The importance and potential of Wales’s canals to improve the prosperity of local communities was recognised at this week’s Royal Welsh Show, with a series of meetings between Welsh ministers and representatives from Glandŵr Cymru, the Canal & River Trust in Wales.
On Monday (21 July) the First Minister Carwyn Jones AM highlighted the vital contribution that the Welsh waterways make to tourism in the country. He also highlighted opportunities for youth employment and community cohesion, as well their importance as part of our natural, built and cultural heritage.
He said: “Our canals are a significant part of our industrial past and cultural heritage – but they are also much more. They have huge tourism potential and can also act as catalysts for the regeneration and renewal of communities.Glandŵr Cymru’s focus on allowing people to gain valuable skills on the waterways means that there are also significant employment opportunities.
Also on Monday Ken Skates AM Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology helped to launch the recruitment programme for our Heritage Skills for the Future project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project is seeking candidates to become trainees who will develop new qualifications to create a career path in the heritage sector.
He said: “I really enjoyed my visit to the Royal Welsh Show and the opportunity to talk to Glandŵr Cymru about the importance of heritage skills. From construction and maintenance works on the waterways to the needs of suppliers across Wales, the sector needs to be able to call on a range of specialised skills and people in order to function effectively. I’m keen to explore opportunities for developing construction, traditional building and rural skills to support this important industry and to making our Welsh canals and waterways a big success.”
Wednesday (23 July) saw the Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM, set out how the outdoor space provided by canals and rivers can help combat chronic health issues in some of the areas where there is greatest need.
He said: “We are fortunate in Wales that we have such a fantastic outdoor environment. We know that being active outdoors - whether it is our waterways, parks, or walking around our towns and cities - not only improves fitness, but also benefits mental health. Regular physical activity, particularly outdoor activity, is associated with a greater sense of wellbeing and lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups.”
In addition to the ministerial visits staff from Glandŵr Cymru’s Explorers education team ran activities for over 1,000 children who visited the Show, our ecologists were on hand to explain the abundance of wildlife found on Welsh canals and our local waterway team promoted opportunities for people to go boating and volunteer.