Our regional round-up is back, bringing you all the latest stories from a canal or river near you. This time, we’re checking out award-winning canals in Yorkshire and the North East, taking a closer look at a volunteering project in Manchester, and seeing how the Nottingham Forest Community Trust is helping military veterans find peace through fishing beside the Trent. So, sit back, relax and enjoy some inspiring tales from the canalside.
Flying the flag across Yorkshire
This month, two more local canals achieved the international benchmark for parks and green spaces. The Green Flag scheme, run by Keep Britain Tidy, recognises recreational outdoor spaces that meet the highest possible environmental standards, are beautifully maintained and play an important role in the community.
Our latest recipients, a section of urban canal in Sheffield and a rural stretch along the Calder & Hebble Navigation, mean that more than 100 miles of our waterways in Yorkshire and the North East now carry a Green Flag.
It's a reflection of the growing importance of the region's canals and rivers, which provide vibrant, wildlife-rich blue and green spaces in the hearts of our towns and cities. And it's testament to the tireless work of our volunteers, whose energy, skill and perseverance is helping to rejuvenate neglected parts of our network.
It's a similar story across the country, with over a quarter of our waterways now boasting a coveted Green Flag Award. That's a whopping 565 miles of our network. With over 50 of our waterways now proudly carrying a Green Flag, you're sure to find an award-winning space near you.
Our amazing volunteers have always been at the heart of everything our charity does for the waterways. Without the skill, hard work and dedication of people from all walks of life, our canals simply wouldn't be as welcoming they are today.
Having recently moved from Hong Kong to Manchester, one group of volunteers is getting to know their new home by immersing themselves in the local heritage and getting stuck into some conservation work on the Ashton Canal.
The project was made possible by the Government's Green Recovery Challenge Fund, a £40million pot to kick-start environmental renewal. Thanks to the scheme, we were able to offer our Hong Kong volunteers an opportunity to learn new skills, integrate into UK society and practice their English in a friendly, supportive environment.
In the meantime, they've been getting their hands dirty, making Ashton Canal better for local residents and wildlife. In just a few short months, they've transformed the area around the canal, planting hedgerows, clearing litter and helping to revitalise precious blue and green spaces.
The Trust supports volunteer projects like this all over the country, giving people from a diverse range of backgrounds a chance to gain valuable experience, meet new people and get a taste of life on our canals.
Back of the net! Bringing the joy of fishing to our veterans
Where the Nottingham and Beeston Canal meets the River Trent, in the shadow of the City Ground, a new partnership is bringing fishing and wellbeing to veterans of our armed forces.
Over a six week period, our Let's Fish! team and Nottingham Forest Community Trust (NFCT) have been putting on free fishing coaching sessions. It's given veterans who were already part of the NFCT's ‘Forest Forces' programme the chance to rediscover their love of fishing or enjoy it for the very first time.
Head Coach Paul Warwick explains that the fishing is good in the canal at this time of year, because as the temperature drops the fish migrate from the wide, cold Trent to the narrower, warmer canal: “With plenty of roach, bream, carp, pike and zander here, it's the perfect place to get people catching. And then you get people talking, relaxing, interacting and improving their mental health. Personally, I think fishing should be on prescription. For a couple of hours when all you're doing is watching that float, all your worries go out the window.
Although we're doing these sessions for veterans, I'd hope we could do it with all the people the Nottingham Forest Community Trust works with. Angling is for everybody. It's got no age, no disability, no religion. It doesn't matter where you come from, or how fit you are. Fishing is fishing.”
Matt Smith from the NFCT agrees: “Our club sees itself as part of the local community, so we work with a whole range of people. There are a lot of veterans from the RAF, the Army and even the Navy in Nottingham. Many are Forest fans, and we bring them together to keep them engaged in society and enjoy each other's company. They feel the camaraderie they miss from their service years, and we celebrate what they've done for King and country. We have sessions such as walking football to keep them physically active, but the fishing is so good for their mental health too.”
His colleague Claire Henson, who has a background in mental health care, feels this is especially important. She tells us: “We know that nationally, people from an Armed Forces background are underrepresented when it comes to accessing mental health services. And football or fishing are great ways to reach out. People who need support might not come out and ask for help. So, these activities are a wonderful way to welcome people into the Forest Forces family.”
For a club whose home by the river is such a big part of its identity, fishing is a great way to use the waters fans sing about at every match. And veteran Robert Woods couldn't agree more: “The sessions are brilliant and have given me a chance to come back to fishing after years away. I always fished as a kid. And when the RAF posted me to Potsdam near Berlin, fishing was what we did on our time off. But when you have a young family, you give things like fishing up. But the Forest Forces has given me a way back to the water. Now I come out here, enjoy a couple of hours of peace and quiet and come back home, a better person.”
Last Edited: 28 October 2022
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