SANTA will be swapping his sleigh for a boat next month as he takes to the water to meet children at the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal.

Father Christmas will sail with volunteers from The Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal Trust and families from across the town during weekends in December, setting off from the towpath near Sunnyside Avenue in Kingshill.All money raised will support the ongoing restoration of the waterway.

Mike Lang, chairman of the Swindon branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust, said: “The charity runs tripboats throughout much of the year in order to raise awareness of our campaign and to keep the waterway clear of weeds, as well as raising funds.

“The Kingshill stretch is a prime example of the benefits which a restored canal would bring to the community, providing a popular attraction for people of all ages as well as a haven for wildlife.”

The Wilts and Berks Canal Trust’s ‘Dragonfly’ tripboat will be decorated in festive colours and used to ferry children to Santa’s Grotto at the end of a popular stretch in Kingshill, where he will present gifts to children. Each return trip lasts for around an hour, with mince pies and refreshments also provided.

The 36ft tripboat is half the length of a traditional working narrowboat but can still carry up to 12 passengers at a time.

The ultimate aim of the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust is to restore the waterway from the Kennet and Avon Canal near Melksham to the Thames and Severn Canal near Cricklade and the River Thames near Abingdon, connecting Chippenham and Wootton Bassett.

The Santa trips will operate on Saturdays and Sundays on the weekends of December 1 and 2, 8 and 9, 15 and 16 and 22 and 23. Trips set off at 10am, 11.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm . Normal boat rides will resume on Boxing Day at 11am, 12.30pm and 2pm.

Admission is £6 per adult and £8 per child. Booking is essential. Call 01793 827678 or visit the Trust shop in Theatre Square.