As the cold winter weather slowly starts to thaw, more and more people will head out on the nation’s canals.

One of the most popular and well-known stretches in Wiltshire is the flight of locks at Caen Hill outside Devizes, said to be the most spectacular in England because the broad, straight locks can be seen in perspective.

This stretch of the Kennet & Avon, which links London to the Bristol Channel, has 29 locks with a rise of 237 feet over two miles.

It hasn’t always been so popular and fell into disrepair in the 1960s.

The idea for the canal was first thought up in the 16th century, but it was not until 1794 that the route was fixed via Devizes.

The Caen Hill flight of locks was engineer John Rennie’s solution to climbing the steep hill, and was the last part of the 87-mile route to be completed before the the canal opened on December 28, 1809.

Although it cost more than £16,000 per mile to build, the canal was never prosperous. It made its first loss in 1877 and never made a profit again.

At its peak in 1815 the cargo carried was 151,980 tons but the canal carried its last load from London to Bristol in 1900.

In the next few decades the canal fell further into decline before the Kennet & Avon Canal Association formed in 1851 to try to keep it open.

It owes its existence to the dedication of volunteers who formed the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust in 1961 and helped to restore the canal to its former glory.

In 1990 the Queen reopened the canal and was able to travel on the trust’s boat, Rose of Hungerford, through locks 44 and 43 on the Caen Hill flight, breaking a ceremonial tape between them.

It has undergone other improvements since then, aided by a £25m Heritage Lottery Fund grant and other funding obtained in the 1990s.

Luckily the Devizes to Westminster canoe race was not affected by the decline, running every Easter since 1948. More than 600 people took part in the 125-mile race in 2014.

A new 250-berth narrowboat marina at the base of the lock flight was opened in 2011 and the lock has many volunteer lock keepers.

Nick Worthington, waterway manager at the trust, said: “The Kennet & Avon Canal is one of the most beautiful canals anywhere in the country, and it’s largely thanks to the volunteers and people who use it that make it this way. Volunteer lock keepers do a fantastic job; they really are the friendly face of the canal.”

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