The army of volunteers working to restore historic canal route near Stroud

Watch Katie Rowlett's report

A team of more than 300 volunteers are helping to save a historic canal near Stroud.

The Cotswold Canals Trust has been working to open up a stretch of waterway from Thrupp to Stonehouse.

The aim is to eventually rejoin the River Severn and the Thames via a navigable canal system, restoring 36 miles in total.

This first phase will link the Stroudwater Navigation canal with the Gloucester and Sharpness canal at Saul Junction.

Phase one is opening up around 12 miles of canal by 2024.

Bridget Mitchell, who is from Amberley, has been volunteering on the project for 11 years.

She has helped to lay some of the hundreds of metres of tow path.

"The aim here is to level off the earth and stones that have been dropped off by the dredger, so that when people come to open the bridge they have got somewhere level to stand," she said.

"It's quite good exercise and the company is good.

"I get a lot of job satisfaction from seeing people enjoy the towpath and all the work we have done. It's appreciated by so many people."

Three miles down the road at Western depot in Eastington, Reg Gregory is another of those 300 volunteers.

He said: "You are working in your daily job for all your working life and suddenly that stops and then what do you do with your time?

Reg Gregory from Gloucester is the Operations Director & Trustee of The Cotswolds Canals Trust. Credit: ITV News

"I want to be active mentally and physically, and your mind starts going into over drive about what you can achieve and what you can get the volunteers to achieve."

One of the projects biggest challenges was replacing the Gloucester to Bristol railway bridge at the Ocean in Stonehouse.

Last Christmas, on behalf of the charity, 150 Network Rail construction engineers worked  24 hours a day for seven days to complete it on time.

Watch Network Rail's time lapse of the new bridge being installed.

The new rail bridge is large enough for boats to pass through with a footpath for walkers and it will allow Stroud and Stonehouse to become canal towns again.

On 23 May, Ocean Bridge will be officially opened as the first flotilla of boats travel under the bridge.

Aimée-Louise Malcolm, fundraiser-ambassador for Cotswold Canals Trust said: "We have raised £50million since it was founded in 1972.

"Now nearly 12 miles of canal have been restored to date, by 2025 we will be out towards the River Severn, and you will be able to navigate to the Severn by 2025, which is a huge achievement just for volunteers alone."

The Cotswold Canals Connected project is co-led by The Cotswold Canals Trust and Stroud District Council.

On 3 July, the charity will host its famous raft race in Stroud to celebrate 50 years of Cotswold Canals Trust. It has not taken place since 2019 due to the pandemic.

This years' raft race will be at Wallbridge Upper Lock, Stroud on Sunday 3rd July. Credit: The Cotswold Canals Trust

Anyone can enter and it will help to raise more money for the canal's restoration.

The overall ambition with this restoration project is to open up 36 miles of canal so that boats can once again travel between the River Thames and the Severn.

Although this will not happen in the volunteer's lifetimes, they hope to recruit future generations of volunteers to carry on with their dream.