Watching the waterwheel slide into motion has got to be the most satisfying part of my day as a volunteer at Claverton Pumping Station, Bath.
I'm Pete Dunn, chairman and maintenance coordinator of Claverton Pumping Station Adoption Group.
I feel privileged to work on a 200-year old structure that has such an important place in the story of the Kennet & Avon Canal. As a fan of industrial heritage, I passionately believe it is important that we keep these structures in good order to pass on to the next generation.
As a child, we lived in Bath and my Dad used to take us for Sunday walks along the canal so it’s always been part of my life. I can remember thinking “Wow!” the first time I saw the Dundas Aqueduct and water crossing the river up in the air. Although not a wildlife buff, I do appreciate the peace and open spaces the canal brings to my life.
Before I retired two years ago I was a mechanical engineer and I have put my skills to good use in every bit of the restoration and running of the station over the 25 years I have been volunteering here.
I typically spend two days a week at Claverton — four days in the run up to its re-opening in May this year. My wife Nicky has been volunteering here for eight years, taking care of our reorganisation as an adoption group and producing our Health and Safety and operations manuals.
I gain immense satisfaction from planning a project and getting it up and running. It took four years and cost about £23,000 to restore the waterwheel once its timbers had rotted away. We are a group of 15 volunteers; and many of us are very practical, yet the restoration was a huge learning curve for us all. For example, without previous experience, we had to craft and fit wooden gear teeth from scratch.
Following restoration, we did a test run in November and were anxious wondering whether it would turn. The relief and celebration as it started to move won’t be forgotten.
Another project we took on was the restoration of the canal crane at Burbage in 2005. It had rotted and fallen apart so we dismantled it and brought it to Claverton. Over two years we rebuilt the crane and it now stands proudly at Burbage once more
Part of my role is to be a tour guide on open days. I was reluctant to do this at first, but it has been good for me, and a pleasure. I meet some fascinating people and someone always throws up a question we can’t automatically answer, which makes us scratch our heads and do more research.
We do need more volunteers and ideally would double our numbers so that we could open every weekend.
This year we ran five pumping days. Wouldn’t it be great if we could offer more?