river he called it a ‘Scene from a navigable river’ and his father was also involved in keeping it navigable.

Mark Harling of Enovert cuts the ribbon on the new lock gates at Stratford St Mary. Picture: ROSS BENTLEYMark Harling of Enovert cuts the ribbon on the new lock gates at Stratford St Mary. Picture: ROSS BENTLEY

“Sadly, 95% of rivers are actually closed to navigation and boats - to me, I find this sad.”

Mr Jones then invited Mark Harling, the regional manager of waste management company Enovert, to cut the ribbon on the lock gates. The firm provided a £85,000 grant for the work through the Landfill Communities Fund.

Another guest was Mary Harrison, whose late husband Tony left a legacy for the project after he advised on the scheme as an engineer for the Inland Waterways Association.

The new lock at Stratford St Mary marks a major step in the River Stour Trust’s ambition to open up the Stour for use by the local community and the wider public, who come in their thousands to visit Constable Country every year.

Roger Brown, River Stour Trust volunteer who led the 12-year project to restore the lock at Stratford St Mary. Picture: ROSS BENTLEYRoger Brown, River Stour Trust volunteer who led the 12-year project to restore the lock at Stratford St Mary. Picture: ROSS BENTLEY

“Once we have opened Stratford St Mary Lock, and then Dedham Lock later this year, the whole stretch of the river from Cattawade to Langham will become usable for everyone, either to walk beside, or travel in their own rowing boats or canoes,” said Emrhys Barrell, a trustee.

The Stratford lock has been renamed the Roger Brown Lock to honour the trust member who led the 12-year restoration project.

Mr Brown was on hand to see the first small flotilla of boats, canoes and kayaks go through.

He said: “All the work has been done by volunteers.

A flotilla of boats, canoes and kayaks mark the official opening of Straford St Mary lock by passing through. Picture: ROSS BENTLEYA flotilla of boats, canoes and kayaks mark the official opening of Straford St Mary lock by passing through. Picture: ROSS BENTLEY

“When we started looking at the project, the channel was filled with mud and rocks, the locks gates were decayed and there was four feet of mud in the lock itself that had to be dug out.

“It’s great to see it open and working.”

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