On Thursday this week I have been invited with others to attend an Inland Waterways Association 'task group' to see if we can find a way to persuade decision makers at a national level to look at why canal restoration might be important enough to invest resources and finance.
My involvement with waterway restoration (and the Wilts & Berks in particular) came about in what now seem like 'heady days' of major works on several waterways at the turn of this century . Fuelled by the enthusiasm and persuasiveness of the then Chief Executive of British Waterways ( and now Vice President of WBCT) Dr David Fletcher, the Government and more specifically the Secretary of State backed a number of major schemes via the Millennium Commission.
Up to that time I was somewhat of a non believer about the Wilts & Berks but it was certainly the delivery of an ' impossible canal' - the Rochdale - that convinced me that the undoubted challenges of the W&B were just that, not insurmountable problems.
So what will we talk about to make the prospect of a further extended canal network a reality?
Well I can't pre-empt where the meeting might lead but I shall be certainly asking that we consider looking at what we might like to achieve over 10-20 years.This vision would certainly include from my perspective completing a southern canals network (Cotswold, The Wilts & Berks and North Wilts Canals) with Swindon at its centre.
Perhaps a summer's Saturday in Swindon might be like the one I have just seen in Birmingham- alive with interest and activity both on and out of the water.
Finally a word of congratulation to Sam Anderson-Brown who has just been appointed as Canal & River Trust's Restoration Manager - we look forwarding to welcoming him soon to see the Wilts & Berks - and of course sincere thanks to Jason Leach who has been carrying out this role for a number of years and has been a great supporter for the project.