Peter Bru­ton is the Canal & River Trust’s Vol­un­teer of the Year 2016, but what made him de­cide to help?

Canal Boat - - This Month -

Peter Bru­ton, Canal & River Trust’s vol­un­teer of the year, tells us why he de­cided to of­fer his time

1 What first at­tracted you to the wa­ter­ways? I have been in­ter­ested in the wa­ter­ways for as long as I can re­mem­ber. My grand­par­ents’ home at Berkham­stead in Hert­ford­shire, where I used to spend the ma­jor­ity of my school hol­i­days, was very close to the Grand Union and also the main West Coast rail­way line to which I was equally at­tracted.

2 Tell us about your boat­ing ex­pe­ri­ences…. My early ex­pe­ri­ence came from hire boats but in 1995 I ac­quired one of my own and kept it for 14 years by which time it be­came ob­vi­ous I was spend­ing more time with Bri­tish Wa­ter­ways’ boats than my own.

3 What do the wa­ter­ways have to of­fer the coun­try? An op­por­tu­nity for recre­ation and re­lax­ing. I be­lieve be­ing along­side wa­ter, whether ur­ban or coun­try­side, just adds some­thing to the ac­tiv­ity.

4 Which is your favourite canal or river? Dif­fi­cult this one, there are a num­ber I could choose, but I think I would have to go for the South Strat­ford. The run from Kingswood Junc­tion through the rolling War­wick­shire coun­try­side with its unique bar­rel cot­tages and the spec­tac­u­lar aqueduct at Ed­stone, sec­ond only to Pont­cy­syllte, never fails to please.

5 And what do they need most? Like ev­ery­thing that is be­com­ing el­derly, the canals need a lit­tle TLC and cur­rently I be­lieve that is just what they are re­ceiv­ing. Fi­nally, they are now be­ing recog­nised as a na­tional trea­sure with a se­cure fu­ture.

6 What’s the best time of day to be on the wa­ter­ways? Any time re­ally, pro­vid­ing it is not rain­ing, but if I had to choose it would be very first thing in the morn­ing when there is still a lit­tle mist over the wa­ter.

7 What led you to be­come a vol­un­teer on the canals? It was on an im­pulse re­ally, and not some­thing that I had planned. I was at an ex­hi­bi­tion at what was then called the NIA ( Na­tional In­door Arena) and was walk­ing past the Bri­tish Wa­ter­ways stand when I saw a dis­play headed ‘Why not be­come a Bri­tish Wa­ter­ways Vol­un­teer’ and the rest is his­tory.

8 Which canals have you worked on, and what tasks have you done? The boats which make up the Her­itage Work­ing Boat Fleet (there are five of them) are part of the West Mid­lands Wa­ter­ways and are based at Ick­nield Port in Birm­ing­ham, and all my vol­un­teer­ing has been with this group that look af­ter and op­er­ate the boats. The boats are dis­played at shows and fes­ti­vals, plus nu­mer­ous school vis­its in con­junc­tion with the ed­u­ca­tion team and our main pur­pose is to show what life on the canals was re­ally all about when these boats were the prin­ci­ple freight car­ri­ers in the coun­try.

9 What do you like most about your vol­un­teer­ing du­ties? Boat­ing on a warm day takes some beat­ing, but the friend­ships I have made are very spe­cial.

10 How did it feel to be named Vol­un­teer of the Year? When I was first told about the award I as­sumed it was a hoax but when I re­alised it was true, I was nat­u­rally very flat­tered. While be­ing pleased for my­self, more im­por­tant was the way it re­flected on the whole group and the work that they do.

11 What would you like to see hap­pen to the wa­ter­ways in your life­time? Carry on as we are do­ing now, not only with main­tain­ing what we have al­ready got but in de­vel­op­ing new and bring­ing aban­doned stretches back to life.

12 What is your proud­est achieve­ment? What could be bet­ter than achiev­ing Vol­un­teer of the Year?

13 Have you ever had the mis­for­tune to fall in? Four times, twice while on my own boat and twice when vol­un­teer­ing. Luck­ily these days we wear life­jack­ets.

14 What are you read­ing? Don’t have too much time for read­ing books ex­cept when I am on hol­i­day. It takes me best part of the week to read the Sun­day Times and to keep up with the mag­a­zines I re­ceive which are usu­ally to do with rail­ways or canals.

15 Who would be your ideal cruis­ing com­pan­ion? Any­one who is in­ter­est­ing and has a good sense of hu­mour and who does not scare me too much when they are on the tiller.

16 What did you want to be aged 12? Can­not re­ally re­mem­ber, but prob­a­bly an en­gine driver.

17 What do you think of peo­ple on the wa­ter­ways? There will al­ways be a few ex­cep­tions but gen­er­ally peo­ple are friendly and ac­knowl­edge each other which they would not nor­mally do if they passed in the street.

18 What other in­ter­ests do you have be­sides vol­un­teer­ing? I am re­tired now so all my ac­tiv­i­ties are ei­ther vol­un­teer­ing or hob­bies. Apart from time on and around the canal, I play bridge and bowls. I also spend time fol­low­ing my in­ter­est in rail­ways both full-size and model and am a mem­ber of the Coven­try Model Rail­way Club.

19 Where would you go for a dream cruise? My dream cruis­ing takes place on a big ship on the sea where the weather is warm.

20 What su­per­power would you like to pos­sess? I am not sure I would want any su­per­power, be­ing lead vol­un­teer for the Her­itage Work­ing Boat Group is quite enough.

‘Boat­ing on awar­m­day takes some beat­ing’ PETER BRU­TON - CRT vol­un­teer

One of the unique bar­rel-roofed cot­tages on the South Strat­ford

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