New Family Fun Focus for Local Canal Heritage Walk

This year’s Wilts & Berks Canal Trust walk, on June 26th, is set to have a completely new look.  Members of the public, friends and supporters of the Trust, are invited to join volunteers on a Heritage Walk, retracing, as far as possible, the original route of the ‘Ippey Cut’ (as it was known by boaters) from the Chippenham town wharf (now the bus station) to Pewsham Locks. Once at the locks, there will be stalls and activities for children and adults, including a special appearance by Frankie, the honorary canal horse.

Much of the original route has been built on or covered over since the abandonment of the canal in 1914, but signs and indications of the past can still be found, enabling a glimpse of a fascinating chapter in the development of Chippenham.  The Volunteer guides will lead walkers to Pewsham Locks, describing the past, pointing out landmarks, and explaining the exciting plans for the future restoration of the canal.

Dave Maloney, Chair of the local branch said:

“Many people currently walk the towpath, and are, of course, very, very welcome: the Trust owns the lease on the land, but is restoring the canal for the whole community to use. I would like to make this appeal: for 365 days in the year, the site is open and free to all. On the 26th June we would love it if people could make a donation towards the up-keep of the canal, maintenance of the towpath, and for the continuing restoration work. All money raised on June 26th this year, will be put towards maintenance of the restored section and the restoration of the lock cottage. You never know, in a few years’ time you may be taking the family for tea and coffee at the Lock Cottage Café!”

The Heritage Walk will be suitable for all ages: about two miles there and two miles back. More enthusiastic walkers can continue on to The Bell at Lacock, including a beautiful mile and a half stretch alongside the restored canal, making the walk to The Bell about five miles in total; a route map will be supplied. After sampling the activities at the locks, walkers can retrace their steps to Chippenham along the cycle path, or, if they go on to Lacock, take advantage of a minibus trip back for a small donation.
Registration is at the Buttercross, Market Place, Chippenham (SN15 3HD) at 10:00 and the walk starts at 10:30. There is free parking at Borough Parade or Emery Gate car parks.

The entry fee is £5 per person or £10 per family group. There is no need to pre-book places, just turn up at the Buttercross on the day.

Malcolm Hitchinson, WBCT volunteer from Westbury, and organiser of the Heritage Walk said:

“We hope that as many people as possible will come and join us on Sunday June 26th to enjoy the fun and see the progress we have made, particularly with preparing Top Lock for restoration. There will be the opportunity to see our work party volunteers in action, and to speak to them about the project. This year, in addition to our hardy walkers, we would like to encourage families to visit the site where we will have a number stalls to create a mini family fun day for children of all ages. The children can make their own commemorative miniature brick, try to splat the rat, or try their hand at log sawing (under careful supervision), using a double handed saw, just like their great grandfathers may have done. We expect Frankie the Canal Horse to put in an appearance as well.

“There will be an Information Gazebo with a display of posters, books and canal merchandise. To make your visit complete, we will also have the popular Nudlz stall selling their brilliant range of cooked to order stir-fries, so you will not have to cook a dinner when you get home, and tea, coffee, squash and biscuits will be available for a small donation.

“Please come along, learn about our heritage, enjoy some fun at the locks, and help us to raise money for what will be an amazing community amenity.”

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The aim of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is to restore the former waterway from the Kennet & Avon Canal near Melksham to the Thames & Severn Canal near Cricklade and the River Thames near Abingdon.

Significant stretches have already been restored near Pewsham, Calne, Dauntsey, Royal Wootton Bassett, Swindon, Shrivenham and Wantage.