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The Waterway Recovery Group held its 40th Anniversary Big Bonfire Bash Reunion on the Chesterfield Canal from 7th to 9th November. This involved over 100 volunteers from all over the country.

Some worked at Staveley, but the bulk of them did major scrub clearance and tree felling at Norbriggs, Renishaw and Spinkhill. Housing, feeding and looking after this number of people had been months in the planning. They stayed at the Killamarsh Leisure Centre.

Bonfire Bash Lots of equipment, such as chainsaws, brush cutters, bow saws, chippers, tirfors, mowers and rakes plus portable toilets had to be provided. On the Friday and Saturday, the weather was foul, but they carried on regardless. Thank goodness it brightened up on the Sunday.

As you would expect, there were lots of bonfires to burn all the brush. Much of the bigger timber was taken away in exchange for donations to the Chesterfield Canal Trust.

The better weather on Sunday brought out lots of walkers and cyclists because this section of the canal is on the Trans-Pennine Trail. Many stopped to talk to the volunteers or to view the Trust’s publicity trailer. All were delighted that this work was being done. The Chesterfield Canal is much loved by many local people who can’t wait to see it fully restored. One of the work areas is currently doomed to be right in the path of the new HS2 railway for 800metres. The Trust has been campaigning for changes in the route and is awaiting a decision due to be delivered some time in 2015.

Bonfire Bash Tunnel Trust spokesman Rod Auton said “This camp is a clear message that the Chesterfield Canal Trust will carry on regardless of threatened setbacks. The full restoration of the canal is a long-term project that has already overcome many obstacles at first thought to be insurmountable. We know that we have massive public support and we are not going away.”

One of the great things about this sort of gathering is the desire for different groups to support each other. Tim Lewis of the London Canal Museum, and a WRG volunteer, presented Kath Auton of the Trust with four boxes of canal books. Some will be kept in the Trust’s archives, others sold to raise further restoration funds. In addition, John Foley of WRG North-West, was selling books and presented the Trust with £67.

At the end, all that was left were some smouldering bonfires and, most importantly, a cleared towpath and canal bed.

Bonfire Bash Cleared Area

The Chesterfield Canal Trust would like to thank the Waterway Recovery Group, Derbyshire County Council, the staff and management of Killamarsh Leisure Centre, Craig Fielding plus Amber Jenkins and George Rogers who did all of the organisation.

A final delightful bit of news, which broke just as everyone was going home, was that George Rogers is the latest recipient of a Point of Light award from David Cameron. This recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.