Richard Jones

Hello Great West Way Ambassador! Please introduce yourself: 
Richard Jones. 57 years old, married father of three boys. Previously RAF, Cadbury’s, now working for Canal & River Trust as a Waterways Operative.

Tell us a little more about what you do on the Great West Way:
Waterways Operative – Ensuring services and facilities on the Kennet & Avon Canal are safe and serviceable to use. Maintaining the canal for the enjoyment of all so they can take advantage of this wonderful environment. Providing a mobile response to issues arising that may prevent safe passage on towpath and waterway.

What do you love most about your job? 
The diversity of the tasks and people connected to the canal, in the knowledge that the successful achievement of the task will enhance the enjoyment and pleasure that visitors and users alike will have. Maintaining the heritage for future generations and protecting the environment for the abundant wildlife.

How did you get started? Has it been a long journey, getting to where you are today? 
I started as an agency employed fundraiser in May 2016, encouraging visitors/users to become friends of the Canal & River Trust. The role involves meeting and greeting visitors, establishing their passion and love for canals and converting this emotion to support all canals. Then in April 2017 I was appointed a seasonal lockkeeper at Caen Hill providing boaters with support and assistance on their journey through the locks. The fundraising/ lock keeping roles continued through 2017 and 2018 when I was appointed as Waterways Operative in December 2018.

What achievements are you most proud of?
Being recognised nationally for recruiting 350 friends to the Canal & River Trust, being a driving force behind identifying new fundraising locations (such as Seend Cleeve). Recruiting almost 500 new friends upon completion of contract. As a lock keeper, a stand-out memory was of Bobby from Tel Aviv with his family appreciating my help and support on their journey up Caen Hill, and being able to share a piece of birthday cake to celebrate his 50th birthday.

What’s a typical day like for you?
There is no typical day – everyday is unique with role and location being both different and challenging. Interacting with the diverse roles of colleagues and visitors and users, all the time acknowledging that for someone, what I have achieved will be of benefit to all on the canal.

Caen Hill Locks, Devizes
Do you work with a wider team? If so, tell us a bit about them: 
I belong to the region of Wales and South West, one of six regions nationally. To be a little more specific – the west end of the Kennet & Avon Canal is where I work. Nationally we have 1600 employees and about 3000 volunteers and we have 2000 miles of canals/rivers/towpaths. We’re working hard to make ‘life better by water’. Creating opportunities for people of all walks of life to improve their wellbeing by making use of our unique facilities by walking, running, cycling on the towpaths; boating and angling on the water of sitting by water just watching the wildlife that abounds in our carefully maintained environment.

What do you find inspiring day-to-day? What keeps the enthusiasm going?
Knowing that whatever task I am undertaking, the outcome can have a beneficial effect to improve the quality of the experience of the user/visitor/colleague. Helping maintain the connection between history and modern society by bringing my passion to work every day; and adding to the ambition of colleagues to bring the same level of bewilderment at the achievements of the original constructors/navigators over 250 years ago. If this isn’t enough to keep the enthusiasm going, I don’t know what is!

Any interesting or funny anecdotes related to your role or your experiences with visitors that you can share? 
The day a lady lost an 18-carat bangle in the lock where I was fundraising last summer. The bangle – a wedding anniversary gift from her husband – slipped from her wrist during lock navigation activities and my heart sank for the lady almost as swiftly as the bangle. But her resilience at overcoming her loss was amazing and taken in her stride. The experience of holidaying with her husband on the canal, a life-long wish, outweighed the loss of the bangle.

What does slow travel mean to you? 
Boating at 4pmh, and slower when required, offers an opportunity to enjoy life and surroundings at a relaxed pace, which can improve the quality of a boater’s life.

What do you think makes the Great West Way special?
The variety of touchpoints that Great West Way allows travellers to engage with is virtually endless, as there will always be something else just around the corner that someone else knows about. The potential for tapping into that something else that’s just around the corner offers insights to local knowledge that otherwise could be missed by the Great West Way traveller.

Do you have any insider tips or advice for travellers who want to experience the touring route ‘like a local’? 
Explore and engage with the local people in the know. Trust the insights and experiences that local people can signpost. Canal and River Trust people are in general local to the canal and will have knowledge or knows someone who has a familiarity with local attractions and services.

