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News article created on 6 July 2017

Injured veterans restore historic canal lock damaged in military demolition practice

Injured servicemen and women are being given the opportunity to re-build their lives, gain qualifications and learn new skills by transforming and restoring historic canals.

Heritage Heroes Heritage Heroes

We have come together with Help for Heroes to deliver an ambitious canal restoration and career recovery programme for wounded, injured or sick servicemen, women and veterans.

Veterans from across the country have joined the Heritage Heroes project and are working alongside the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust to restore Pewsham lock in Chippenham. Veterans and volunteers from the canal charity are rebuilding an abandoned stretch of canal and lock. Ironically the lock was used for military demolition practice in the lead up to the Second World War. As well as the restoration work the team are creating a nature play area on site for local children to play and learn outdoors. 

The project, made possible by £500,000 funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, aims to bring pride and purpose back to our heroic veterans while restoring canals, some of which have been left neglected for decades.

Veterans returning from service are highly-skilled and capable individuals, with a great deal to contribute to society. Too often however, they are ill-prepared for the transition back into the civilian world. The Heritage Heroes project will equip the wounded, injured or sick heroes with City & Guilds qualifications in construction, health and safety, horticulture and land-based management which can be used to help them identify a new, purposeful career.

Phil Wearing joined the Army in 1993 when he was 23 years old and went into the Green Howards – an infantry regiment. While on a 6 month tour to Northern Ireland he damaged his spine. A year after the injury he was diagnosed with cracked vertebrae. Following rehabilitation, he was medically discharged from the military. Phil said: "I went through a tough time a few years back – I couldn’t work because of the pain I was in, which left me with money troubles and I ended up feeling very suicidal. I was put in touch with Help for Heroes – and the first time I spoke to Help for Heroes I saw light at the end of the tunnel. Although I’m still in pain, Help for Heroes have also helped me with pain management, I was so determined to do this course. I’ve been 100% better in my own wellbeing. I’m meeting so many likeminded people, speaking to similar people is the best therapy I’ve found."

Jason Leach, our Enterprise and Restoration Team Manager said: "Heritage Heroes is such an exciting project for us. It gives the Canal & River Trust the opportunity to work with Help for Heroes to transform waterways as well as helping to rebuild our wounded heroes’ lives."