A NEW tripboat is demonstrating the potential of a waterway through the Wiltshire countryside following the completion of a restored 1.2-kilometre stretch near Lacock.

Branch members, working with volunteers, have made great progress in breathing new life into the once-derelict route of the Wilts & Berks Canal between Melksham and Chippenham.

A specially-adapted workboat enables the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust to transport volunteers and their equipment back and forth along the route and to make improvements to the opposite side of the bank.

Now the Trust has used a £9,400 legacy donation to purchase a tripboat which will be used on restored sections of the canal and other waterways across the area.

The £14,000 cost was funded by a legacy from local resident Mary Archard, with the balance paid for with funds raised by the Trust’s Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch.

At more than five metres long and two metres wide, the ‘Mary Archard’ tripboat features a bow which can be lowered to provide wheelchair access.

Branch chairman Dave Maloney said, “Mary was a member of the Trust and enjoyed walking along the canal and chatting to our volunteers, watching the progress of our work and sending a donation with every Christmas card.

“We were very sorry to learn of her passing away, but will be forever grateful for her generous legacy which will provide so much enjoyment to so many people.

“The tripboat has already been used at local river festivals and other events where it has been a big success, but our ultimate aim is to arrange regular days were it can take visitors along the original route of the canal near Lacock.

“This stretch is already hugely popular with people of all ages but they could only see the water from the towpath and wheelchair users sometimes found it difficult to travel to the other end.

“Soon everyone will have an opportunity to glide peacefully through the beautiful Wiltshire countryside, enjoying a glimpse of how the canal may have looked from the bow of a narrowboat more than a hundred years earlier.

“And, hopefully in the not too distant future, this same view will be enjoyed by narrowboats once again – but this time for tourism rather than trade.”

The Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is always keen to hear from potential volunteers and fundraisers.

For more information, visit http://www.wbct.org.uk/