The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust and Swindon Borough Council collaborated to organise a family fun day on the canal at Wichelstowe and 2,000 people came along to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the canal. The event was held at Wichelstowe, where 4km of canal form a key part of the new “green” housing and business areas.
Leader of Swindon Borough Council, Rod Bluh said, “Today has been a chance for the people of Swindon to get a sense of what a restored waterway might bring to the town. Some people think I’m trying to bring a dirty, industrial canal into Swindon. Why would I do that? What I would like to do is bring the countryside into the centre of our town.”
John Laverick, Chairman of WBCT said, “Our vision is to restore the whole waterway, and what Swindon Borough Council is doing with the canal at Wichelstowe is tremendous.”
Robert Buckland, MP for Swindon South said, “This has been an exciting day for Swindon and an important week for the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust. The work of the Canal Trust is a great example of how the whole community can benefit from linking volunteer effort with funding from private sector and charitable sources.”
Ray Aldridge, chair of Swindon Branch of WBCT said, “Today has been fantastic. It’s been a real family event and everyone has enjoyed the day. An event like this takes good organisation, and I want to thank Swindon Borough Council for their help and especially all the WBCT Trust volunteers from parking marshals, to boat skippers to cake-bakers for all their hard work.”
The star of the show was Dragonfly, WBCT’s new trip boat, which was named by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall last week. Dragonfly is the first narrow boat to sail on the Wilts & Berks Canal in almost 100 years, and she was kept busy all day. Matt Allard of the WBCT said, “We have been running trips all day, and we think that’s about 300 people. The response has been great; everyone has enjoyed seeing the canal from the water.”
The festival was an opportunity to get active and try something new. Holly and Chloe, aged 10 both tried canoeing for the first time. They said, “We’ve had a great day and would like to try canoeing again, but with waterproofs!” Holly and Chloe were amongst about 300 people who took the opportunity to try canoeing or kayaking. Robert Yeowell of Canoe England said, “We’ve had an excellent day with parents and children having a go. The heroes of the day are Swindon District Canoe Club who haven’t stopped paddling for a minute!”
The Angling Development Board, Environment Agency and Swindon Borough worked together to offer free angling taster sessions with qualified angling coaches. Paul Power of the Angling Development Board said,” It has been superb. We couldn’t wish for a better venue. We teach youngsters how to fish safely and how to handle the fish so they can return them to the water without harming them. It’s been great, we’ve had 3 year olds catching their first fish today, and the look on their face is fantastic.”
The event was attended by Swindon South MP, Robert Buckland, Councillor Rex Barnett, the Mayor of Swindon, Rod Bluh, Leader of Swindon Borough Council, along with Councillors Andrew Bennett, Peter Greenhalgh, Brian Mattock, Brian Ford and Doreen Dart
It was also a chance for Ed Stanford, retired head of The Landscape and Countryside Service of Swindon Borough Council to see his team’s plans taking shape.
Children’s entertainment, supplied by the Sue Ryder Trust, included bouncy castle, trampolines, inflatable obstacle courses, slide and hopper hobby horse races for children and adults!