THE Swindon branch of Waitrose has given canal enthusiasts a boost with a welcome donation of £7,000.

The money, which was raised through customers’ generosity as part of the in-store donation scheme, will go to the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal Trust.

They plan to use it to help support the landing stage located on the water’s edge, just outside the Waitrose branch in Wichelstowe.

The landing stage is on a mile-long stretch of the original canal restored by volunteers from the trust.

It has become the launch point for short tours using the boat, Dragonfly.

The boat can carry up to 12 passengers and two crew and was named by the trust’s patron, HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, in 2010.

Daniel Morehead, Waitrose Swindon branch manager, says: "It’s really important to us to that we work with the community in which we trade, so we're proud to be supporting the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust to give something back to the many people who enjoy trips on the canal."

The restoration of a stretch of canal in Wichelstowe is just one part of an ambitious project to renew the network to a navigable state from Melksham in the south of the county to Abingdon in the north.

Another branch is also envisaged along the proposed Cricklade Country Way from Swindon to Eysey.

Rod Hacker, chairman of the Trust’s Swindon branch, said: “We’re very grateful for this donation from Waitrose.

“The landing stage at Wichelstowe is just next to their store and they’ve been big supporters.

“We run trips from there, so people can stop off for a coffee beforehand or pick up a sandwich on the way back.

“The restoration of the canal is certainly an ambitious project, we’re working on different short sections at a time but the eventual hope is to link them all together.

“Our focus moving forward is to look at funding the work through contributions from developers.

“Research has shown that having a waterway by a property significantly increases its value so it’s in their interest to contribute.”

The main canal route was opened in 1810, it ran for 52 miles from the Kennet and Avon Canal at Semington, near Melksham, to the River Thames at Abingdon.

Its main role was carrying coal from Somerset but it declined in use towards the end of the 19th century because of competition from the railways. It fell into disrepair and was finally abandoned by an Act of Parliament in 1914.

In the 1970s a small group of enthusiasts began to document its history and clean up small sections of the water.

In the years that followed, more people got involved and ambitions grew with the trustn as it is today, eventually taking shape.

For more information about trips from Wichelstowe, or the restoration project more broadly, visit