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The charity making life better by water

Regional Round Up South – May 2023

Back once again, it’s our ever-popular regional round up, bringing you all the latest news, views and insights from a canal or river near you. This time, we’re investigating some winter works in Worcestershire, looking ahead to the Hayes Canal Festival in West London, and getting a bird’s-eye view of a major dredging operation in Berkshire.

Winter works in Worcestershire

Each winter, we carry out a raft of essential works across our network, replacing lock gates, dredging canals, and performing vital heritage repairs. In February, we arranged an open weekend on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal near Kidderminster, to give locals a peek behind the scenes.

A group of people visiting a drained lock on the canal

Across the two days, visitors got a rare opportunity to explore one of our locks while it was drained for essential maintenance, seeing first-hand how we care for our canals. The event attracted more than 500 people, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with one attendee calling it a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

A small group of people visiting a drained canal lock

On the Friday before, we also hosted a VIP tour for local school children with MP for Wyre Forest, Mark Garnier. Mr Garnier was suitably impressed with what he saw, later tweeting, “It was great to see the work of the Canal & River Trust in the heart of Kidderminster. Big thanks to their team for keeping a 250-year-old asset running smoothly.”

We host open days across our network throughout the winter months, showcasing some of the essential maintenance we carry out each year. But, if you can't wait that long, you can get a unique insight into the breadth of our work through our virtual tours.

Digging deeper in Berkshire

Last year, we began a major dredging operation on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Hungerford in Berkshire. The works, part of our commitment to keeping our canals safe and navigable, involved clearing a heavily silted one-and-a-half-mile stretch, between Hungerford Marsh Lock and Dun Mill lock. David Johns captured it all on film for his popular YouTube channel, CruisingTheCut.

As you'll see from the film, over time, mud, leaves and other debris builds up in our canals, forming a layer of sediment. Left unchecked, it can begin to impede boaters, affect water quality, and even harm local wildlife. To prevent this from happening, we carry out regular dredging programmes up and down our network.

Typically, we dredge around 100,000 tonnes of muck every year, and it's a complex and costly affair, involving heavy machinery and hundreds of man hours. Farmers and local residents need to be recompensed for any disruption, and of course, the dredged material has to be properly recycled and reused.

For a rare glimpse of our team in action and to get a better idea of the sheer scale of these operations, watch David's film, above.

Hayes Canal Festival makes a welcome return

We'd love to see our Friends down by the water at the Hayes Canal Festival later this month. We're bringing the local community together to enjoy a day of entertainment, including dancing and circus skills. The more active can give activities such as canoeing or paddleboarding a go, or take a boat trip down the canal.

Join us here on the Grand Union Canal, West London on Sunday 28 May, from 12pm-5pm. The joy of the Hayes Canal Festival is that it is a completely free event and gives the local community the chance to discover the canals on their doorstep, without having to spend a penny. It's very much a festival for the community and by the community.

A small group of people gather on the bow of a canal barge

This year the festival is able to go ahead due to a generous donation by Colt Data Centre Services and ISG Ltd, who both hope to boost the local economy with a host of employment opportunities. Matthew Grant, from Colt DCS and Arron Easter, from ISG Ltd told us:

“Colt Data Centre Services and ISG Ltd are delighted to be sponsoring the Canal & River Trust and Hayes Canal Festival this year. It is important for Colt DCS and ISG Ltd to be a part of the Hayes community. Supporting this free, one-day community festival encourages and enables local people to use and enjoy their canal in a variety of ways, including boat trips, fishing, and canoeing.”

The popular Angel Canal Festival on the Regent's Canal in North London will be organised this year by the local community, who have stepped in to support our charity to ensure this much-loved community festival can take place this year. Ros Daniels, our director for London & South East told us: “Following the difficult decision to cancel this year's Angel Canal Festival, we are delighted and thankful that the local people of Islington have come together. The festival had been cancelled as part of a wider review of what we are able to do as a charity in these challenging times”.

Last Edited: 28 April 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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