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Wilts & Berks restoration reaches Pewsham locks

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust celebrated another milestone over the May Day bank holiday, with the official reopening of 175 yards of the waterway between Melksham and Chippenham. The event coincided with a five-mile sponsored walk by the Trust, between Chippenham and Lacock on the line of the canal, to raise funds for restoration. 

The latest advance takes the Wilts & Berks as far as Pewsham Bottom Lock, just east of Chippenham, putting just over a mile in water on this section since last year. 

The latest excavation operation was largely funded by a £5,774 grant from the Gannett Foundation. Trust volunteers have given thousands of hours of their own time to provide most of the labour – removing roots, raising and widening the towpath, and rebuilding the wharf wall at the foot of the locks. Other improvements include the installation of new information boards, birdboxes, batboxes and benches, as well as the planting of hundreds of trees.
Trust chairman John Laverick said: “We have been able to extend the rewatered section to include the wharf where narrowboats would wait for their turn to enter the flight. There is still an earth dam separating the newly-restored stretch from the longer line of canal opened last year, to protect against any unexpected leaks, but we expect this to be removed within the next few weeks.

“With the stretch between Melksham and Chippenham being extended further every year, our dream of a fully restored canal is steadily becoming a reality.”
Much of the current cost has been met from local grants and donations, but the charity hopes to secure more funding from national bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

As with the K&A, supporters believe it will generate a multi-million pound boot to the local economy through increased tourism and employment, as well as providing a popular attraction for walkers and cyclists.
For further information on the local restoration campaign, visit www.melkshamwaterway.org.uk, or the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust website, www.wbct.org.uk, for the whole waterway. 

Below: (L-R) Peter Williams, Duncan Hames MP, John Laverick and Rob Jones ceremonially cut the ribbon opening the latest stretch of Wilts & Berks Canal 

Below: Excavation of the latest stretch below Pewsham Bottom Lock in progress earlier this year 

Tuesday 8 May  | Andrew Denny  | 3.09pm, Tuesday 8 May 2012

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