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Revealing Melksham’s Lost Waterway

Wilts & Berks Canal Trust volunteers

Following the brilliant example of Melksham’s Tidy Town group, volunteers from the local branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust recently had a go at clearing litter and undergrowth from some of Melksham’s little known pathways. 

Last month, volunteers  who would usually be  engaged in restoration at Pewsham Locks near Chippenham, abandoned their usual tools of diggers, wheelbarrows and concrete mixers, for the rather smaller devices of litter pickers, black bags, loppers and hedge trimmers.

Their task was to clear an overgrown section of the route for the Lost Waterways Walk, which is to be held as part of the Melksham Food & River Festival on September 2nd and 3rd. Their efforts also supported the Town Tidy Days, set up by the South West in Bloom Melksham group to help make the town look spick and span all year.

Peter Henden, organiser of both the Lost Waterways Walk and special work-party said, “The walking event at the Food & River Festival is being organised by the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust to introduce more people to the pleasures of walking beside water, and to explore a little of the local history of the canal in Melksham.

“The guided walk, entitled ‘A Walk along the Lost Waterway of Melksham’, will follow part of the officially signed walk, which had unfortunately become very overgrown.

“Our volunteers have worked very hard to reveal the route ready for September, clearing nettles, brambles, overhanging branches and rubbish. We would really like to thank the very supportive local resident who supplied us with mugs of coffee, lots of chat, and who acted as photographer for our final photo shoot at Waverley Gardens.

“The actual walk at the Melksham Food & River Festival in September will leave the trust’s gazebo at 10.30am, and 3.15pm on both days, aiming to be back at the festival site in time for the Raft Race on Saturday morning and the Chilli Eating Contest on Sunday afternoon, so participants won’t miss out on any of the action in the park.

“Volunteer and entertaining speaker Peter Williams will lead the walk, explaining the history of the canal, pointing out significant features, and telling fascinating anecdotes along the way.

“The walk should appeal to those interested in the heritage of Melksham, and to people who would like to discover a few hidden nooks and crannies in the town – now a little less hidden thanks to the efforts of the volunteers.”

Individuals, families and walking groups are warmly invited to the Melksham Food & River Festival on September 2nd and 3rd. The event has free entry, with live music and entertainment, although some activities will incur a charge. Attractions will include: boat trips, canoeing, the Raft Race and demonstrations on the River Avon; a climbing wall, the Cooper Tires Wire Challenge and children’s rides in the park; food and drink demonstrations on both days, and the Military Wives Choir (Saturday evening) in the Leekes Country Kitchen; plus the Chilli Eating Contest, and over 70 food, drink and local organisation stalls on Sunday.

For much more information and details about what is happening and when, plus a children’s colouring competition, visit the website: www.melkshamfood andriverfestival.org.uk

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is restoring the former waterway which once linked the Kennet & Avon Canal at Semington, to the Thames & severn Canal near Cricklade, and the River Thames near Abingdon.