Thousands of people got involved in dozens of festivals, special events and projects to mark the 200th anniversary of England's longest man-made waterway. The main focus for the year was in October when the Kennet heritage education boat, run by the Canal Society, performed an epic nine-day ceremonial voyage from Leeds to Liverpool.
Hailed as one of the North's greatest ever water parties, church bells rang, bands played and 12 mayors, school children and well-wishers came out in their thousands to greet the boat on its 127-mile journey – a replica of the original procession by Lancashire and Yorkshire merchants in 1816.
Our Explorers programme, engaging with children and young people, brought the wonders of the waterways to nearly 200 schools along the canal route.
And our EveryMileCounts campaign, supported by a £36,600 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, has restored or replaced dozens of missing or damaged mileposts along the canal.
Over £5,000 has been donated by individuals and groups to support the project and more than 100 volunteers have donated their time and expertise to painting and repair work, including damaged half and quarter mile posts.
Volunteer groups have come from many different organisations including Cookson's canal action team, Maghull in Bloom, Barnoldswick in Bloom, Scarisbrick Marina, Thwaites Brewery, the Bingley JAMES motor education group, Princes Trust Blackburn, U3A Aintree, volunteer lock keepers and towpath taskforce volunteers in Sefton, Wigan, Blackburn, Burnley and Skipton.
A lasting legacy
Chantelle Seaborn, local waterway manager for the Trust, said: "The public response to the invitation to get involved in the bicentenary celebrations for this special canal was truly amazing. It proves that the Leeds & Liverpool is still valued as a living waterway for leisure activities, wildlife and heritage. There is a tremendous affection for the canal which was obvious in all the towns and villages along its route.
"We were particularly pleased by the response to the EveryMileCounts campaign which now leaves a lasting legacy from the celebrations. By the end of February we are expecting to have replaced 32 missing mileposts, 80 missing or damaged distance plates and over 100 missing half and quarter mile posts. We are particularly grateful to all those individuals and groups who have donated time and money to make this happen."
Although the canal is 200 years old, the original cast iron mile markers date back to the 1890s. They were installed as a response to legislation introduced to regulate canal freight tolls - the Railway and Canal Rates, Tolls and Charges Order of 1893. This prompted the whole of the canal to be re-surveyed and new mileposts, along with half and quarter mileposts, installed along the towpaths.
Over a century later and now gleaming in their new black and white paint, the milestones provide an attractive reference point for walkers, cyclists and boaters.