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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 21:27 GMT 22:27 UK
Charles opens canal celebrations
Prince Charles on the Primrose
Prince Charles declined to take the controls of the Primrose
The Prince of Wales has visited sites in Wiltshire and Berkshire to see the work that has brought the historic Kennet and Avon Canal back to its former glory.

He took a trip on Primrose, a narrowboat at Caen Hill Lock Flight in Devizes, Wiltshire, where he was drenched during a downpour.

Primrose owners Jane and Stephen Clements said the Prince had turned down an offer to take the boat's tiller, saying it looked too difficult to steer.

He then unveiled a plaque to launch a weekend of celebrations to mark 50 years of restoration work of the canal running from the River Thames in Reading to the Avon west of Bath.

I'm a great fan of swing. Do take it away
Prince Charles

Speaking about the canal, the Prince said: "It's really a wonderful example of what can be done by enthusiasm, commitment and far-sightedness. It's a very good job, well done."

At Devizes, he also met some of the people who have helped restore the canal.

Later the Prince inspected restoration work at Crofton Pumping Station, near Hungerford, Berkshire, which houses the oldest steam-powered beam engine in the world in its original building.

David Lamb, chairman of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, said: "It is great to have the Prince of Wales here. I know he is particularly interested in conservation and the environment."

The Kennet and Avon Canal waterway was opened in 1810 and remained in commercial use until the early 20th Century, but it fell into disrepair in the 1950s.

'Huge benefits'

It is now undergoing restoration as part of a 29m project.

Derek Langslow, British Waterways Board director said: "These restorations have secured 220 miles of navigable inland waterway, bringing huge benefits to the people who live, work or spend their leisure time on them."

The Prince also stopped to chat to the Simon Currie Quartet while in Wiltshire. They were providing the jazz music and he urged them to play.

"I'm a great fan of swing. Do take it away," he said.

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