HARDWORKING volunteers have been praised for recruiting hundreds of people to support a local restoration campaign.
The Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has received the charity’s annual ‘Pick of the Branches’ award.
The specially-made pick-axe has a plaque along the handle which lists all of the previous recipients of the award, and is given to the branch which achieves the biggest increase in membership. The MCC branch now has more than 620 members.
It is the latest accolade for local volunteers who also recently received the charity’s Tony Davy Award for donating the most hours of free labour to support the restoration effort – last year they gave 8,860 hours of their own time.
Dave Maloney is the chairman of the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch and is delighted by their latest success.
He said: “The award is clear evidence of how hard we’re all working to build support for the canal restoration campaign.
“The growth in membership is without doubt due to the amount of effort which goes into spreading the word via leaflets, posters and information boards, as well as the number of events where we provide stalls or give talks.
“One of the most powerful and impressive ways in which we attract support is when people see the stretches of canal which have already been restored. They realise it’s not just a pipedream and they appreciate what a wonderful amenity it will be when finished.”
Locally, much of the restoration is taking place in the open countryside between Melksham and Chippenham where hundreds of metres of towpath have been rebuilt and large sections are already back in water.
The area is hugely popular with walkers, runners and cyclists and is a haven for a wide variety of wildlife.
Dave added: “Most of our members are’ armchair supporters’ and they are hugely valuable to us because public support is vital when bidding for grants and other funds.
“However, we would love to encourage people to take a more active role so that we can spread some of the workload and quicken the pace of restoration.
“We have so many opportunities for supporters to get involved, and are particularly keen to recruit teenagers and other young people for whom voluntary work always looks great on their CV.
“People can play a part in restoring an important piece of our local history which will remain for many more generations to come.”
For further information on joining the local branch, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.