The volunteers who help to look after Gloucester’s canals and docks were the envy of Europe when canal bosses from the Netherlands travelled across the channel to see their work first hand.
The guests, from Waterrecreatie Nederland (The Dutch Recreational Waterways Foundation), visited staff from the Canal & River Trust to learn about the various ways people volunteer on the waterways, and met with Grow Gloucestershire ‘Intern of the Year’ Chris Duthrie, who now works for the Trust after volunteering during his studies.
Volunteering on the waterways has taken off in recent years, with volunteers across the country having spent 411,000 hours giving back to their local canals and rivers last year. Roles available throughout Gloucestershire include helping to keep the nearly 200-year old system running by assisting with maintenance jobs, to meeting, greeting and sharing local knowledge with canal visitors at popular spots.
Caroline Kendall, volunteer development coordinator at the Canal & River Trust, said: “The Netherlands is a country famous for its canals, so to have representatives come to learn about how our volunteers get involved shows what a fantastic job they’re doing. One of the great things about volunteering with the Trust is the range of roles available to people, from being a volunteer with one of our technical teams to helping us out in the office.”
Manon van Meer, from Waterrecreatie Nederland said: “In the Netherlands, many small waterways have lost their commercial transport role and the rise in the recreational use of waterways requires new facilities, additional space and better accessibility. To make this possible, it is vital to secure the existing network of waterways as cultural heritage. We have learned that volunteers can play a vital role in this and we are impressed by the approach of the Trust.”
The visit formed part of the ‘Numericanal’ partnership project, funded by Interreg NWE, that aims to use technology to enable more efficient management of inland waterways.