Skip to main content

The charity making life better by water

East Midlands Newsletter May 2021

With boats returning to the water, volunteers getting back to their roles and lots of exciting new projects starting to take shape it's a time of bright beginnings on the East Midlands' waterways.

Narrowboat passes moored boats on the Leicester Line, Grand Union Canal

East Midlands Annual Public Meeting

Thanks to everyone that joined us for our regional Annual Public Meeting that took place at the end of April. It was a great event and a good opportunity to celebrate all that's taken place on the East Midlands waterways over the past year – as well as looking ahead to what we want to achieve with partners over the coming 12 months.

We were really pleased to be joined by representatives of our partner groups, local authorities, MPs, boating customers and volunteers to name but a few. A highlight of the meeting was an inspirational film showcasing how we've been working with partners in Nottingham to make the canal corridor in the city better for people and wildlife. It's a great example of what can be achieved and something we hope to replicate across the region and beyond.

The Annual Public Meeting is available to watch below.

Welcome back to our volunteers

With life starting to look a little more normal we're pleased to see many of our volunteers and partner groups getting back into the swing of things.

With restrictions now easing it's great to see volunteers starting to get back out onto the waterways and we're looking forward to working with some new faces as well.

There's already been a busy start with lots of interest in our volunteer lock keeper roles in particular. We've been specifically looking for volunteers to help at Kibworth, Newton Harcourt and Kings Lock in Leicestershire, Torksey Lock in Lincolnshire, Cranfleet Lock on the River Trent and sites on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Derbyshire.

The new recruits have been undergoing their training and site familiarisation before being paired with experienced lock keepers on-site.

It's not just lock keeping that people want to help with though, since January we've recruited 127 new volunteers across a variety of different roles.

Gradually we're also seeing Towpath Taskforces return with the Erewash and South Derbyshire teams working together to refurbish a visitor mooring pontoon at Trent Lock. Joining forces they've replaced the old timber surface with a new anti-slip one and repainting the handrails to make sure the whole thing's looking ship-shape.

Many thanks to all of our volunteers for their patience and understanding over the past twelve months and we look forward to seeing them back doing what they do best on the region's canals and rivers.

Local community pitches in with Stoke Bruerne reopening

We're delighted that the brand new café at Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum has reopened for takeaways after a major revamp.

Works have been taking place over the winter to completely transform the museum and café space and the local community have been playing their part in plans for the reopening.

A number of new Visitor Welcome volunteers have been recruited who will be providing a warm welcome and delivering talks and tours both inside the museum and along the towpath.

A partnership has also been established with Northampton University to offer undergraduate students volunteering opportunities. The students will gain valuable work experience while helping to deliver projects around the site.

The Friends of the Canal Museum have also been playing their part. As well as donating £62,000 to the project works, they have also played a vital role in the planning, research and delivery of the interpretative design of the museum spaces.

Even the local farm on top of Blisworth Tunnel has been pitching in and is providing milk for the café.

The museum will be fully opening it's doors, enabling people to explore the brand new exhibition space, when restrictions ease further in May.

The counter at the cafe, Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum

Fancy some paddling on prescription?

We're excited to have been awarded £50,000 from the Thriving Communities Fund to increase the amount of social prescribing taking place on the Nottingham & Beeston Canal.

The funding is helping us to deliver a range of activities on and along the canal to help people tackle mental and physical health problems.

Activities started in early May with canoe and paddleboard sessions and wellbeing walks. Further down the line there will be opportunities for people to try gardening along the canal, volunteering sessions, photography courses, arts activities, cookery classes and, when covid restrictions allow, communal meals at venues along the canal.

The project is being run by a partnership of local organisations including the Canal & River Trust, Nottingham Community & Voluntary Service, Notts County Foundation, Canalside Heritage Centre, Nottingham Photographers Hub and local foodbank Himmah.

It's one of 37 projects being delivered by the Thriving Communities Fund across England and is being delivered in a unique partnership between National Academy for Social Prescribing, Arts Council England, Historic England, National Academy for Social Prescribing, Natural England, NHS England and NHS Improvement, Sport England, the Money & Pensions Service and NHS Charities Together.

Click here to find and book on to events.

Father and daughter canoeing along the canal

Listening to our boaters

We really enjoyed holding our second regional boaters conference albeit over Zoom rather than being able to meet our boating customers face-to-face. It's the second time we've held the event in the East Midlands, with the first taking place in Nottingham in 2019.

Around 60 people joined the call to discuss all things boating in the region. Topics covered included use of the tidal Trent, dredging plans, balancing the needs of different waterway users and an overview of the maintenance projects that have taken place in the region. It was an enjoyable and very useful session so thank you to everyone that took part.

Mowing trial is a cut above

We've started a six-month trial looking at the benefits of changing the mowing regime along some of our towpaths in the East Midlands.

The trial, which starts in April, will aim to improve biodiversity along our waterways while also making sure they meet the needs of boaters, anglers and everyone who enjoys visiting their local canal or river. A new mowing regime could also help to free up money which can be invested in other important works to keep our 200 year old waterways in good working order.

The trial is set to take place at sites on the Grand Union and Erewash canals. Separately we've also adjusted our mowing regime on the Nottingham & Beeston Canal at Beeston Rylands and along London Road in Nottingham city centre.

It's hoped that the changes will encourage a greater diversity of plants and better cover and foraging opportunities for insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles. There may also be an improvement in wildflowers, vital for pollinators such as bees.

Of course, our canals and rivers are working waterways so as part of the changes, which have been developed with a panel of boaters, we will look to formalise the navigation requirements for grass cutting at moorings, locks and sightlines on bends. We will also ensure access for our colleagues who need to carry out inspections along the waterways.

Wildflowers growing alongside the Nottingham & Beeston Canal

Coca Cola funding for reedbeds

We're pleased to have been awarded £10,000 by Coca Cola to install floating reedbeds on parts of the Nottingham & Beeston Canal to help attract more wildlife into the city.

The funding has been awarded through Coca Cola European Partners' Support My Cause scheme.

The project has been developed with staff at the Coca Cola office in Nottingham through their involvement with the Nottingham Canal Improvement Partnership.

Reedbeds were first installed along parts of the canal in September to help give the canal a more natural feel and attract more bugs and beasts into the city. By adding more reedbeds we hope to soften the canal edges even more and create a wildlife corridor through the heart of the city.

New water safety measures in Northamptonshire

Next time you visit one of our waterways in Northamptonshire you may notice some new throw lines which have been installed in partnership with Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service.

With temperatures starting to rise people may be tempted to take a dip in their local canal, river or reservoir. We've been working with Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service to warn people about the dangers of swimming in our waterways and to encourage them to find alternative ways to cool down.

As an extra precaution throw lines are being installed at some of our most popular sites in the county, including Stoke Bruerne and reservoirs at Daventry, Drayton, Saddington, Sulby and Naseby.

The throw lines, which are intended to help rescue people from the water, are stored in a secure box to protect them from vandalism and make sure they're available when needed. In an emergency people can call 999 and get access to the code needed to open the box and access the throw line.

Trust colleagues standing with a new throw line installed next to the canal

Last Edited: 13 May 2021

photo of a location on the canals
newsletter logo

Stay connected

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration