The Basingstoke Canal Society was very proud to have been selected for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2018.
This unique UK national honour, equivalent to an MBE, was created by Her Majesty to mark the Golden Jubilee in 2002 and to recognise the outstanding contributions made to local communities by groups of volunteers.
Society Chairman Philip Riley said: “We are absolutely delighted with the award. It acknowledges over half a century of effort by very many volunteers dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the beautiful Basingstoke Canal.
The Society was founded in 1966 following the publication in the local press of an open letter suggesting that something should be done about the then derelict canal. About 12 people responded and a campaign began to get the canal taken into public ownership. The Surrey and Hampshire County Councils were persuaded to go for full restoration as a navigable waterway by the promise of voluntary labour. Restoration of locks, bridges, weirs, embankments and cuttings, and dredging using a 50 year old steam powered dredger, began in the early 1970s and continued until the canal was officially re-opened by HRH the Duke of Kent in May 1991.
Once the canal was again open for visiting boats, the Society’s volunteers have continued to work to enhance it. Amongst the jobs done was the installation of a back-pumping scheme at St John’s in Woking to improve the water supply, resurfacing of the towpath between Crookham and Winchfield and between Fleet and Rushmoor, installation of moorings and lock landings and annual clearance of miles of bank growth. A very successful trip boat operation began in 1978 and continues to this day with the John Pinkerton II at Odiham and Kitty in Woking; they have raised over £800,000 for the canal.
In 2016, the Society celebrated its 50th anniversary, and 25 years since the canal re-opening, with the hugely successful Woking Canal Festival, where we were joined by many visiting boats from the Historic Narrow Boat Club.