Branches Foxham and Lyneham News
Navvies Dig in for the Week
Tuesday, 04 August 2009 00:00

A group of dedicated canal enthusiasts from the Waterways Recovery Group, have spent the last week restoring the Seven Locks section of the Wilts and Berks Canal at Dauntsey. Twenty five volunteers worked over the weekend, with twenty staying on for the whole week. The group included 8 young people whose efforts on the project are counting towards the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Work party leader, Rachael Banyard said, "It's been a great week with a team of all ages and with a wide range of experience. The weather was kind and we only lost 2 hours to heavy rain. Everyone has worked hard, we're pleased with what we've achieved and some people have picked up new skills."

Work on the Seven Locks section was started 9 years ago and a lot has been achieved already. Some volunteers are skilled in operating excavators and driving dumper trucks so this means that serious engineering work is done to very professional standards, and experienced volunteers often pass on their skills to new comers who are interested.

The focus of work last week was further improving the area for visitors walking the tow path as well as restoring the impressive flight of locks. There was work to restore brickwork around Locks 1 and 2, and especially challenging repairs to the brick arches on culverts. Landscaping by Locks 3 and 4 involved shifting soil and seeding grass, and there was more digging to investigate a culvert line near Waite Hill Farm Bridge. The long-term plan is to make the area more welcoming to visitors by levelling the path at Dauntsey and building a picnic area near Lock 2.

The working party week was the result of careful planning, with workers coming from all parts of the country. Everything was highly organised, from accommodation to recreation. The team stayed in Bushton Village Hall and one of the members was designated as cook for the week. Alongside the hard work was a recreation programme, with trips to local swimming baths, bowling and skittles with the odd pint, as well as an afternoon trip to the Swindon and Cricklade Railway.

Calum Hoyle who is a Duke of Edinburgh Award participant said, "I've got a much better understanding of the achievements of the original canal navvies. What they managed to build without powered equipment is amazing. I've had a really great time and I'm especially pleased that I managed to get training to drive a dumper truck."

David James, one of the Waterway Recovery Group regulars and the assistant work party leader, said, "It's been very rewarding working with young people who are keen to develop new skills."