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The popularity of boat-trips along the River Avon has delighted a charity hoping to use the waterway for a restored canal.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust supported last month’s Melksham Food & River Festival by offering trips on its new boat, the Mary Archard.
Volunteers provided 20 trips which – together with donations, sales and other activities – raised almost £1,000 to support the ongoing restoration campaign.
The figures were reported at the latest meeting of the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Trust.
Branch chairman Dave Maloney said, “We would like to thank everyone who helped to make the event such a success. Almost 40 of our volunteers provided more than 400 hours of support over the weekend of the festival, from operating the Mary Archard to selling merchandise, memberships and draw tickets.
“We were particularly pleased with the popularity of the boat trips, which demonstrated the potential benefits of bringing the Wilts & Berks Canal along the River Avon through the town centre.
“Aside from creating a new link from the Kennet & Avon Canal near Semington to the historical line of the Wilts & Berks north of Melksham, and on towards the stretch which has already been restored near Lacock, it would also provide a multi-million pound boost in terms of tourism and employment.”
The charity’s next big fundraising event is the fourth annual ‘Winter Ales, Cider & Sausage Festival’ at Melksham Assembly Hall on Saturday November 10th from 12noon-4pm.
It features 10 real ales, three ciders and several varieties of sizzling sausages.
Tickets, just £5 each including a commemorative glass, are available from Melksham tourist information centre in Church Street or The Bell Inn at Lacock.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust aims to restore the former waterway from the Kennet & Avon Canal to the Thames & Severn Canal near Cricklade and the River Thames near Abingdon.
The original line through Melksham has been lost under housing, but the charity hopes the ‘Melksham Link’, using the River Avon instead, would provide a viable alternative route which would also attract new investment and development.
Plans for the Melksham Link will be available to view at the festival. Visit www.wbct.org.uk