Canal honour for Peter

Peter Baxter on the locks at Trencherfield Mill
Peter Baxter on the locks at Trencherfield Mill

A Wigan volunteer on the borough’s canals has been nominated for a prestigious prize to celebrate an historic milestone.

Peter Baxter, from Springfield, has been shortlisted in the volunteer of the year category in the prize-giving organised by the Canal and River Trust (CRT) for the Leeds-Liverpool waterway’s bicentenary.

Peter began helping out around 18 months ago after spotting adverts for volunteers as he was walking along the canal towpaths to regain full fitness following a hip replacement.

He now helps to look after the two-and-a-quarter mile stretch of locks known as Wigan Flight and has enjoyed getting involved in a wide variety of projects and roles.

Peter, 52, said: “When I was getting back on my feet I did some walking at the canal because I used to take my dogs down there. I was in the process of walking the entire length of the canal in small pieces and I saw adverts for volunteers.

“I went to an open day at Rose Bridge, spoke to the volunteer manager and eventually signed up.I assist people going through the locks and I also talk to boaters from the banks and give out local information. Last week someone asked me where the library was as they were looking for internet access.

“As well as helping the boaters I engage with members of the public. A lot of people think the canal is Victorian engineering and it’s not, it pre-dates that. I’m a bit of a history anorak and I like passing information on. I was surprised to be nominated for the award because there are plenty of us volunteering. Given this is a particularly historic year with the bicentenary celebration it’s extra special.”

Peter now volunteers for three days a week on average, though he admits he does not always spend hours on the towpaths when the weather is poor.

Peter will now battle it out against volunteers from Sefton and West Yorkshire for the award, one of eight prizes being given on October 19.

The CRT said Peter was nominated for the sheer amount of time he dedicates to helping out and due to his popularity with boaters, which is shown in the numerous letters and emails of thanks he has received. Peter says it is getting to meet different people who cherish the canal that makes volunteering rewarding.

He said: “I would recommend it to anybody, it keeps you mentally and physically fit and you meet lots of different people.”

To find out more about the awards and gala dinner, visit canalrivertrust,org.uk