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The Melton Mowbray Navigation was formed when the River Wreake in Leicestershire was made navigable upstream from its junction with the River Soar and the Leicester Navigation near Syston to Melton Mowbray, opening in 1797.
Largely river navigation, there were numerous lock cuts, to accommodate the 12 broad locks built along its length. The navigation rose by 71 ft (21.6 m) over its 11-mile (17.7 km) route, and many of the locks were built at sites where it was necessary to maintain the water levels for an adjacent mill.
The navigation enjoyed some prosperity after the opening of the connecting Oakham Canal in 1802. There were busy wharves at Melton Basin and at Rearsby. Agricultural products and coal were the principal cargoes, benefiting from the connection at Syston to the very successful Leicester Navigation, which was bought by the Grand Union canal in 1931.
The coming of the Syston and Peterborough Railway, which followed the Wreake valley, and the associated closure of the Oakham Canal, probably in 1847, took away most of the navigation's trade.
The Canal company attempted to sell the waterway to the Loughborough Navigation in the 1860s, and then to the Midland Railway Company, but neither were interested. It struggled on until closure on 1 August 1877.
Restoration is proposed by a local group, the Melton & Oakham Waterways Society.
Very few bridges have been lowered (the principal one being Lewin Bridge, which carries the Fosse Way at Syston), and most lock chambers are still extant though in need of repair.
A slipway has been built in Melton Mowbray by Waterway Recovery Group volunteers, some dredging and towpath repairs undertaken, and the society is working with the Sustrans Connect2 project to replace the entrance footbridge at Syston with one offering navigable headroom.