Our regional round-up is back, bringing you all the latest stories from a canal or river near you. This time, we’re exploring the legacy of the Commonwealth Games on Birmingham’s canals, catching up with restoration works in Camden, and visiting a secret garden in Newbury. So, sit back, relax and enjoy some inspiring tales from the canal-side.
Legacy in action on Birmingham's canals
The spirit of the Commonwealth Games is alive and well on Birmingham's canals. A brand-new initiative, in partnership with Saheli Hub, is giving local women the chance for some fresh air and fun on the city's waterways, with regular bell boating and kayaking sessions.
The aim of the project is to reach women that are less likely to engage in physical activity, and many of those taking part struggle with long-term health conditions, mental wellbeing and social isolation. According to Founder and CEO of Saheli Hub, Naseem Akhtar, getting out on the canal is a great way to for them forget their troubles, improve their health and ease stress.
Saheli Hub has been helping to inspire and motivate local women for more than 20 years, through various health, fitness and lifestyle programmes. Naseem, a ‘Hometown Hero' at the recent Commonwealth Games, believes initiatives like this can help to improve lives and bring communities together. She says: “Because water sports like bell boating are a group activity, the women are getting much more than a vigorous workout; they're meeting new people, forging friendships and joining a supportive, tight-knit group.”
Our work with Saheli Hub is a great example of how a hometown Games can galvanise a community. We're proud to have played our part in the build-up to the Games, and through initiatives like this, we hope to keep the legacy of Birmingham 2022 alive.
An iconic canal basin in northwest London is set for a major makeover next year, as we begin repair work on the footbridge at Camden Lock. The historic bridge, built in 1846, carries the Regent's Canal towpath across the basin entrance, nicknamed ‘Dead Dog Tunnel'.
The tunnel earned its grisly moniker many years ago, as debris, including animal carcasses, would accumulate beneath the bridge as it floated downstream along the 26-mile stretch from Uxbridge. Thankfully, these days the area is better known for its lively markets, striking architecture and canal-side eateries.
Straddling the footbridge and dominating the north side of the lock, is the imposing Interchange Warehouse. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the Grade II-listed building was once a hub of international trade, bringing rail, road and transport together under one roof.
In more recent times, the lock and its infamous tunnel have been immortalised on screen, appearing in various film and TV productions, most notably 2015's James Bond flick, Spectre. Today, the area is popular with walkers, cyclists and sightseers and the footbridge gets thousands of visitors every year.
The repair work, funded by players of the People's Postcode Lottery, is set to begin in January and is part of our ongoing commitment to restoring and maintaining the city's canals.
Green-fingered residents in Newbury are transforming a hidden canalside garden on the Kennet & Avon Canal. The Globe Garden, so-called because it was once the garden of the Globe Inn, is the final resting place of John Gould, a hero of the canal's restoration and a tireless campaigner for the survival of the waterways.
The garden, tucked away on an island next to Newbury Lock, will become a place for education and healing, a tranquil spot for those seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life. As project leader, Sukey Russell-Hayward explains: “We have a number of activities lined up, including yoga, meditation, art and counselling. It will be a garden full of lovely things for adults and children alike.”
The half-acre plot will feature an area of peace and reflection around John Gould's grave, a kitchen garden with raised beds and beehives, and a sensory garden full of tactile and perfumed plants. There'll be seating in a coppice at the rear, and by the lock, volunteers have planted a lavender bed in the shape of a narrowboat.
Newbury's secret garden is just one of many community initiatives we're spearheading across the region, part of our commitment to revitalising our precious waterways for all enjoy.