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Summer boat rides along restored canal

Visitors to a restored stretch of canal will soon experience how it may have looked from a narrowboat more than a century ago.

Wilts & Berks Canal Trust volunteers have rebuilt more than a mile of the former waterway in the countryside between Melksham and Chippenham but, until now, people could only view it from the towpath.

Now, the charity is about to offer rides aboard its newest tripboat, the ‘Mary Archard’.

On Saturday 12th May  from 11am-3pm, visitors can enjoy a slow and scenic journey from Pewsham Locks to Double Bridge where they can disembark or return the same way.

There will also be tea, coffee and cake available, and the boat is wheelchair-friendly due to a ramp in the bow. The event has been organised by the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Trust.

Spokesperson Val Melville said, “The Mary Archard was officially launched last year and has been a popular attraction at various events, but this will be the first time it will be enjoyed by members of the public along this stretch of the canal.

“People can park on the Pewsham estate and walk the short distance to the wharf to board the boat for the 15-minute trip to Double Bridge.

“At the other end they can disembark to walk on to Lacock, they can walk back along the towpath, or stay on the boat for the return journey.

“Volunteers will be offering a range of refreshments at the wharf, together with information about our local restoration campaign and how to join the charity.

“There is no set charge for the boat rides or the refreshments, but any donations will be gratefully received and will help to continue the restoration of this beautiful canal and important heritage site.”

Visitors will also be able to see the remains of the former locks, drydock, sawpit and limekiln, as well as the restored spillweir and other structures.

For further information on how to reach the canal from Pewsham or Lacock, visit www.melkshamwaterway.org.uk/Access.pdf

The Mary Archard will return to the Pewsham stretch for further boat rides on the Saturdays of June 9th, August 11th, September 8th and October 13th.

It will also be available for trips along the River Avon during Chippenham Folk Festival from May 25th-27th and the Melksham Food & River Festival on September 1st-2nd.

The aim of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust 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, connecting Chippenham, Calne, Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon.

The local branch is always keen to welcome volunteers in various roles including workparties, fundraising, project management and research.

Visit www.wbct.org.uk

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