COLLECTION boxes are being distributed throughout Mid Devon to raise funds to repair the breached Grand Western Canal embankment near Halberton.

Fund-raising group Friends of the Grand Western Canal is handing out the boxes to businesses across the region and has so far raised more than £1,650 through a Just Giving website it set up to generate donations.

Darren Willetts of Cameras Plus in Gold Street, Tiverton, was one of the first shops in the town to request a box.

He said: “The canal is an important part of Mid Devon life and it would be terrible to lose it.

“I’m very happy to support all efforts to get the Halberton embankment rebuilt. The canal is very popular with photographers so I am sure my customers will want to do their bit, too.”

Friends chairman Robert Hodgson added: “Sarah Williams’ wonderful photograph in this year’s BBC Country File calendar is just one reminder of what we could be missing if the breach is not repaired as soon as possible.

“We have started distributing boxes to those who have asked for them and have plenty more.

“If any other businesses could use one, then please get in touch. Every penny donated will count and will show that the whole of Mid Devon cares deeply about our canal.”

Canal owner Devon County Council has carried out a detailed engineering assessment to explore the possibility of repairing the breached wall, which dramatically gave way following torrential rains at the end of November – carving a deep gorge in the raised embankment near Halberton.

It is expected a report on the canal, including the future management of water levels, will be discussed by the council’s cabinet in February.

Councillor Roger Croad, the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for the canal, said “It’s too early to say right now what our options might be, as we’re awaiting the outcome of feasibility study and engineering assessment.

“However, we fully support the feelings of the Friends of the Grand Western Canal and of the local community who want to see it restored to its former glory.”

Councillor Des Hannon, chairman of the canal’s joint advisory committee and a county councillor for Tiverton East, added: “It’s all too tempting to throw in the towel when a problems this big. That’s why I’m absolutely delighted by the energetic response from people locally and further afield who love our canal.

“The Friends of the Grand Western Canal is doing a sterling job in attracting funds, and the whole canal family is grateful for their efforts.

“I urge everyone who knows our canal and who has enjoyed its peace and tranquillity to donate what they can – especially now, as we prepare for our 200th birthday."

Donations can be made via a link to the Just Giving page on the Friends’ website at www.Friends .uk or by post to Friends' Treasurer at Orchard View, Chapel Street, Tiver-ton EX16 6BZ.