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Living Waterways Awards 2017 winners

Congratulations to the winners and all the finalists of the Living Waterways Awards 2017.

Narrowboat 'Kennet' at the Leeds & Liverpool Bicentenary Historic short boat 'Kennet' at the Leeds & Liverpool Bicentenary

Award categories

From innovative design and construction projects to dedicated volunteer-led schemes, there were seven award categories up for grabs this year - as well as our outstanding achievement award. The winners were announced at a gala ceremony in Birmingham on 27 September.

  • Community and volunteering
  • Contribution to the built environment
  • Contribution to the natural environment
  • Restoration and historic environment
  • Education and learning
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Art and interpretation
  • Outstanding achievement

Community and volunteering

Winner - Eldonian village canal festival, Liverpool (Leeds & Liverpool Canal)

"We were impressed with the array of examples of local people getting involved in preparation for the festival, as well as the event itself, which brought 20,000 people to the canalside - an astonishing figure for a canal celebration without precedent." Living Waterways Awards assessor

The Eldonian Village Canal Festival was held in June 2016 as part of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Bicentenary celebrations. It aimed to increase the number of boats travelling this last stretch of the Liverpool Link into the docks, and raise awareness of the canal locally. 

Organised by the IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch, the festival was a community event supported by the Eldonian Housing Association, Liverpool Culture and the Trust.

Ahead of the event, as well as undertaking comprehensive tidy-up works, IWA volunteers worked with local schools, teaching them about the history of canals and hosting angling taster sessions with the local angling club.

Over 80 boats moored along the canal during the festival weekend, local politicians were taken on a cruise to see the positive impact that improving the canal environment could have for their community, and over 20,000 people attended the festival.

Following the success of the event, with support from local boat clubs, the IWA and Eldonian Housing Association are hoping to make it an annual fixture.

Runner up – Taking it Tees’y, Stockton on Tees (Tees Barrage)

Commended – Compasses Bridge, Surrey (Wey & Arun Canal)

Contribution to the built environment

Winner – Elland Road Bridge, Halifax (Calder & Hebble Navigation)

"This difficult civil engineering project was complicated. The restoration team cleverly balanced technical challenges and historic preservation with significant community pressure to replace the bridge as quickly as possible." Living Waterways judging panel

When the Grade II listed Elland Road Bridge collapsed during the Boxing Day floods of 2015, a large area of Elland was isolated from Halifax, major utilities were severed and the canal was cut off to boaters and towpath users.

The use of innovative construction techniques during the rebuilding work reduced disruption to the local community and allowed the canal to reopen for the summer. Precast concrete elements minimised construction times and made the bridge more resilient.  Deep-piled foundations and a slab connecting the abutments have been designed to support the structure if flooding occurs again.

The new bridge has a very similar appearance to the old bridge, with the arch profile accurately recreated and historic materials from the old bridge reused.  

Local people were invited to a series of key milestones, including installing a temporary footbridge, demolition of the old bridge, lifting of the concrete arches, and the opening in November 2016.

Runner up – Marsworth Wharf, Alylesbury (Grand Union Canal)

Commended – Merchant’s Quay, Gloucester (Gloucester & Sharpness Canal)

Contribution to the natural environment

Winner - Firs Farm Wetland, Enfield (Lee Navigation)

“The highly integrated nature of this scheme, involving very active partners and close co-operation between different professional disciplines, is truly inspiring." Living Waterways judging panel

Firs Farm Wetlands is a new urban park close to the River Lee in Enfield, following the restoration of  500 metres of the Moore Brook, a ‘lost’ tributary of Pymmes Brook, itself a tributary of the River Lee.

A once featureless playing-field margin has been transformed into a natural flood management area providing new wetland habitats, flood water storage and surface water filtration to improve water quality. 

As well as a better aspect and enhanced local biodiversity, over 100 homes have been given improved flood defence and a section of the A10 dual carriageway is protected from potential flooding.  A cycleway and network of footpaths, outdoor classroom, dipping platform and several seating areas have been added to encourage visitors and create better green links between Winchmore Hill and Edmonton. 

Runner up - Green Park, Reading (Kennet & Avon Canal close by)

Commended - Living heritage of the River Don, South Yorkshire (River Don)

Restoration and historic environment

Winner - Window on the World, Ellesmere Port (Shropshire Union Canal)

“The Museum must take credit for having the vision and capability to carry out the restoration of these two important historic boats." Awards assessment panel

The ‘Window on the World’ project at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port has preserved and restored two of the Museum’s most nationally important vessels, 'Mossdale' and 'George', and redeveloped Ellesmere Port’s historic Slipway.

The £1.4million project to inspire people to learn about the history of wide boats and their role in the industrial development of the North West, was delivered in a partnership by the Boat Museum Society and Canal & River Trust.

'Mossdale', the last remaining all-wooden Mersey flat, is now preserved, displayed and interpreted at the museum, with an Augmented Reality app showing how she would have looked in her heyday. 

'George', a rare surviving Leeds & Liverpool short boat, has been fully restored back to working order and now offers a programme of activities out on the canal network.

The previously inaccessible historic Slipway area at the Museum, with stunning views overlooking the Manchester Ship Canal and River Mersey estuary, has been transformed into an exciting interactive area for visitors to learn about the fascinating history of the port.

