Perhaps the biggest challenge to bringing the Wilts & Berks back to life is a natural scepticism that it can be done at all. We acknowledge ourselves that its the longest restoration in the UK so why should a major infrastructure scheme promoted by a volunteer led Charity be successful.?
I often outline my 'conversion to a beliver' as being when I saw first hand another mission impossible -the Rochdale Canal - go from ambition to reality in less than five years. The step change came about by an unexpected windfall of money from the Millennium Commission and suddenly the impossible was done.
Does this make me think that we will need such a fortuitous event to complete the Wilts & Berks -well maybe but as I will not be around to wait for another turn of a century I am keen to at least explore other possibilities.
I was particularly pleased to welcome this week Sam Anderson-Brown and Peter Walker from Canal & River Trust who are in charge of restoration - both CRT projects and linking with projects like the Wilts & Berks.
Its very difficult to showcase all the work that's going on but our tour took us from Swindon to Pewsham near Chippenham via a number of key locations.We look forward to continuing cooperation and liaison with CRT and without doubt their support for a Southern Canals Network (Cotswold + W&B) with Swindon as its hub will be crucial,
On Wednesday perhaps I had an illustration of how the Wilts & Berks pace of restoration could be accelerated. You could not doubt the enthusiasm in the air at the Switch on to Swindon Ambassadors event held last Wednesday .
Its is quite clear that in the room and beyond there was a will to showcase Swindon as a great place to live and work. It set me thinking that in a world where currently the 'will of the people' is making the unthinkable happen, our current challenge is to encourage and nurture that 'will' - I have no doubt that it is there to restore the canal- to persuade (force may be a better word) those with the power to make change, to properly consider that the Wilts & Berks canal made operational will do all the things and more that we promise for local communities the environment and economy.