Local restoration charity, The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, is celebrating after receiving a commendation award in the Canal & River Trust’s Annual Living Waterways Awards ceremony in London. Representatives of the Trust travelled to the impressive venue Church House Conference Centre Westminster, their rail travel very generously sponsored by Great Western Railways.
The Trust was entered in the Education & Learning category for the Melksham, Calne & Chippenham Branch’s project based around Pewsham Locks, including two Heritage Open Days, when volunteers and supporters of the Trust swapped their hard hats and overalls for cloth caps and period costumes. They brought the heritage site to life for local schoolchildren and residents, by leading practical activities and telling stories of the people who lived and worked there when it was a thriving industrial hub.
The certificate of commendation was accepted by newly appointed Chairman Roderick Bluh who thanked everyone who had been involved in the project. He said: “We were delighted to be part of such a prestigious occasion which included projects such as the amazing 30 metre high Kelpies near Grangemouth. The Trust is very aware that it would be impossible to organise events without the help and involvement of many volunteers, individuals and community groups.
“We are also very grateful to Great Western Railways for their assistance, and the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting our project through the Sharing Heritage scheme.
“We hope that this recognition by the Canal & River Trust will convince even more people to join us in our dream of restoring the Wilts & Berks Canal.”
The ceremony was also attended by Trust Directors Kath Hatton, Chris Coyle, and newly appointed CEO Jonathan Till, and some of the team from the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne Branch who had organised the project.
Dave Maloney, chair of the local Melksham, Chippenham & Calne Branch, said: “We are delighted to have achieved this national recognition. The project was really ambitious and we were thrilled that it was so successful.
“I will never forget the Open Days, especially the sight of over a hundred Chippenham school children in Victorian costume enjoying hammering, sawing, clay puddling, painting, and learning the stories of the canal people. Our volunteers were brilliant, dressing up as characters, telling their stories and leading fourteen different activities over two days; there were canal arts and crafts to see and try, folk music from the Butty Boys, canal food to taste, and Frankie the canal horse made the day for many as he paced up and down the towpath in his harness and bonnet.
“This was our first major heritage event, but we will continue informing and involving the local community in our plans to restore Pewsham Locks and the adjoining canal. We are a very friendly bunch and would love local people to come along and see what we are doing to provide a beautiful community amenity. Many people already enjoy the walk along the towpath to Lacock, and for those who haven’t yet visited, you will be delighted to discover this lovely stretch of unspoilt countryside so close to our town.
“Since the Heritage Open Days in 2014, volunteers have completely rebuilt the collapsed Cocklemore Brook Culvert, and made a start on restoring Top Lock as well as completing many smaller projects along the local stretch.”
For more information or to get involved visit the websites: