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The charity making life better by water

We're investing £50M in vital conservation work this winter

We're embarking on a programme of winter repairs along 2,000 miles of historic canals across England and Wales.

Winter canal works

47 different waterways will benefit, with 138 large-scale works to replace worn-out lock gates, inspect tunnels and aqueducts, repair centuries-old masonry and brickwork, together with a host of other important heritage and conservation tasks.

Heritage and conservation tasks

As the nation’s largest canal charity, we've raised more than £50 million to carry out the works, which will run over the winter months when fewer boats are using the canal network. Our specialist carpenters have handcrafted 124 lock gates for the works, a vital part of ensuring canals are kept open and safe for boats.

We're offering the public a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes at some of the work sites as we host both face-to-face and online ‘virtual’ open days. The free-to-access events will showcase the vital conservation work needed to keep the 250-year-old canal network in working order.

With thousands of bridges, locks, aqueducts, tunnels and embankments that date back centuries, it is a massive task to keep canals in working order for boats, for local communities, and for the benefit of wildlife. The effort involves the Trust’s passionate team of specialists aided by thousands of dedicated volunteers, donors and partners.

Open Days

The open days will tell the story of the vital canal repairs and maintenance taking place this winter through the people who carry them out. Highlights are five face-to-face open days, including at locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal, Shropshire Union Canal and Birmingham Mainline Canal where time-worn gates are being replaced with new handcrafted oak gates made by the Trust’s specialist carpenters.

The first face-to-face open day gets underway on 3 December on the Nottingham & Beeston Canal at Meadow Lane Lock where the canal, close to both Nottingham Forest’s City Ground and Notts County’s Meadow Lane, is getting new lock gates. This is then followed in January by a face-to-face open event at Brent Reservoir in northwest London where the water is being drained and activity includes a big community clean-up, alongside wildlife improvements and statutory repairs at this urban nature reserve.

For those who aren’t local, or who prefer to ‘visit’ from the comfort of their own home, we will be hosting a series of virtual open days on its website which start with the refurbishment of lift bridges on the Oxford Canal where the Trust has been granted listed building consent to carry out a £650,000 refurbishment on four of the canal’s iconic Grade II Listed lift bridges – a familiar part of the landscape for nearly 250 years. The virtual open days will also take a look behind the scenes at dredging works on the Trent & Mersey Canal and, early in the new year, attention will turn to the Unesco World Heritage site at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which is being drained for an important 126ft high inspection of the longest aqueduct in Britain and the highest canal aqueduct in the world.

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Come along and discover how we keep canals alive today.
Richard Parry, chief executive

Richard Parry, chief executive at Canal & River Trust, said: “Our canals date back to the first days of the Industrial Revolution. They were the first transport network of the industrial age and, today, are still used and navigated by boats as they have been for hundreds of years.

“Every winter, when the canals are quieter, we carry out an intensive programme of repairs, and we invite the public to come and see behind the scenes at our face-to-face and virtual open days. These are fantastic opportunities for people to find out more about the canals on their doorstep, and the skill and knowledge of the people caring for them. The nation’s canal network has stood the test of time and is a piece of living history that everyone can enjoy – come along and discover how we keep canals alive today.”

Booking for the other open days taking place in the new year will be available soon. Please check our homepage for details.

Last Edited: 24 May 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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