What do you like about spending time by canals and rivers?
I've grown up near both a river and a canal, and as a naturalist, it's the wildlife these places support that brings me joy. Where water gathers and flows, and is allowed to be healthy, life flourishes! Dragonflies and mayflies, kingfishers and goosanders, bats and water voles; all of these beings bring a spark of energy to your day when you encounter them!
What wellbeing benefits do you get from visiting your local stretch of canal?
We often hear about the wellbeing benefits of being in greenspace, but being in bluespace produces a similar effect! Even better if the two colours combine; lush green space intertwined with the flow of a river or canal. When I walk in these spaces, my mood calms, my spirit lifts and I disconnect from the whirring of thoughts and to-do's and worries.
Why is the work of the Canal & River Trust so important?
Recognising the importance of these places for people, and advocating for their health and protection is vital. We know water based habitats are vulnerable to pollution and deterioration, and now more than ever we need voices like the Canal & River Trust to push for improvement!
What are your hopes for the charity over the next 10 years?
I hope the charity will open the door for access to these amazing blue spaces for more people. Time spent in the countryside and with nature is often a pursuit of people with more wealth – largely white and middle-class communities. The benefits of being in these places should be for everyone. I hope to see the charity being creative and working with communities in towns and cities to improve canals and rivers for wildlife, and making them open, welcoming places for urban communities to spend time in.
What's your favourite local stretch of canal?
I grew up in Lancashire, very close to the River Douglas and the Leeds Liverpool canal. My childhood is soaked in memories spent next to these places. Picking blackberries with my Grandma along the canal, walking the dog down the river, making bows and arrows out of willow with my dad. As a teenager, I even attempted to make a raft with my friends to sail along the canal. Needless to say, a couple of rubber rings and a door tied together wasn't particularly sea-worthy, and we soon ended up soaking.