The Kennet & Avon Canal, flowing through some of the most attractive areas of England, can lay claim to being one of Britain's most picturesque waterways. It is little wonder that the huge crowd that thronged the locksides at Devizes for the canal's re-opening in August 1990 by Her Majesty he Queen saw it as an occasion for a grand celebration.
That happy culmination of many years of rejuvenation was possible at all was entirely due to the volunteers of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, a voluntary body set up to restore the remains of the canal after its abandonment and subsequent dereliction. It was after the end of the Second World War that a few people realised that the remnants of Britain's canal network were, without drastic and immediate action, about to be lost to future generations. They were convinced of not only the value of canals as multi-purpose amenities but that this concept would eventually dawn on the powers that be. From these few enthusiasts grew a series of preservation organisations, of which the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust was but one. However, the Trust had the unprecedented task of restoring over seventy miles of primarily rural canal with the added difficulties of massive engineering challenges to overcome. Although the canal re-opened in 1990, it took another ten years and GBP30 million to ensure its survival. This is the story of the work and dedication of literally thousands of volunteers over five decades and of the canal they rescued.