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On Saturday 21st September, the Mayor of Chichester, Cllr Richard Plowman, officially opened Chichester Canal’s refurbished Heritage Centre. The sun shone and our swan family performed a “Basin ballet”, with a backdrop of paddleboarders and model boats from the Chichester Boat Club.  A warm, friendly crowd of invited guests celebrated the opening.

We welcomed the Chairman of West Sussex County Council Cllr Janet Duncton, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Chichester District Council Cllrs Elizabeth Hamilton and Clare Apel, the Chair of the Chichester Business Improvement District Colin Hicks and Canal members and volunteers. And all were happily fortified with prosecco and cake.

Catherine Cannon,  joint Vice-Chair of Chichester Ship Canal Trust, welcomed the crowd and thanked those who had made the refurbishment possible. She highlighted the importance of the Heritage Centre as a record of almost 200 years history of Chichester Canal. The aim is that it will be a reference point for visitors, lectures and school parties. She said the new, modern, interactive and flexible displays “add to the many attractions the Canal has to offer our visitors.”

Sue Dixon, Canal Trustee, explained how Chichester’s local community supported and realised the design and build of the Heritage Centre. Chichester College incorporated the design aspect and elements of the construction into course modules. Students gained hands on experience in expressing their vision of the Heritage Centre and a hand in building it. Building Heroes also carried out aspects of the construction. This is an organisation that gives ex-service personnel the opportunity to hone skills for future career changes.

Local artist Jazmine Saunders, worked closely with Canal volunteers to create a colourful mural reflecting the natural beauty of Chichester Canal depicting the Canal wildlife. She said, “It’s designed to draw you in as you try to find all the different animals.”

Chichester Canal is delighted that the Heritage Centre,  open daily except for a short Christmas break, has already been well supported. Sue Dixon said, “The Heritage Centre has been built by the community for the community.” With the weather now drawing in, it’s the perfect time to pop in to have a look around before enjoying a boat trip or having a quiet coffee in the Cafe.

Our grateful thanks to Chichester Observer and Chichester Post for running this story on front and inside pages. Thanks also to Paul Fuller and Mark White who took photos for us.

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