‘After a long and happy career in General Practice, as retirement beckoned I began thinking of what to do. When my sons were in their teens we had a share in a narrowboat and developed an interest in canals and other heritage aspects including in & around Swindon. Liz & I lived in West Swindon for ten years and walked to Lydiard Park many times; we took great interest in the work done in 2005-7 when the lake was drained and restored, and were fascinated by the archaeological features revealed in the drought a few years ago. We joined the Friends, and though we moved to Old Town recently, we’ve kept in touch.
I had long been a member of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, and in 2013 learnt that it was running a trip boat in Swindon. One day I wandered down to Dragonfly and expressed an interest in becoming a skipper. I was told that I would need to do a three-day course – residential, on a boat; really?! I reluctantly went on the course, loved it, learnt a lot (much of it is about public safety) and gladly ate my words. So I began skippering on Dragonfly; I must have done the trip hundreds of times- each time it’s slightly different, but always enjoyable except perhaps in bad weather when the passengers are warm & snug inside and I’m not; this particularly applies to our Santa trips in December! Even then, the pleasure you see on people’s faces as they disembark makes it all worthwhile.
Through skippering I met others in the Trust and became involved in its Executive Committee. We aim to restore some 70 miles of canal, linking the Kennet & Avon canal at Melksham to the Thames at Abingdon via Swindon; also linking from here to the Thames via Cricklade, thus creating two ‘cruising rings’, very popular with boaters, aka tourists.
Much has been achieved, but a lot more needs doing, and at the moment the charitable funds on which we depend have dried up, thanks to the cost of living crisis. We could replace this by doubling our membership (currently 2,000); also, the more members we have, the better able we are to raise funds from the big donors. So, maybe you might like to donate, or even join the Trust! I make no apology for this sales pitch – the project is under threat at the moment, so we need all the support we can get. After all, Swindon wouldn’t be a railway town if it wasn’t for the canal, which enabled Brunel to build his works here in the first place!’