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Queen hails Wiltshire helpers
The Queen has honoured a group of dedicated volunteers working to restore a decrepit canal.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has been announced as a recipient of The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest accolade a voluntary group can attain.
Each year volunteers spend thousands of hours working to help the trust restore the derelict Wilts & Berks Canal on its route from the Thames River at Abingdon to the Kennet and Avon Canal at Semington.
The canal was abandoned and closed by an Act of Abandonment in 1914 but the trust wants to bring it back to life as it passes through Melksham, Chippenham, Calne and Royal Wootton Bassett.
John Laverick, chairman of the trust said: “We’re over the moon, it’s the recognition of what people have put in over the years.
“It’s described as the MBE for voluntary groups and it’s probably the highest award for volunteer groups. It’s an honour.”
Mr Laverick added that he was unaware the trust, which has just under 2,500 members, had even been nominated for the award until he received an email from the organisers telling him it was being considered. He then had to keep the nomination secret until it could be revealed the trust had won.
He added that he hoped the award would attract even more volunteers, as the project gathers pace.
“What we hope to get from it is, to coin a phrase, ‘come and join a winning team’,” he said.
“We’re always looking for more volunteers and hopefully this will attract some people.”
Mr Laverick said that he thought one reason the trust did so well was that volunteering gave people a great sense of satisfaction.
Volunteers can learn all sorts of skills, and even earn qualifications as part of the work. Mr Laverick said that the project was rightly recognised as a challenge.
He said: “It’s recognised right across the canal restoration community as probably the most ambitious project and we don’t shy away from that, we’re not fazed by it.”
For more information about the project and volunteering with the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, visit www.wbct.org.uk
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