Runner up - Mon & Brec lime kiln trail, Brecon to Goytre (Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal)

Commended - Historic lake in Baylis Park, Slough (Slough Arm nearby)

Commended - Stover Canal graving Dock Lock restoration, Newton Abbott (Stover Canal)

Education and learning

Winner - Hirst Lock bicentenary, Shipley, West Yorkshire (Leeds & Liverpool Canal)

“The quality of work here is exceptional and the project leaders can be justifiably proud of the difference they have made." Living Waterways Awards assessor

Over the last two years, The Hirst Wood Regeneration Group has transformed Hirst Lock on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Shipley from a scruffy eyesore, into an attractive lockside garden and much valued local destination. The centrepiece of the new garden is a striking new history board created by Saltaire Primary School pupils to celebrate the canal’s bicentenary.

Working with Liz McIver from Bradford Industrial Museum and local artist, Sharon Snaylam, the children learned about the lives of those who used to live and work along the waterway. They visited the canal to make sketches of what they saw and the designs were developed into the mural. 

The project has significantly raised the profile of the lock and wood with the wider community. It is now regarded as a place to visit, there has been a sharp decline in littering and anti-social behaviour and the site is attracting schools from the wider Bradford Metropolitan area to the waterway.

The canal and adjoining nature reserve have become an outdoor classroom for the school and the school choir worked with a local singer/songwriter, Eddie Lawler who wrote a song about the Bi-centenary for the children.

Runner up - Canal officer for cultural heritage, Scotland (Scottish Waterways)

Commended - Salendine Duke of Edinburgh adoption, Huddersfield (Huddersfield Broad Canal)

Recreation and tourism

Winner - Leeds & Liverpool Bicentenary, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Merseyside (Leeds & Liverpool Canal)

“This ambitious project mobilised public events on an unprecedented scale for the canal." Living Waterways Awards assessor

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal Bicentenary celebrations in 2016 involved hundreds of supporters, volunteers, groups and waterway staff delivering a series of events and celebrations to mark the anniversary over the course of the year.

The Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Everymile Counts Milemarker Restoration’ project successfully restored or replaced all mile markers along the 127-mile waterway, with help from over 100 volunteers.

A lock at Bank Newton was named ‘The Mike Clarke Lock’ in honour of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society’s founder and president.  A Bicentenary poem was written by the Canal Laureate Luke Kennard and artist Jeni McConnell produced a series of ‘Tell it to the Water’ workshops.

The Kennet heritage education boat performed an epic nine-day ceremonial voyage from Leeds to Liverpool.  Twelve Mayors and Lord Mayors of Lancashire were involved in the journey and Bicentenary Awards ceremonies, recognising groups and individuals who make a difference to the canal and communities around it.

Special events were also held at Skipton Festival, Saltaire Heritage Festival, Burscough Heritage Festival, IWA National Campaign Festival at Eldonian Village, Leeds Waterfront Festival, Blackburn Canal Festival, Burnley Canal Festival, Botany Bay Canal Festival and Leigh Canal Festival.

Runner up - Audlem Lass boat service, Audlem, Shropshire (Shropshire Union Canal)

Art and interpretation

Winner - Oxford Canal murals project, Oxford (Oxford Canal)

“Vandalised surfaces have been transformed with striking artwork created by spray-can artists, which conserves the brickwork beneath." Living Waterways Awards assessor

The Oxford Canal runs through the Waterways Estate in north Oxford and is crossed by two bridges, with canalside walls which have long been defaced by graffiti.

Spurred on by Timothy West and Prunella Scales’ horrified observations of the graffiti in Channel 4’s ‘Great Canal Journeys’, the Waterways Management Company and Waterways Residents Association began a community project to cover the graffiti with four professionally painted murals, to improve the canal environment and discourage future graffiti. 

With the help of a grant from Tesco Bags for Help, a Visual Arts Producer was appointed to manage the project.  The project’s Steering Committee agreed that two walls should reflect the history and culture of the immediate local area, as well as Oxford in general, and celebrate traditional canal life, while the other two should reference wildlife found in the canal and local Trap Grounds nature reserve.

A children’s design competition was launched for one of the local wildlife themed walls and entries were displayed at the local canal festival, where the public chose their favourites.

Three mural artists produced the four designs, which were agreed by the Steering Committee. The walls were undercoated by the Oxford City Council Anti-Graffiti Team and then painted by the artists with the support of 15 volunteers from the estate, who also applied a protective anti-graffiti coating.

Outstanding achievement

Winner - John Dodwell

“John’s lifetime commitment to the restoration, use and promotion of the waterways is both exceptional and inspirational." Richard Parry, chief executive Canal & River Trust

John’s love of the waterways sprang from spending time as a youth fishing, sailing and canoeing on the River Thames. In the early 1960s he became involved the restoration movement, becoming a regular volunteer on the Stourbridge Canal restoration, as well as taking part in a number of ‘protest’ canoe trips and celebrated restoration work parties. 

He played a leading role in the Inland Waterways Association’s campaign around the Transport Act 1968 and was IWA General Secretary from 1971-74, campaigning successfully against the proposed handover of British Waterways to regional water authorities. 

Alongside an illustrious career in the accountancy sector, John set up his own water freight advisory firm and became chair of The Commercial Boat Operators Association. He was also a member of the Government’s Inland Waterways Advisory Council and British Waterways Advisory Forum. John was appointed trustee of Canal & River Trust in 2012.

John owns ‘Helen’, a 51ft historic BCN tug/icebreaker, in which he has travelled many parts of the waterways network, writing about his experiences via his blog.

 “John’s lifetime commitment to the restoration, use and promotion of the waterways is both exceptional and inspirational. Deploying skills developed during his corporate finance career, combined with a deep knowledge of and passion for the waterways, John’s contribution has left an indelible mark on the waterway scene.” Richard Parry, chief executive Canal & River Trust

Last date edited: 28 September 2017