The Kent & East Sussex Canal Restoration Group began life around 1977, gathering volunteers from the Kent and East Sussex branch of the IWA for weekend working parties contributing towards the restoration of the Basingstoke Canal.
The canal enjoyed full support from the local authorities who owned it, and with no shortages of plant, materials or expertise, most of the canal was restored using volunteer labour. KESCRG benefited from this, gaining invaluable skills including lock rebuilding, lock gate construction and bank protection works.
In 1983 the group ran its first week-long summer work camp. This was the beginning of a new era and introduced many new volunteers to the restoration movement. Many of the leading lights in the field of volunteer restoration today started in the movement through KESCRG during this period.
Though the late 80s and 90s, KESCRG branched out to work on other canal restorations around the country, including the Wey & Arun, Chichester, Kennet & Avon, Wilts & Berks, Thames & Severn (now Cotswold), Wendover, Droitwich, Montgomery, Huddersfield and Sleaford canals, and took part in the London Canal Museum Ice Well excavation.
With the completion of the Basingstoke canal restoration in 1991, Kescrg along with London WRG, WRG-BITM and Newbury Working Party Group (NWPG) formed the Dig Deep initiative. Through the 1990s and 2000s, this partnership utilised the skills acquired during the Basingstoke restoration to contribute to individual restoration projects such as lock & bridge rebuilds, in conjunction with local canal societies around the country. These included projects on the Droitwich, Wey & Arun, Wilts & Berks, Thames & Severn and Montgomery canals.
In January 2016 KESCRG formally became a Charitably Incorporated Organisation (CIO) and was renamed the Kescrg Canal Restoration Group to reflect the fact that our volunteers come from right across the southern half of the UK. The strong ties to the Kent and East Sussex geographical region from the early years of the organisation no longer reflected the makeup of the group.
Kescrg continues to run 8 or so weekends a year, and provide the leadership team for a week-long WRG summer camp. Carrying on the concept of the Dig Deep initiative, we often focus on one project for a significant proportion of a year, or over several years to help local societies plan larger and more complex projects with a reasonable degree of certainty that they can draw on a resource of skilled and experienced volunteers. Recently these have included the new lock and lowered pound at Loxwood on the Wey and Arun, the ‘7 locks’ flight near Lyneham on the Wilts and Berks Canal, Eisey lock on the Cotswold Canals, Whitehouses pumping station on the Grand Union Wendover Arm, and Inglesham lock on the Cotswold Canals.