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HRH The Duchess of Cornwall Visit 26th May
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 10:05

The Trustees of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust wish to thank the Trust Patron

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall

who presided at

The Official Opening of Double Bridge Naish Hill Lacock


Tuesday 26th May 2009 at 11am

Tuesday 26 May was a very special day for the Wilts and Berks canal trust, not just because we were opening the Naish Hill double bridge, and so acknowledging 3 years of hard work on the part of the working parties, and not just because the bridge was proving to be a real talking point for the local community and focusing attention on the canal restoration work, but also because our patron, the Duchess of Cornwall was attending and so it would be the highest profile event in the history of the trust - and possibly the entire 199 year history of the canal.

HRH Visit  Ribbon Cutting Double bridge HRH unveils plague Double Bridge
Ribbon Cutting and first navigation by Wiltshire Canoe Club


& Her HRH Highness unveils the commemorative plaque
HRH Meets contructions workers Double Bridge HRH Meets construction workers
Her Royal Highness meets the Bridge Construction Team
HRH Duchess of Cornwall meets long serving members Some of the Trust's Long serving members meet Her Royal Highness From left to right: Ray Denyer Vic Miller, Peter Smith, Juanita Poulton, Diana Smurthwaite, Keith Walker

Brightness from the West:

Just as the working parties who had restored the bridge had been at the mercy of the British weather for 3 years of restoration, so the actual bridge opening was an outdoor affair. The bridge site is about 10-15 minutes walk from the road and after a week of very heavy rain there was a collective holding of breath to see if the forecast would be favourable. The weather kept us all guessing to the last minute with a grey dawn and rain, but there was a hint of brightness from the west.

Project Management and energy:

By 9.30am the bridge site was a hive of activity under a bright blue sky with lots of white cloud and a lively spring breeze. The MCC branch members had put their project management skills and phenomenal energy to good use and the site was ready. There were two gazebo tents, one with professional display boards and information to tell the story of the canal and the bridge, and a second tent with tea, biscuits and cakes. In the centre of it all was Rob Jones (branch chair) handing out name badges and looking pretty calm, despite the canoeists being a bit late - though a couple had been sited.

A motley crew assembling:

The hubbub increased as more people arrived; and a motley, eccentric and fascinating mix began to assemble by the bridge and gazebos. Everyone had a different purpose and there was a wide mix of responses to the challenges of the weather. There were members of the press carrying cameras and woolly microphones, the long-serving, senior members of the trust who were being presented to the Duchess were looking smart and dapper in suits and sporting trust ties and scarves, the working party looking bright and cheerful in blue hard hats and matching tee shirts that contrasted vibrantly with their hi-vi jackets and the canoeists with life jackets, helmets and of course, canoes! Added to this mix were walkers and cyclists, some of whom had heard about the event and decided to attend, and others who had simply gone out for a walk or a cycle and had come across about 80 people all waiting with an air of excitement.

It started with Vic:

One of the veterans, Vic Miller joined the "Amenity Group" that preceded WBCT in 1989 and went on to take up directorship, trusteeship and various chairing roles. Vic was responsible for Local Authority and Land Owner liaison and about 10 years ago he had seen that the land around the bridge site was for sale, and had involved the local District Council. He had brought an officer on a site visit and the council had bought the land necessary to enable access

Bowood Golf & County Club

hrh6_350The second part of the day was away from the rigours of the towpath and unpredictable spring weather to the plush surrounding of the Bowood Golf and Country Club. The main room was arranged with a series of display boards; one for each branch and one for the central team. There was also a group representing the Wilts and Berks Partnership which included Lord Lansdowne. This was an opportunity for branches to celebrate progress and plans as well as to develop and reinforce important links with key partners like local politicians and land owners. There was a convivial atmosphere as groups of volunteers and branch officials took the opportunity to catch up with each other and to learn from others' experience on restoration projects. There was also a good deal of banter at seeing familiar faces scrubbed up and wearing smart suits and ties etc.

The Duchess of Cornwall arrived into a room filled with a pleasant hubbub of stories of progress, technical challenges and problems solved. Her Royal Highness was introduced to each group in turn and people who met her were very impressed with her background knowledge of the canal and obvious interest in the work.

Councillor Howard Marshall, Mayor of Calne said, "Calne is proud of its canal and especially the project at Castlefields. In 2007 the Castlefields project was awarded a grant of £68,600 by the National Lottery 'Big Lottery Fund'. The canal and parkland are a real asset for the community."

Robert Pegler, Philip Smith and Janet Nichols are landowners and have been working with the Trust for 20 years. They have noticed that WBCT working parties have become increasingly professional over the years and they see the potential for the canal to bring extra commercial opportunities for their business.

Another landowner, Mr East from West Vale Branch talked about his interest in the history of the canal across his land. He had managed to get access to the archives at Shrivenham Military college to research the history of his farm. Mr East has a long term and ongoing relationship with the canal trust.

Eileen McKeever of the Environment Agency said, "This is an important project for recreation and the link with the River Thames. We are working hard with the trust to positively resolve the environmental issues."

Richard Crapper of Crapper and Son's Landfill, one of the Trust's major funders said, "We are very pleased to be able to support the canal by diverting landfill tax to a local charity that is enhancing the local environment for the community." The company is family run and they are pleased to support an organisation that encourages high standards of Civil Engineering and skills. The company has been able to support the trust with contributions of about £450,000 (?) over recent years.

Duncan Brown, the Deputy Mayor of Abingdon said, "We are lucky as we have best of both worlds being on the Thames." His colleague Councillor Lesley Legge said, "We are sad that the canal cannot use the original route, but glad that it is being restored. It has been good today to see all the sections together and the progress being made. It is amazing to see how much the volunteers have achieved. The completion of the loop would be fantastic for Abingdon from an economic perspective."

Thanks to hard work and meticulous planning by the WBCT admin team and the Bowood events team the day ran really smoothly.

hrh7_350 hrh8_350
Trust President Dr David Fletcher and Chairman John Laverick

Partnership President Lord Lansdowne and Trust Chief Executive Ken Oliver