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A LOCAL charity is inviting people to enjoy the benefits of volunteering in the open countryside.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust hopes to capture the interest of those who slowed down and appreciated nature during the recent lockdowns.
In advance of national Volunteers’ Week next week (June 1-7), the charity is promoting opportunities to work on the partially restored stretch of waterway between Melksham and Chippenham.
Chairman of the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch, Dave Maloney said, “The restored canal has always been popular with walkers, runners and cyclists but there’s now a much greater appreciation of nature and the countryside.
“People realise the benefits to their mental health and emotional wellbeing so we want to highlight the ways in which they can continue to enjoy the open air and exercise – while also supporting our campaign.”
The trust add, “The restored stretch includes a significant length in water and features a towpath, wharf, bridge and spillweir, together with benches, bird-boxes and bat-boxes. Ongoing projects include the restoration of the flight of locks which once lifted boats on their journey from Melksham to Chippenham, together with rebuilding the adjacent dry-dock.
“Workparty tasks include grasscutting, tree-planting, digging and bricklaying, with specialist opportunities for those with experience of chainsaws and heavy machinery. Volunteers receive a safety induction and training, and all equipment is provided.
“There are also opportunities for local businesses to get involved, by taking part in corporate ‘team challenges’ where staff lend their support for just a few hours or a whole day. A recent example was team of naval architects from BMT Group in Bath, who prepared brickwork for the reconstruction of the dry-dock.
Dave added, “Volunteering is a great way to enjoy plenty of fresh air and gentle exercise, with lots of room for social distancing.
“Every hour of support is sincerely appreciated and takes us another step closer to bringing this waterway back to life.”
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. wbct.org.uk for more information.