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New chairman at the helm of local canal restoration campaign

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THE restoration of a local waterway will be driven by a fresh focus on attracting a new generation of volunteers.

Dave Maloney has just been elected as the new chairman of the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust.

He was the deputy chairman for the last three years and closely involved in some of the charity’s most important local projects. Now he hopes to lead a new effort to recruit younger volunteers who can play an active part in workparties and fundraising.

Dave brings a wealth of experience to the role.  He is the Trust’s technical operations director but also leads the branch fundraising team and is on the steering group preparing for the reopening of The Peterborough Arms, the former canalside pub at Dauntsey Lock.

He has also been leading the restoration of hundreds of metres of canal alongside the A4 between Chippenham and Calne in conjunction with a habitat management plan to repair hedgerows and encourage native flora and fauna.

Dave said, “I am very proud to be leading such a dedicated group of volunteers and plan to swell their number by attracting a new generation of supporters so that we can bring more of the canal back to life.

“It’s vitally important that we recruit a greater number of younger volunteers, aged 18 and above, who can get involved in any aspect of the restoration – from workparties and fundraising to event management and a host of other activities.

“Teenagers in particular will find it’s a useful and unusual addition to their CV, while others will find it’s an excellent way to keep fit and healthy.

“Every member, whatever their background and interests, will receive a warm welcome. Even the ‘armchair’ supporters will still be helping us to raise awareness and funds.”

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has proposed the creation of a ‘Melksham Link’ which would bring the canal across the fields from the Kennet & Avon near Semington and through the centre of the town via the River Avon.

The local branch is supporting this plan by restoring the historic line from Pewsham towards Melksham so that the two sections will ultimately be connected.

Dave added,  “Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, and the generous co-operation of landowners, the local community now realise that the reopening of the Wilts & Berks Canal is no longer just the pipe dream of a small group of enthusiasts.

“The evidence is plain to see along the stretches which have already been restored where we’ve rebuilt towpaths, bridges, culverts, spillweirs and other structures and provided a popular amenity for walkers, runners and cyclists.

“Now we need to make even more people aware of its existence and benefits.”

The charity’s aim is to restore the waterway from the Kennet & Avon Canal near Melksham to The Thames & Severn Canal near Cricklade and the River Thames near Abingdon.

For further information on joining, or to view access guides, visit www.melkshamwaterway.org.uk