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Canal volunteers receive charity award

HARDWORKING volunteers have been rewarded with a prestigious prize for the fourth year in a row.

The Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has been presented with the annual Tony Davy Award.

The engraved crystal – named after the charity’s first chairman – is presented to the branch whose volunteers have donated the highest number of hours in the previous year.

Local supporters provided an impressive 6,594 hours with an estimated value of £95,635 when applying for ‘matched funding’. Their tasks ranged from workparties involved in the physical restoration of the waterway to involvement with fundraising events and talks.

Branch chairman Derek Flexer said, “This award is a tribute to the dedication and commitment of so many people who offer so much of their own time on a regular basis, and we’re particularly pleased to have added several hundred more hours compared to the year before.

“It demonstrates the increasing amount of activity taking place and the growing level of support from the local community.”

Volunteers have continued to restore the canal in the open countryside between Melksham and Chippenham, maintaining the towpath and the rewatered sections while clearing some of the lock chambers prior to the next stage of reconstruction.

Workparties have also started a three-year phased plan to open the towpath and clear vegetation on stretches of the canal either side of the A4 near Pewsham, including replanting the hedgerows with help from local groups, as well as clearing the area around Chaveywell Bridge in Calne.

Other volunteers have been busy organising quiz nights and raffles, contributing to grant and planning applications, or arranging talks and presentations to local organisations.

Derek added, “We’re fortunate to have so many opportunities for people of all ages to get involved with our campaign, and we hope this latest award will encourage even more interest in what we’re trying to achieve.

“Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, learn new skills and make new friends, while making a lasting contribution to the restoration of our local heritage.”

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.

Visit www.melkshamwaterway.org.uk