Award-winning volunteers gave almost 6,200 hours to restore waterway
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has recognised the work of enthusiastic volunteers who gave up almost 6,200 hours last year to help with restoration work.
Members of the Melksham, Chippenham and Calne branch were awarded this year’s Tony Davy Award by the trust.
The engraved crystal – named after the charity’s first chairman – is given to the branch with the highest number of hours given by volunteers over the past year.
Volunteers have helped with dredging the canal, raising and widening the towpath, and restoring bridges, wharfs and other historic structures.
Branch chairman Derek Flexer said volunteers in Melksham, Chippenham and Calne were also the first to win the award when it was introduced the previous year.
He said: “We’re delighted that we managed to retain it.
“It’s a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our volunteers who are committed to bringing this waterway back to life.
“This award also shows the strength of local support for the restoration project. Last year they took part in dozens of work parties, providing free labour worth around £90,000 if paid contractors had been used.”
The branch’s greatest success has been extending the restored and re-watered section in the open countryside near Pewsham.
The stretch now includes a towpath, bridge, culvert and spillweir, as well as information boards and benches.
Volunteers also excavated the first of the flight of locks that once lifted the canal on its journey northwards.
Branches across the trust have also benefited from the fundraising efforts of the W&B 200 club organised by Jeff and Lynda Daws.
The club, which aims to get 200 people signed up each year, enters paying members into a monthly prize draw.
Last year it collected £3,430 in membership fees, half of which went towards prizes and half of which was given back to the canal trust.
Mrs Daws, who is also a work party volunteer, said the money had been spent on plants, materials and tools, including a bush cutter for the Melksham branch.
She said: “We have 170 members at the moment so we’re ever hopeful that we will make it to the last 30 by the closing date.
“It’s all for a good cause – it keeps the heritage of the canal going.”
Membership is open to all and the closing date is for applications is the end of January. For more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org