Fifty years ago the southern section of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal was reopened and saved from closure, thanks in part, to two canoeists whose efforts helped turn the tide for Britain’s neglected canals. To celebrate this milestone we're calling on local canoeists to take part in an anniversary paddle along the much-loved waterway.
The event takes place on Saturday 21 June from 2pm recreating the journey taken in 1957 by the two plucky canoeists, John Pinder and Michael Fox, to prove to Warwickshire County Council that the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal was still a navigable waterway and worth saving. Their actions, ultimately, helped to save the canal from being filled in and lost forever and was a turning point for Britain’s beleaguered inland waterways.
The canal was eventually restored by volunteers led by David Hutchings and became the first canal restoration in the country. It was officially re-opened, in 1964 by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, an event commemorated in a poem by the then Poet Laureate, John Betjeman.
The canoe challenge will involve paddling just some, or all, of the 15-mile route from Hockley Heath to Stratford upon Avon. Paddlers will need to be able to provide their own canoes and safety equipment to take part in the event.
Len Cresswell, West Midlands waterways partnership member for the Canal & River Trust, said: “It’s easy to forget that the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal was nearly lost forever. The fact that we have such a brilliant and busy waterway today is thanks to the actions of a small number of people over 50 years ago – something we think is worth celebrating! We need lots of canoeists, whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or just fancy giving it a go, to come along on the day to celebrate this special anniversary.”
Ben Seal, from British Canoeing, adds: “Being out on a canoe is a great way to explore your local area. We are really lucky as we have so many miles of waterway here in the west midlands. The best part is that the sport is open to all, it’s great fun for any age, it’s really easy to pick up and allows you to see the canal from a different perspective.”
Anyone interested in coming along please meet at Wharf Tavern, Hockley Heath, Solihull, B94 6QT.
For more information please contact Len Cresswell at email@example.com