Roger Beazer certainly gets around. On behalf of the Trust, he and the Mobile Display Vehicle (MDV) have clocked up 16 appearances across Surrey and West Sussex this year, spreading the word about the Trust’s work at everything from village fetes to festivals and farmers’ markets.
It’s a role he clearly relishes. “Every one of these events is important as we get to talk to people about what we’re doing,” he says.
He admits the public are often sceptical about the idea that the Trust can eventually restore the entire canal – ‘That’s impossible!’ they say. That is, until Roger takes them through the achievements so far, the ongoing projects and shows off the photos and maps of past work that adorn the walls of the MDV.
It’s clear he gets a lot of satisfaction from seeing their reactions change from disbelief to enthusiasm for the cause. “Most people then say how impressed they are,” Roger admits.
The MDV not only plays an important role in educating the public, but is a great way of recruiting volunteers. “We’ve probably already had 4-5 potential volunteers today,” says Roger, half-way through a grey November day at Guildford Farmers’ Market. “It’s all about spreading awareness. A number of inquiries will come to fruition. Many people have the impression that it’s all just manual physical work, but we make them aware of the varied range of opportunities that are available, such as hedgelaying, maintenance, boat crew, administration and yes, all the manual tasks. Anyone with particular skills such as bricklaying, engineering or design are always in demand.”
Roger himself got involved after developing an interest in canals through various boating holidays and a passion for the social history that comes with them. After moving to Cranleigh the opportunity to get hands-on with the Wey & Arun Canal presented itself. Although he couldn’t commit to a regular working party, he signed up for Dave Evans’ third Saturday in the month group. While still enjoying the physical side of restoration, Roger - with his background in sales & marketing - decided to offer his services to manage the MDV when an appeal was made.
“If you’re interested in something it’s always good to be part of it. We like to think we’re doing our bit. We might not be around to see the canal fully restored but doing this will be like a legacy,” he says.
He is assisted at events by a small band of volunteers, but could do with more to extend the number of places the MDV gets to. The perks are good – free entry to a wide range of attractions including Wings & Wheels and the Surrey Hills Wood Fair, plus meeting a wide variety of people – and this year the sun shone for most of the events.
The MDV is easy to set up – it simply unfolds – but does need towing to events, and help here is always appreciated. The Trust has use of a vehicle specially for this, or you can use your own, and specialist training will be provided.
If you think you could help with manning the MDV or getting It to events in 2019 and want to find out more, please email Roger at email@example.com.