Wiltshire volunteers have been recognised for their work restoring the canal near Chippenham.

Volunteers from the Melksham, Chippenham and Calne branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust received both of the charity’s annual Tony Davy Awards.

These are presented to the branch that records the most volunteer hours and the one that sees the biggest increase in volunteer hours over the year.

Members spent 12,286 hours - over double the previous year’s total - restoring the waterways between Pewsham Locks and Double Bridge, as well as at Green Lane Farm.

Branch chairman Dave Maloney was thrilled with the recognition his volunteers had received for their efforts.

“We have work party volunteers aged from their 20s to their 80s, including doctors, nurses, gardeners, taxi drivers, company directors and university lecturers.

“We’re sincerely grateful for every hour of support and are always keen to welcome new supporters who want to bring the Wilts and Berks Canal back to life.”

Dave attributed the success to a successful period of recruitment during the pandemic.

He added: “We’ve always been a very active branch, but we saw a surge of interest during the pandemic when people were looking for new opportunities to enjoy fresh air and exercise.

“Our work parties were in the open air in the countryside, with plenty of room for social distancing, so by following the rules in place at the time we were able to continue the restoration throughout much of that difficult period.

“Those new volunteers have stayed with us, got more involved, and helped to recruit even more supporters.”

The charity has been rebuilding a waiting wall, dry dock and other structures near Pewsham Locks and has cleared a section of recently uncovered canal near Green Lane Farm.

Volunteers also run boat trips for the public at events such as the Chippenham Folk Festival, the Chippenham River Festival and the Melksham Food and River Festival.

The branch even has its own canal side pub, The Peterborough Arms at Dauntsey Lock, which members are currently refurbishing.

Their ultimate ambition is the restoration of the entire canal, which connects Chippenham, Calne, Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon.

This stretches from the Kennet and Avon Canal near Melksham to the Thames and Severn Canal by Cricklade and the River Thames at Abingdon.