A reader has drawn our attention to the work of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), the charity that champions canal restoration and is working towards reopening 2,500 miles of derelict canals.
A report by the restoration hub of the IWA emphasised the benefits of canal restoration in terms of economic regeneration, wildlife and plant diversity, architectural heritage (above), tourism and education. Mike Palmer, the report’s main author, described the canal network as “a huge linear national park – a leisure park, a vital wildlife sanctuary, an important industrial heritage site and an environment-friendly transport system all rolled into one”. A detailed account of the work funded by the Heritage Lottery may be read in this issue of the Canal Boat.
John Dodwell, who has been active in restoring the waterways since 1961 and who chairs the Montgomery Canal Partnership, welcomed the IWA report. He said that a 1970 conference in Oxford on the urban future of canals “was instrumental in turning the tide with town planners and highway engineers”.
While the IWA report is being considered, its volunteers will be hard at work on projects, which include the Missing Mile on the Cotswold canals and eventually motorists on the A419 will see narrowboats crossing the middle of a roundabout; there is also junction 13 of the M5 to deal with, plus a major gas pipeline and two more roundabouts.
Exploratory work at Westfield Lock
Ecotricity has offered to fund the Westfield lock restoration work and, since 2017, staff have volunteered to work alongside the council, the Cotswold Canals Trust and visiting Waterway Recovery Group teams. It should be finished by 2023, bringing Stroud back on to the national network, linking the Severn with the Thames.
If permitted, the 2020 Annual Restoration Conference, jointly organised by The Inland Waterways Association and Canal & River Trust, will take place on Saturday 10th October 2020 at South Wolverhampton and Bilston Academy. This year’s theme is “Building resilience and creating connections”. Read more here.