New video explores Swindon’s lost waterway

By Jamie Hill - 15 January 2021

  • Swindon archive photo: Looking up the North Wilts Canal towards the former John Street bridge, circa 1912

    Swindon archive photo: Looking up the North Wilts Canal towards the former John Street bridge, circa 1912

A charity has produced a new video to raise awareness of its work after its public events were cancelled due to the lockdown.

  • Canal Trust volunteer Alan Lank in period costume

    Canal Trust volunteer Alan Lank in period costume

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust usually attends local festivals, carnivals and other popular occasions, as well as arranging speakers for community groups.

However, the global pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of many events where volunteers would engage with the public.

So the charity created a short video which explores the history of the former waterway and the ambitious plans for restoration.

It includes archive photos from across Swindon and the surrounding area, featuring both the Wilts and Berks and its offshoot the North Wilts Canal towards Cricklade, as well as various stretches which have already been rebuilt.

The video is available to view at

The video was produced and narrated by Alan Lank, a retired technical trainer who has been a member of the charity for more than a decade.

Alan said: “There’s increasing interest in the restoration campaign and we didn’t want to lose momentum during the lockdown, so we thought a short video would be a good way to keep spreading the word.

“It features the reasons for the original construction of the canal and then follows its trading history, decline and eventual abandonment, before local volunteers formed a group to preserve the remains.

“Over time their objective changed from preservation to restoration, which resulted in the formation of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust to bring it back to fully navigable status.

“It won’t be possible to follow all of the original line due to modern development, but plans have been drawn up to go around these areas and we now have lots of experienced volunteers dealing with planning, engineering and fundraising.

“There are also lots of local workparties helping with digging, bricklaying, grasscutting and other tasks which provide the perfect opportunity for enjoying the outdoors and making new friends.

“We hope the video will inspire people to learn more about our work, and hopefully they’ll share it with their friends and family too.”

The aim of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is to restore the waterway from the Kennet & Avon Canal near Melksham to the Thames & Severn Canal near Cricklade and the River Thames near Abingdon, connecting Chippenham, Calne, Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon. Visit

If you belong to an organisation which would like to host a talk about the charity’s work, either ‘virtually’ during the lockdown or in person after the restrictions are lifted, email

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