TV personality and outdoor champion Julia Bradbury is joining us to encourage local communities across England and Wales to play a bigger part in looking after the waterways on their doorstep.
The aim is for a quarter of our waterways to be adopted by local people. The call comes as part of our wider plans to ensure that the nation’s waterways continue to thrive and don’t fall back into the dereliction of the mid-twentieth century, when they were almost lost forever.
"I’ve seen what a difference it makes when local communities come together." Julia Bradbury
Julia Bradbury comments: “Two hundred years ago, canals helped to transform the face of Britain, bringing about unprecedented change to our economy and society. The legacy we have today is amongst the finest examples of industrial heritage in the world, yet the biggest threat our waterways face is apathy.
“Last century it was pioneering volunteers who rolled up their sleeves to help save the waterways from being lost forever. And today when I’m out exploring and taking in the waterways I’ve seen what a difference it makes when local communities come together and make their stretch come to life. I’d encourage anyone with a community spirit and a bit of time to spare to see how they can get involved.”
Richard Parry, chief executive of the Trust, says: “Volunteering on the canals is a win-win for everyone. The love for the outdoors is very much alive across the nation, but there aren’t always easy opportunities to get stuck in. Waiting lists for allotments are testament to this, or the number of people who would love a garden but aren’t able to get one. Even outdoor volunteering experiences can be in short supply in some areas. We think our adoptions could provide an answer, benefitting you, the waterway and the community.”
Adoption groups will work in partnership with us in order to make their mile of waterway shine; anything from improving wildlife habitats and access for local people, to creating a linear veg-patch for the community. Each group works at least one day a month for 12 months and agrees the projects they want to prioritise to make their mile matter.
There are 170 waterway adoptions already working across the country, including scouts, neighbourhood societies, running groups and schools. The aim is to get a quarter of our network (500 miles) adopted by 2025.
Richard Parry continues: “Our waterways are arguably as important today as they have ever been. They have evolved from freight highways to linear parks in our towns and cities. They are places for us all to escape – havens for both people and wildlife. But to make sure this valuable legacy thrives into the future, we need to capitalise on the huge pride people have in them and encourage groups to work alongside us to make it happen.
“The nation’s waterways are enjoying a renaissance, with more visitors and more boats than even at the height of the industrial revolution. We see how much a stretch of canal is improved if local people are helping us to look after it, that’s why we’ve set this ambitious target for people to show their love for their local canal.”