On Sunday, a great crowd turned out to support the twelfth annual
sponsored walk along the Wilts & Berks Canal. Walkers gathered at
the historic Buttercross in Chippenham’s Market Place, with volunteer
Alan Lank giving a brief introduction to the history of the Wilts &
Berks Canal which once terminated nearby on Timber Street, now the site
of the bus station.
Cheered on by Mayor, Councillor John Scragg, who officially started
them off with a resounding hoot of an air horn, about 50 people walked
the five miles from Chippenham to The Bell Inn at Lacock in the
Branch’s annual event to encourage both supporters and newcomers to see
the progress of the restoration. Some enthusiastic participants even
doubled the challenge by walking back as well.
This year, mini-talks were given at key points along the way to tell
the stories of recent developments and the next stages of the project.
Walkers were also able to see the destruction caused by members of the
South Midland Royal Engineers Bristol. They had blown up ‘an old lock
on the Avon Canal’ at ‘Persham’ near Chippenham in 1931, causing one
wall to be extensively damaged, and one of their sappers to be
Walk organiser, Malcolm Hitchinson said, “We were really pleased to see
many new faces this year, and to be able to show them what great
progress we are making. We also heard, as we often do, the comment, ‘I
didn’t even know we had a canal in Chippenham, this is great, I’ll
definitely be coming back to walk along here again’. They also
commented that the experience was good value for money; all funds
raised will be used locally to promote and restore the canal.”
Walk leader and Branch Chair, Derek Flexer added, “It was a fantastic
opportunity to show people all the recent results of the team’s
efforts, especially the stripped back top-lock and the partly re-built
culvert. When completed, it will be covered by the canal, so now is a
truly once-in-a-lifetime chance to see it like this.”
Once the walkers got to The Bell Inn, unfortunately they found that
most of Lacock was experiencing a power-cut, but Alan, Heather and the
team did a wonderful job of looking after everyone as best they could
despite the problems of having no power. Ironically, The Bell Inn was
decorated in WW2 style on Friday night to mark VE day celebrations:
maybe a power cut would have been more fitting for that event!
Some walkers took advantage of a mini-bus laid on by the canal team to
ease their weary legs back to the start point, while others strode back
to complete the full ten miles.
The aim of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is to restore the former
waterway from the Kennet & Avon Canal near Melksham to the Thames
& Severn Canal near Cricklade and the River Thames near Abingdon.
Significant stretches have already been restored near Lacock, Calne,
Dauntsey, Royal Wootton Bassett, Swindon, Shrivenham and Wantage.
New members and volunteers
are always welcome; see more information on the websites: