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The charity making life better by water


Working with local canal restoration groups and other partners, we're helping to repair and reinvigorate parts of the canal network that have been forgotten.

  • Read the video transcript

    The Canal & River Trust look after and bring to life 2,000 miles of canals, rivers, and reservoirs across England and Wales because we believe that life is better by water. Much of our network is over 200 years old and after the Industrial Revolution, some of these canals fell into disrepair, were filled in, and built over. Working with local groups and volunteers, we are helping to reinvigorate the parts of the canal network that have been lost and forgotten.

    What I like about volunteering is the friendship you get with meeting like-minded people, and we get a lot of comments from people walking along – you've done a wonderful job.

    It is lovely seeing the transformation. You can really see the difference. It's just a lovely way to spend the odd weekend.

    There's more people walking down this canal now than there were when I first started, and the more we can do to open it up, it'll help people to enjoy life a bit more.

    At the Grantham Canal, local volunteers have made a huge impact transforming it from an unloved space to miles of high-quality waterway.

    If you were here six years ago, this canal here was completely overgrown with reeds, very silted up, had crumbling and broken walls. But was a time capsule – it still had a lot of its original heritage features here, just waiting to be saved. We took it all the way down to its floor level and rebuilt it. It's been an immense achievement by everybody that's been involved in the partnership. It's probably been a bigger project than we were ever envisaging, but we've had such enthusiastic volunteers putting in so much work day in day out.

    At the Montgomery Canal, volunteers have been hard at work making overgrown and unloved sections of the canal navigable once again.

    We're on the Montgomery Canal in Oswestry. It's a major canal restoration project. It's been derelict since the early 20th century, more like a swamp than an actual working canal. As part of the restoration of the canal, we've created some large nature reserves, as well the soft vegetation around the banks, the area just bringing to life at the moment. The volunteers are brilliant. They've taken on the project from the beginning, and they'll see it through to the end. They're very skilled, very committed, they’re a real pleasure to work with.

    Volunteering can also be a great way to build skills, stay active, and make friends.

    I've been volunteering here for about two years. It's a lovely opportunity to meet some nice, interesting people and do something that you can only do as a group – no one individual could do all this, and it's just lovely to be part of something bigger than yourself.

    You didn't need to have any construction experience to come along and get involved in this project, and we've trained volunteers in everything from using small tools all the way through to operating excavators and dumpers. With these projects and many more like them, the Canal & River Trust is working hard every day to conserve and restore the waterways of England and Wales.

    Whenever I visit a site where canal restoration is taking place and I've seen the work that is done by volunteers, it's absolutely awe-inspiring. Structures that served communities in the past being restored and the passion that goes into it, it's just awe-inspiring, as I said.

    We're always in need of help, and we need volunteers of all ages to work alongside us, whatever your skills or abilities, not only with construction but with fundraising communications and community engagement. By getting involved with your local restoration group, you could help to bring these much-needed spaces back to life.

    To find out more about your local canal restoration project and to connect to your nearest group, please view the restoration map on our website. We'd love to have your support.

At the height of the Industrial Revolution thousands of miles of canal were built to transport goods and raw materials around the country. Our canals were the envy of the world, and helped to establish Britain as an industrial powerhouse.

However, after years of neglect, many became derelict. We're campaigning to restore the country's lost waterways and by getting involved with your local restoration group, you could help to bring these much-needed spaces back to life.

Tireless efforts

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of thousands of volunteers, over 200 miles of canals have been restored since the turn of the millennium. These restorations have brought prosperity to communities, boosted property prices and helped local people to lead active, healthy lifestyles.

Crickheath basin restoration, Montgomery Canal

We want more people to appreciate the importance of our historic canals and play their part in supporting and championing the heroic efforts of local canal restoration groups.

Below you can explore current and potential restorations in your local area and also see how the canal network has changed over time.

Last Edited: 24 January 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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