Portrait of a Parish - Page 20

Brassknocker Boat Basin

In 1985 restoration began on the first quarter mile section of the Somerset Coal Canal from its junction with the Kennet and Avon at Dundas Aqueduct. This stretch had not been touched by the railway and was still reasonably intact. Two entrepreneurs, Mr. Hedley Smith and Mr.Tim Wheeldon, seeing the potential it presented for a marina and boat business, formed the new Somerset Coal Canal Company. They acquired the land and dug out and relined the old canal bed. The only part, which had been deliberately filled, was the stop lock in the garden of the lock keepers cottage at the entrance. As this lock only had a rise of 7 inches from the Kennet and Avon, the arm was able to be reconnected without having to reinstate the lock, and is now at the same level as the main canal. By 1988 the restoration had reached the end of the arm which disappeared into a short tunnel under the A36/Warminster Road. This tunnel was excavated and turned into a dry dock. To enable boats up to 60ft in length to turn at the end a winding hole was excavated. As the basin is at the end of Brassknocker Hill it was named Brassknocker Basin.

After several years of boat operations, without permanent premises, European funding was obtained to help construct a purpose built canal side Visitor Centre. This steel, wood and glass structure opened in 1988 and is curved to match the bend of the canal around the hillside.

Visitor Centre

Within this building all the activities of the boatyard and Visitor Centre are carried out with the exception of Chris's Boat Services, which occupies the dry dock and workshop in the tunnel. A number of small shops occupy the centre providing information about the canal, books and guides and various boat and canal memorabilia. The longest part of the building is occupied by the Angelfish Cafe/restaurant, which caters for boaters and walkers. The bustle and activity of this eastern end of the parish is in marked contrast to the peace and tranquillity of Tucking Mill Lake at its western limit.

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