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How you can help safeguard Yorkshire’s waterways

PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 July 2017

The view from the top of Bingley Five Rise � a spectacular staircase of locks on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal

The view from the top of Bingley Five Rise � a spectacular staircase of locks on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal

jake sugden

A new scheme allows you to adopt a mile-long stretch of your local canal

Woodlesford Lock – a linear garden for the whole community to enjoyWoodlesford Lock – a linear garden for the whole community to enjoy

Great swathes of Yorkshire owe their existence to the county’s rivers and canals. Without them, industries would not have flourished, towns would not have grown and communities would not have thrived.

Now, the Canal & River Trust is urging communities to say thank you by adopting a mile-long stretch of their local canal.

The call is part of the charity’s wider plans to ensure that the region’s waterways – including the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, Aire & Calder Navigation and Calder & Hebble Navigation – continue to thrive and don’t fall back into the dereliction of the mid-20th century, when some sections were almost lost forever.

Adoption groups are being encouraged to work in partnership with the Trust to improve wildlife habitats and access for local people, to creating linear veg-patches for the community and to generally make each mile matter by working at least one day a month for 12 months.

A busy day on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Bingley, overseen by a Canal & River Trust volunteerA busy day on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Bingley, overseen by a Canal & River Trust volunteer

Local waterways are arguably as important today as they have ever been,’ said Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust. ‘They have evolved from freight highways to linear parks in our towns and cities. They are places for us all to escape – havens for both people and wildlife.

‘But to make sure this valuable legacy thrives in the future, we need to capitalise on the huge pride people have in them and encourage groups to work alongside us to make it happen. We see how much a stretch of canal is improved if local people help us to look after it; that’s why we’ve set an ambitious target for people to show their love for their local canal.’

The Trust’s adoption appeal is being supported by TV personality and champion of the great outdoors Julia Bradbury.

‘Two hundred years ago, canals helped to transform the face of Britain, bringing about unprecedented change to our economy and society,’ she said. ‘The legacy we have today is among the finest examples of industrial heritage in the world, yet the biggest threat our waterways face is apathy.

The Friends of Freda’s Garden keep this stretch of the Aire & Calder Navigation in tip-top condition in memory of their neighbourThe Friends of Freda’s Garden keep this stretch of the Aire & Calder Navigation in tip-top condition in memory of their neighbour

‘Last century, it was pioneering volunteers who rolled up their sleeves to help save the waterways from being lost forever. And today when I’m out exploring and taking in the waterways, I’ve seen what a difference it makes when local communities come together and make their stretch come to life. I’d encourage anyone with a community spirit and a bit of time to spare to see how they can get involved.’

There are already more than 160 adoption groups working across the country, including scouts, neighbourhood societies, running groups and schools. Nationally, the aim is to get a quarter of the Canal & River Trust’s network – about 500 miles in all – adopted by 2025.

Denise Wilson, co-owner of the Stables Café at Oddy Lock in Leeds, is already doing her bit.

‘Our tea-room is less than a mile from Leeds city centre on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal,’ she said. ‘It’s a wonderful stretch of waterway, a great place to get away from it all.

‘We’ve been helping with the general housekeeping along this part of the waterway since 2014 and are delighted to have officially adopted the stretch since April 2017. Our work covers everything from removing graffiti and litter picks to planting and cutting back vegetation. It’s great to hear the positive feedback from people passing by and our customers. We’re passionate about helping others to make the most of this wonderful resource on their doorstep.’

Salendine Nook High School in Huddersfield adopted a stretch of Huddersfield Broad Canal in September last year and have already trimmed back overgrown vegetation, repainted locks and created a colourful new artwork overlooking the lock at Red Doles Lane to cover up existing graffiti.

‘Working with the Canal & River Trust through the adoption scheme has been a great opportunity for our Year 10 students to work towards their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award while helping to make a difference to the local community,’ said teacher Jon Smith.

In Knottingley, a small group formed two years ago to adopt a short stretch of the Aire & Calder Navigation in memory of their neighbour and friend Freda Turner.

‘She was a passionate gardener who tended to this section of the towpath and created a planting scheme that became an attraction for passers-by,’ said Mark Lovett, a member of the Friends of Freda’s Garden. ‘Since her passing, we have maintained this stretch of canal, clearing brambles, nettles and ivy and planting flowers, continuing the spirit of her garden.’

If you would like to follow in their community-minded footsteps and adopt a mile of local waterway, or would like to train as a volunteer lock-keeper, visit

Life along Yorkshire’s rivers and canals

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