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The charity making life better by water

600 miles of Green Flagged space

We are announcing that 50* of our canal and river navigations have been awarded prestigious Green Flag status by Keep Britain Tidy.

Green Flag Award flag with canal and boat in background

We have secured a further 53.5 miles of Green Flag waterways across England and Wales, with 592* miles now holding the international quality mark for parks and green spaces. The Green Flags further demonstrate the important role the 250-year-old canal network plays for local communities, bringing nature into the heart of our towns and cities.

Vibrant green spaces

The entire 46-mile-long Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal has been awarded a Green Flag for the first time, along with the Stourbridge Canal and Town Arm, also in the West Midlands. These are added to our existing Green Flag stretches, which range from once unloved stretches of urban canal that have been transformed into pleasant, wildlife-rich places in the centre of towns and cities like Manchester, Sheffield and Walsall, to more rural locations such as the Kennet & Avon and Monmouthshire & Brecon canals.

The spread of Green Flags reflects both the increasing importance of the waterways as vibrant green spaces in our towns and cities and their longstanding value in providing popular, accessible beauty spots across the country.

However, our canals are facing a dual crisis, with climate change taking a costly toll on the historic network in the form of more frequent extreme weather, and with the government recently (10 July) announcing deep cuts in funding for canals in the future. We are calling on people to support their local waterway and help #KeepCanalsAlive.

What our canals have to offer

Richard Parry, our chief executive: “These Green Flags showcase the breadth of what the waterways have to offer: free, accessible green space on the doorstep of millions. Our historic canals are places in our towns and cities where people can relax, get close to nature and feel the health benefits of spending time by water.

“Caring for a 2,000-mile canal network is a challenge, with our ageing waterways vulnerable to changing weather patterns, daily wear and tear, and perennial problems like litter and encroaching vegetation. This impressive number of Green Flags is a testament to everyone who works or volunteers with the Trust, including those in the community who play such a vital part in helping to look after their local canal.

“And now we're facing another challenge, with a significant reduction in our government funding after 2027 recently announced. This will inevitably mean we will not be able to carry out all the work needed to keep the canals available and in working order, risking the benefit that so many communities enjoy from having access to nature on the doorstep. We're calling on the public to join our campaign to Keep Canals Alive so we can secure the support they need to avert the decline that we saw during the last century.”

A vital sanctuary

Commenting on the news that 50* stretches of our waterways have met the Green Flag Award standard, Keep Britain Tidy's Chief Executive, Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, said: “Our parks continue to provide a vital sanctuary for communities to play, grow and bond. The news that a record number of parks in the UK have achieved the Green Flag Award standard reflects the tireless work of those tasked with looking after these national assets.

“At Keep Britain Tidy, we're very proud of the Green Flag Award - a crucial component in ensuring the continuing quality of our parks and green spaces, making sure they are managed to the highest standards and are safe and accessible. We believe it should be a minimum standard for every park – and that everyone, wherever they live, should have access to high-quality green space. Parks play a key role in the health and wellbeing of the nation not only in the physical and mental health of us all, but also in the environmental health of the planet. Congratulations to all this year's winners.”

An intrinsic part of our landscape

Canals are an intrinsic part of our landscape with the quintessentially British sight of a narrowboat, lock or a humpback bridge familiar to anyone in towns or countryside alike. Today, as well as being visited by around 10 million people every fortnight, our waterways are used by around 35,000 boats. The Canal & River Trust is committed to protecting and preserving the waterways in its care since we were formed in 2012.

The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of green spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.

Green Flag Award-winning parks and green spaces can be found here.

*Two further waterways which currently hold Green Flags, the eight-mile-long Montgomery Canal, and a 20-mile stretch of the Weaver Navigation, including Anderton Boat Lift, are awaiting confirmation. If the awards are renewed, 620 miles of Trust waterways will hold Green Flag status.

Last Edited: 19 July 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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