Hardworking volunteers have been praised for continuing to bring a former waterway back to life, despite the problems caused by the pandemic.
The Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has received the charity’s annual Tony Davy Award for the number of hours provided in the last financial year.
Local volunteers offered more than 6,350 hours from April 2020 to March 2021, worth an estimated £80,000 when applying for ‘matched funding’.
This includes not only the physical labour involved in restoring the canal but also fundraising events, public talks and other important activities.
The award is named in memory of the charity’s first chairman.
Dave Maloney is the chairman of the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch.
He said: “We are indebted to our amazing volunteers who continued to support the restoration campaign during such a difficult year.
“There were periods when we had to stop everything due to government lockdowns but we were able to restart relatively quickly when the restrictions eased, due to our teams working in the open air and maintaining social distancing.
“Everyone followed the safety guidance and really enjoyed the opportunity to continue doing something positive with their free time. It boosted their mental health and wellbeing.
“We also saw a surge of support from new volunteers who were keen to make the most of the freedom to exercise outdoors, and an increase in people coming across our workparties when exploring the local countryside for the first time.”
Aside from maintaining the popular stretch which has already been restored between Melksham and Chippenham, where teams also began rebuilding a former dry dock last year, the charity also started clearance work on a new stretch uncovered at Green Lane Farm near Derry Hill.
Volunteers have also continued refurbishing The Peterborough Arms, a former canalside pub at Dauntsey Lock which is now owned by the Trust.
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.