The charity making life better by water

Then and now

Here at the Canal & River Trust we believe that life is better by water and this is why we spend so much energy making sure our waterways are always open and welcoming.

Over the past 50 years our canals and rivers have been transformed from a national disgrace into a national treasure with the power to improve the happiness and wellbeing of millions of people across the nation.

Saved from dereliction and destruction by the hard work of hundreds of pioneers the waterways have become vital outdoor spaces that reach into the heart of many towns and cities.

Ashton Canal, Manchester

The Ashton Canal was saved from dereliction by hardworking volunteers in the 1970s. Today, the canal is a green link from Manchester city centre to Ashton-under-Lyne, bordered by a mix of modern and industrial architecture. Over previous years we've made improvements to the towpath to make it into an accessible route for walkers, cyclists and wheelchair users.

National Waterways Museum

In 1973 a group of volunteers came together to rebuild the warehouse and lock system and founded the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum. In 2005 it became the National Waterways Museum. It holds the world’s largest collection of canal boats and is a conservation area with 19 Grade II listed buildings, locks, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers’ cottages.

Pocklington Canal

Threatened with complete destruction in the 1950s a group of local enthusiasts and campaigners saved this canal and began its painstaking restoration. Now designated as a Site of Special Scientific interest with the lower reaches lying within the Lower Derwent National Nature Reserve it is a haven for otters, 15 different types of damsel and dragonfly and a wide variety of wildfowl.

Kennet & Avon Canal

The flight of locks opened in 1810 and by 1818, seventy 60-ton barges were working on the canal, mostly carrying coal and stone. Once the railways came the canal fell into disuse and was closed. The last cargo through the flight was in 1948. From the 1960s there was a major clearing and rebuilding operation, culminating in a visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990 to officially open the new locks. We now care for this magnificent structure.

Last Edited: 04 March 2022

photo of a location on the canals
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