The spring fed Arm was opened in 1797 as a navigable feeder essential to maintain the water level on the Chiltern Summit of the Grand Union Canal. The waterway from its outset had a history of leakage and was eventually closed to navigation around 1900. To maintain the flow of water to the summit reservoirs the 1.75 mile Drayton Beauchamp section, where leakage was most pronounced, was piped through to Wilstone and Tringford Reservoirs in 1912. It was, and remains to this day, pumped from these reservoirs to the summit level at Tringford Pumping Station. From here it flows the 1.25 miles of remaining open canal to Bulborne Junction on The Grand Union.
In 1968 the first moves were made to re-water the canal and in 1989 the Wendover Arm Trust came in to being as a registered charity. Restoration commenced in 1997 exactly 200 years after the arm was opened and is proceeding in three phases. Phase 1 is now complete and Phase 2 is underway.
Phase 3, the remaining 4 miles to the Wendover Basin will require dredging and bank strengthening to accommodate an increased water flow, navigation and a serviceable tow path. Due to weed growth, and silting there is a grave danger, if nothing is done, that The Canal and River Trust will have to resort to piping to preserve the water flow. The Arm accounts for over 80% of all water entering the Wilstone, Startops and Tringford reservoirs, whose volumes are essential to the Grand Union Canal.
There is concern amongst some Wendover residents that restoration works to the Arm will destroy habitation and wildlife. Lessons from other canals restored across the country and from the first phase of the Arm, clearly show these fears are unfounded for nature quickly re-asserts its dominance. To do nothing in the hope that the canal will remain essentially as it is, is not an option. If the owners are forced to pipe it, all that will be left is a dry ditch.
The PC have decided to consider the matter in more detail to see how much support may be given to the Trust in the future.