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Wilts and Berks Canal walk promises to be best yet

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W&B MCC branch chair Derek Flexer at Top Lock.

W&B MCC branch chair Derek Flexer at Top Lock.

FUNDRAISERS are promising that this year’s annual sponsored walk in aid of a canal restoration project will be bigger and better than ever before.

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has made major changes to the popular event which follows part of the former route between Chippenham and Melksham.

Supporters pass the excavated remains of locks and a dry-dock before enjoying  significant stretches which have been dredged and refilled with water, and restored structures including a wharf and bridge. This year’s event is due to take place on Bank Holiday Monday, May 5th, but with important new additions.

These include a short route for people in wheelchairs and mobility scooters, a refreshments tent and toilets at the halfway stage – and even a free minibus back to Chippenham if needed.

The event is organised by the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the charity.

Branch chairman Derek Flexer said, “This is the eleventh year that we have organised the sponsored walk but we want to make it extra special as 2014 is the hundredth anniversary of the canal’s closure.

“The five-mile route to Lacock remains the same, but we’ll also be offering a three-mile route to the spillweir which avoids stiles and has marshals at key stages to help with opening and closing gates. We hope this will provide easier access for people in wheelchairs or scooters.

“The spillweir will be our main display area with teas, cakes and merchandise for sale, as well as toilets available, and many of the volunteers will be dressed as boaters from the late nineteenth century to add to the fun.

“People will also be able to see one of our restoration workparties in action.

“Walkers can then continue to The Bell Inn at Lacock, formerly a canalside pub, where there will also be a treasure hunt for younger supporters.

“After lunch many people head back along the canal to Chippenham, or they can return along a new circular route on the other side of the River Avon, but we know that a free minibus will certainly be appreciated by others!”

The sponsored walk begins at The Buttercross in Chippenham town centre at 10.00am. Entry is £4 per individual or group, although sponsorship is not obligatory in order to take part. Groups can even choose to split their sponsorship money 50/50 between the Trust and other good causes.

There will also be a photographic competition looking for the best images taken on the day of the walk, with cash prizes for the winning under-18s and over-18s.

Call (01373) 859207 or email malcolm.hitchinson@wbct.org.uk