As Canal & River Trust counts the cost of this month’s floods, it calls on the public to help Keep Canals Alive Volunteer campaign backed by TV presenter and Canal & River Trust Ambassador Ranvir Singh.
A call out is being made for volunteers to come forward to help care for the nation’s historic canals and the wildlife habitats along them. The appeal coincides with the aftermath of this month’s storms which shows how extreme weather events, alongside the passage of time, are increasing the task for the Canal & River Trust to protect its 250-year-old collection of canals across England and Wales.
As floodwaters recede, the Trust is highlighting the range of ways people of all ages and abilities can help to keep their local canal alive.
The appeal, championed by Ranvir Singh who is currently hosting hit ITV quiz show, Riddiculous, emphasises the vital role volunteers play in sustaining these centuries-old routes for boats and much needed spaces for both wildlife and people.
Ranvir Singh, said: “Although there has been a remarkable growth in canal volunteering over the past decade, the ever more extreme weather events brought about by climate change illustrate the fragility of our national collection of canals and the much-loved wildlife that they are home to.
“As this season passes into spring and then into summer, there is such a wide variety of volunteering opportunities to get involved with on your local canal. Last year thousands of volunteers contributed over half a million hours to the Canal & River Trust. Taking part helps you feel like you have a legacy within your local area and to be proud of the environment you live in. It’s great to think that you can improve your own wellbeing, your community and even the environment in one go, just by volunteering!”
Complementing the charity’s expert staff, volunteers will assist the Canal & River Trust in a variety of roles including joining or leading teams helping to carry out basic canal maintenance and wildlife improvements, volunteer lock keeping, operating historic swing bridges, helping the charity at its waterway museums, and going into schools to teach children about canals and staying safe by water.
Christine Mellor, head of volunteering at Canal & River Trust, said: “Volunteering has gone from strength to strength over the past decade, with our dedicated volunteers working alongside our teams of experts, expanding the impact of the work we are able to carry out. With volunteers’ support, donating their time, knowledge, and skills, we are better able to keep our canals available for nature and wildlife and for communities to benefit from. The ageing canal network, coupled with the challenges of extreme weather events and recently announced future cuts in government funding, demands our call out for all hands on deck and, if you are interested and thinking of joining us, our message is ‘your canal needs you’.”
As well as helping the charity, volunteering on the canals provides its own health benefits. Canals have been proven to have a positive impact on people’s mental wellbeing. A study last year by King’s College London showed positive associations between visits to canals and rivers and mental wellbeing, as well as a positive experience for feelings of safety and social inclusion relative to other environments.
According to the data, in the last four years there has been a 30 per cent increase in people using canals for a range of leisure uses including boating, angling, walking, cycling, running, paddle boarding as well as walking the dog and even commuting. Nine million people in England and Wales are within a ten-minute walk of the canal network.
For further information and to find out how best to get involved visit: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteer
Find out more about the Keep Canals Alive campaign here: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/support-us/our-campaigns/keep-canals-alive