The charity making life better by water

Waving a green flag over our canals

An important way we measure the quality of the blue and green spaces we’re creating along our towpaths are Green Flag Awards. Run by Keep Britain Tidy, they set a prestigious benchmark for the quality of green spaces, much as Blue Flags do for beaches. We’ve been working to win more Green Flags since the Macclesfield Canal became our first ever complete waterway to win the award in 2015. Now over 565 miles of canals, over a quarter of our network, have reached this fantastic standard.

A group of youngsters gather to celebrate with a green flag award for the canals

In 2022 alone, a further 125 miles of waterways have now secured their first ever Green Flags. The scheme recognises spaces that boast the highest possible environmental standards, are beautifully maintained, and play an important role in the local community.

Most Green Flag sites are parks, but our canals can have the same positive impact on our wellbeing. That's why we were particularly pleased to win awards for urban canals in Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham this year, where we've brought high quality blue and green spaces to the doorsteps of millions of people.

The Midlands saw seven new sites being awarded Green Flags, including sites in central Birmingham and Walsall as the community got involved in showcasing their waterways ahead of the Commonwealth Games. In Manchester and Sheffield, once unloved stretches of urban canal have been transformed into pleasant, wildlife-rich places for the surrounding communities to enjoy.

More rural stretches along the River Soar and Calder & Hebble Navigation were also recognised. The Kennet & Avon Canal, Macclesfield Canal and Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, together with Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool, the first marina in England to hold a Blue Flag, retained their status, along with 35 other sites.

As you can see here, 50 of our waterways now carry a Green Flag, so it's not difficult to find an award-winning space near you. After 10 years of hard work by our charity to meet this vital benchmark, we don't intend to stop there.

As Chief Executive Richard Parry explains, year by year thanks to your support and the hard work of our local teams and volunteers, we're aiming to bring Green Flag quality spaces to many more miles of our canals and rivers: “As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, Green Flag Awards are a testament to everyone who works or volunteers with the Trust, including those in the community who play such a vital part in helping to look after their local canal.

Green Flags showcase the growing role canals have as beautiful places to spend time and reap the health and wellbeing benefits of being by the water. With waterways offering free, accessible blue and green space on the doorstep of millions, everyone can find their own special place.

But with our 250-year-old canals vulnerable to changing weather patterns, we are calling on the public and the government to continue to support the waterways so we can continue to protect and preserve them and make sure they don't fall back in to the decline we saw last century.”

Last Edited: 31 August 2022

photo of a location on the canals
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