A prestigious award has been presented to a team of dedicated canal volunteers after they donated almost 9,800 hours towards the restoration of a former waterway.

The Melksham, Chippenham and Calne branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has received the charity’s annual Tony Davy Award, named in memory of its former chairman.

It recognises the group which provided the most support over the previous year, through work parties, fundraising events, public talks and other activities.

The Melksham, Chippenham and Calne branch provided 9,799 hours, with an estimated value of almost £170,000.

Branch chairman Dave Maloney said: “We’re always amazed by the commitment of our volunteers who work throughout the year to bring this wonderful waterway back to life.

“From digging, bricklaying, grass-cutting and engineering, to quiz nights, boat rides and other public events, everyone plays their part, and every hour is sincerely appreciated.”

Over the last year, teams have been making huge progress around Pewsham Locks, which once lifted narrowboats on their journey between Melksham and Chippenham.

Volunteers have been restoring the former dry dock and laying the foundations for the rebuilding of the carpenter’s workshop, both of which are expected to be completed next year.

They have also been working on a new wildflower meadow and wildlife habitat at Double Bridge, including a programme of tree planting and hedge-laying, as well as improving the towpath alongside the stretch which has already been restored.

Other teams have been continuing to clear the Green Lane Farm section towards Calne and refurbishing the charity’s own pub, The Peterborough Arms at Dauntsey Lock.

Dave said: “There are so many ways in which people can get involved, and every contribution brings us another step closer to a fully restored canal.

“We’re particularly keen to hear from civil engineers, project managers, bricklayers and mechanics and we’d welcome more help with our events committee and fundraising.

“We also have plenty of opportunities for local companies to take part in corporate work parties which encourage team-building and provide evidence of community engagement.

“There’s something for everyone.”  

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. 

Several sections have already been rebuilt. Visit www.wbct.org.uk 

For further information, email dave.maloney@wbct.org.uk