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National Lottery grant improves facilities for canal volunteers

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HARDWORKING volunteers can relax from their restoration of a former waterway after they were provided with a new ‘welfare unit’. 

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust recently received £9,550 from the National Lottery Community Fund. 

The money, from the Awards for All programme, has provided a new base for volunteers working on the popular stretch between Melksham and Chippenham. 

The welfare unit features a crew room, kitchen, washing area, toilets and storage, with plans to install solar power and a rainwater harvesting system. 

It replaces a caravan which was too small to cope with the growing number of people wanting to join local workparties. 

Ray Canter is a workparty organiser for the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Trust. 

He said, “We are very grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for their generous grant. 

“Our old caravan served us well for many years, providing somewhere dry and warm for volunteers to take a break, but it was no longer fit for purpose due to our increasing membership. 

“The lockdowns encouraged a greater appreciation of local green spaces and the importance of fresh air and exercise, which resulted in a surge in support for our local workparties. 

“It soon became clear that we needed more room for the volunteers to shelter from the weather, and relax during a tea beak, and we also needed more room for all of the extra equipment which was being used. 

“The new welfare unit provides much better facilities, for more people, and will hopefully encourage others to join our campaign to bring this wonderful waterway back to life.” 

The stretch between Melksham and Chippenham already features a mile of restored canal and towpath, together with a wharf and bridge. Volunteers have also started to rebuild a dry dock and there are longer-term plans to restore the flight of locks too. 

Workparties take place throughout the week and at weekends. Email ray.canter@wbct.org.uk or visit www.wbct.org.uk 

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. 

Picture: Volunteers Ray Canter, Basil Raddy and Dave Maloney in front of the charity’s new welfare unit. 

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