Revived part of Wilts and Berks Canal officially opened

A restored section of the Wilts and Berks Canal, which fell into disrepair nearly a century ago, has been officially reopened.

Volunteers have spent the past few years clearing a two-mile stretch of the waterway from Pewsham to Reybridge.

Guests at the ceremony boarded a boat to become the first to travel on the canal since it was abandoned in 1914.

Canal trust chairman John Laverick said they had achieved what some people had described as "the impossible."

"They claimed it would place an intolerable burden on local taxpayers," he said.

Dramatic difference

"But we managed to repair and restore this wonderful piece of our industrial heritage almost entirely through our own fundraising efforts, together with generous donations from local businesses and the kind support of local landowners."

He said their aim was to extend the restoration to Chippenham in the north and Melksham in the south, ultimately connecting Calne, Swindon and Wootton Bassett.

"We only have to look at other restored canals to see the dramatic difference they have made to our local towns - increased tourism and employment, improved access to the countryside and enhanced habitats for wildlife," he said.

The canal linked the Kennet and Avon Canal near Melksham to the Thames and Severn Canal near Cricklade and the River Thames near Abingdon.

Freight included coal, corn, stone, iron, timber, rope and chalk and later building materials for the Great Western Railway.

But competition from the railways damaged trade and the waterway gradually fell into disrepair.

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