Dragonfly: the Wilts & Berks Canal

11th October 2015

Wilts Berks Canal Trust Logo

Wilts & Berks Canal Trust Logo

Well listeners. This year has so far seen a few new Swindon experiences for me.

Earlier in the summer I visited the Secret Garden in Queen’s Park for the first time and got a ride on the miniature railway at Coate Water.

And today I’ve achieved another first with a trip in the delightful Dragonfly – a narrow boat that ploughs a watery furrow along a stretch of the Wilts and Berks Canal. 

All of which are a huge credit to the volunteer help that keeps them running.

Why ‘Wilts & Berks’ rather than ‘Wiltshire and Berkshire’? Well it seems that “a lazy draughtsman could not be bothered to write in full the county names! Swindon is mid point of the waterway which linked the Thames at Abingdon with the Kennet & Avon Canal near Melksham.”

*Anyone of a certain will remember the song ‘Messing about on the river” – unsurprisingly that’s been in my head all day!

Note too that Dragonfly is a narrow boat not a barge – a barge broadly speaking being: a capacious, flat-bottomed vessel, usuallyintended to be pushed or towed, for transportingfreight or passengers.” Dutch barges see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_barge

The Dragonfly

So today I was taken out on Dragonfly by Chris Barry – a person not a hologram.  Think about it …  Chris was ably assisted by Cyan and I washed the mugs.

Purpose built for the Wilts & Berks canal trust, Dragonfly  carries a maximum of 12 passengers with access for one wheelchair. All the trips are operated by volunteers their being roughly twenty of ’em skippering and crewing.

Dragonfly was named by the Trust’s patron, the Duchess of Cornwall, on 8th September 2010. My birthday! What illustrious company I keep. 🙂

As the trust’s website explains, there’s much more behind the boat trips than having a jolly time messing about on the water: http://www.wbct.org.uk/boat-trips

“The boat trips have a number of important roles to play for the Trust. They raise awareness of the project and provide local people with a way of enjoying their area from the waterway. Without regular boat traffic the canal will quickly become over grown and become neglected.

In addition the boat trips hope to generate new members as well as funds for the Trust.”

Read more here about how to get involved with the trust: http://www.wbct.org.uk/get-involved

Upstream/downstream

Thanks to Chris and Cyan I had a lovely time floating gently along the canal. It really is the pleasantest of ways to spend an hour. And you get a coffee. Phew!

We were joined by a very friendly – for that read ‘hoping for some bread’ – cygnet who came swimming up if you so much as looked him/her – how do you tell? In either case he/she will be a very fine swan indeed before too long.

But cygnets, swans, water voles and herons are not the only items of interest on the trip.

There’s a lovely stone bridge that was rebuilt and restored by volunteers in the year 2000. Yes listeners – Swindon has it’s very own millennium bridge!

There’s also some old railings where it appears that whoever welded them had a sense of humour because snails and mice can be seen worked into the railings. A lovely point of interest that someone will no doubt see fit to put in a skip at some point – if going by previous activity in Swindon is anything to make a judgement with.

Activities on board and souvenirs

As well as the ‘ordinary’ trips such as I went on today there’s Santa trips and the boat can be hired for pirate parties. I really want a pirate party! And of course souvenirs can be purchased including the ubiquitous mug and tea towel.

Pirate Party poster

Pirate Party poster

You’ll find contact details for the trust here: http://www.wbct.org.uk/about-the-trust/contact

*Finally – it had to be done – Messing about on the river:  https://youtu.be/pOVC0-gIFck

 

 

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