2018 marks the tenth anniversary of my first-ever WRG Canal Camp. Since then, every summer except for 2010, when I was writing up my MA dissertation in Canada, I've managed to take part in at least one canal camp.
Apart from a single camp on the Swansea Canal, and another on the Stover Canal in Devon, all my camps have been on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, north of Newport and west of Cwmbran. I discovered this area when working on an archaeological excavation at Caldicot Castle, and was staying in Chepstow. And I discovered the Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) while walking along the Grand Western Canal, near Wellington in Somerset, and coming across the remains of a boat lift at Nynehead. On it was a plaque telling me that the structure had received the attentions of volunteers from the WRG. I searched online for the WRG, and decided to sign up for a canal camp. I was instantly hooked.
Since 2008 I have taken part in 19 camps, working as Leader of 12. I led what were probably my last camps on the Mon&Brec Canal in September 2019.
Throughout all these canal camps I have enjoyed the company of a huge variety of fellow volunteers. I've many happy memories of working alongside cheerful, energetic and fun people of all ages and from all backgrounds. Your good natures, support and positive attitudes have added hugely to my experience, and I have learned a lot. Many of you have put up with my leadership and have somehow survived! I hope your earplugs muffled a litle of my snores! You all acted in safe and responsible ways in every camp for which I was responsible. I've been very lucky to have been aided by some great people as Assistants and Cooks — I couldn't have done without you. I hope all of you know how much you have contributed and are proud of what you achieved. The folk at WRG HQ, the various Duty Directors and other WRG management volunteers have always been both helpful and understanding. So, thank you all very much indeed!