Describe your perfect adventure on the Great West Way:
where to start! A recent afternoon spent on the water in the Crofton area gently pootling along the K&A Canal listening to the Randy Crawford song ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ while watching red kites soaring above.
Kennet and Avon canal at Pewsey in the Autumn
What’s your favourite thing to eat or drink along the touring route (can be a meal, a local delicacy or a favourite tipple)? Any cafes, restaurants or pubs you can recommend?
So many places to enjoy, so many treats. Wadworths 6X, scones jam and cream at K&A Canal Trust Café at Bradford on Avon, The Brewery Inn at Seend, The George & Dragon at Rowde, The Westbrook Inn at Bromham, Melksham Rugby club, The Inn at Freshford.

Are you a city, town or country person?
A man for all seasons and places really. From rural canal along the towpath to the hustle and bustle of Georgian Bath then a short bus ride to Bristol and a visit to Clifton village. 

Pick a place along the Great West Way that best represents you and what you do, with a short explanation:
Where town meets canal; at Seend park swing bridge, Bowerhill Residents Action Group picnic area demonstrates the affinity the canal has with local people. Add to this the destination venue of the Barge Inn at Seend. If on arrival at the towpath from Bowerhill you turn left and you will find the quintessential canal side pub with a beer garden and moorings – a treasure of the K&A.
The opposite direction and a two-mile towpath walk brings you to Semington where The Somerset Arms is a short 400-yard walk off the towpath - it delights with local ales and cuisine. A popular circuit for runners and joggers and this return route to Melksham helps deliver canal to 5K looking to many looking to improve their wellbeing.

Are there any English stereotypes or traditions you’d like to set straight?
That we are welcoming and friendly. We love it when people come to visit us and we take pride in being able to showcase our great locations.  We can promote attractions along the waterway, such as cream, jam and scones at the Kennet and Avon Café on the Upper Wharf in Bradford on Avon

If you could choose one must-visit attraction along the Great West Way, what would it be and why?
Caen Hill Locks where engineer John Rennie in 1794 accomplished what had never been done before - creating a passage of locks delivering boats safely down an incline of 237ft over a distance of two miles by using a sequence of 16 locks to overcome such an extensive obstacle. A further 13 locks are involved in the total transit from Devizes to Foxhangers, which when completed in 1810, linked Bristol in the west to London in the east by way of Reading and the Thames

What do you think will surprise first-time visitors about the Great West Way? Any secret, lesser-visited spots you’d like to recommend?
The sheer scale of the Caen Hill accomplishment and the simplicity of the methods to create one of the seven wonders of the waterways world.

What’s your preferred mode of transport: train, car, bus or boat? Why?
A narrowboat would offer the Great West Way traveller the most inclusive mode of transport while on the canal, a home on the water and a way to navigate the meandering waterways through the variety of rural and urban canals.Kennet and Avon Canal at Bradford on Avon
To find out more about the Canal and River Trust, click here.

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Caen Hill Locks
Caen Hill with three boats by Richard Jones

On the Kennet & Avon Canal you will find beauty, history and nature. Tap into its stillness, enjoy a gentle adventure, share your boating stories at canal side cafes or pubs, and live in a space where time moves no faster than a stroll.

Wadworth Brewery Visitor Centre
Wadworth Brewery

Family friendly, self guided Visitor Centre and interactive exhibition – Free entry On-site Sample bar with five cask ales on draught. 1/3 pint samples can be purchased. Traditional pub games are available to play in the bar.

The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust Cafe
Kennet and Avon Canal Trust Cafe, Bradford on Avon

A lovely canalside tearooms with a large garden offering homemade cakes, scones, cream teas and even a full English breakfast. Offering a wide selection of gifts, sweets and chocolates. Family and dog-friendly.

Bradford on Avon
Market Town
The Town Bridge (C) Chris Lock
Clifton Suspension Bridge (Credit Gary Newman)

Welcome to the city of bridges, balloons, boats, bikes, Brunel and Banksy.

Devizes Market Place

Be amazed by modern Reading – from remarkable medieval heritage and beautiful Thames countryside to award-winning shopping centres, there’s a surprise around every corner.