First article: Life is better by water

Logo: Canal & River Trust

Canal & River Trust

The Trust works with communities to improve the canal and canalside  environment (Canal & River Trust)
The Trust works with communities to improve the canal and canalside environment (Canal & River Trust)

Canal & River Trust cares for 2,000 miles of waterways, stretching from Brecon to Boston, and from Lancaster to London. This extensive network of canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks connect villages with towns, cities with countryside, giving millions of people immediate access to space where they can relax, unwind and enjoy being closer to nature.

According to independent research, spending time by these waterways makes people happier and increases life satisfaction, and the longer people spend by water the happier and more satisfied they are. Connecting with nature has a demonstrable impact on our wellbeing and the Trust’s canals play a crucial role in bringing this natural environment into the heart of our busiest cities, creating a natural corridor linking wildlife habitats. These waterways are some of the most bio-diverse spaces in the country – 30% of them have been officially recognised for their special environmental value.

Connecting people with nature

The Trust’s environment team is involved in a wide range of work from creating new habitats, improving water quality or helping people learn about the water environment. They also work with communities across England and Wales to encourage more people to care for and use these waterways as part of their daily life and have a number of projects that are helping to transform both people’s attitudes to canals and the canals themselves.

One such initiative, Community Roots, has been engaging local communities in Greater Manchester and Birmingham with the natural environment of their waterways including sites of special scientific interest on the Rochdale & Huddersfield Narrow canals.

By working with people in these areas, the Trust is creating a connection with nature, enhancing these environmentally important sites and giving volunteers the opportunity to develop a wide range of environmental management skills.

Flowering Luronium Natans (also called Floating Water Plantain)  (Canal & River Trust)
Flowering Luronium Natans (also called Floating Water Plantain) (Canal & River Trust)

As part of this project, the Trust has been working with Bury College to give student volunteers first-hand experience in ecology surveying including species identification, surveying techniques and data collection. Following their involvement, students have successfully progressed to university to pursue related careers while others have used the skills acquired to move into employment.

As well as the direct benefits to young people, since starting the project, the aquatic plant Luronium Natans (also called Floating Water Plantain) has flowered at the site for the first time in over 10 years, there have been fewer incidences of anti-social behaviour, graffiti and littering along the canals and more people are using the waterway.

Helping people find new paths

The Trust is also committed to helping and supporting the next generation of environmental scientists and ecologists. One example is Glen who began volunteering with the Trust as part of his university placement year. A second year BSc Geography student, he was looking to gain some environmental work experience and joined the charity as technical volunteer environmental assistant where he worked closely with the Trust’s environmental scientists and ecologists, conducting surveys, environmental monitoring and auditing as well as dealing with pollution incidents. Glen was also involved the Trust’s pioneering project to secure Green Flag Status for the Macclesfield Canal, the first canal in the UK to achieve this award.

Glen, Canal & River Trust environmental assistant (Canal & River Trust)
Glen, Canal & River Trust environmental assistant (Canal & River Trust)

Once his placement period ended, Glen continued to volunteer with the Trust. He explains: “The practical skills and knowledge I gained from volunteering with the Trust were invaluable. In addition, doing my placement year gave me the discipline to work hard at my final year at Uni. I graduated with first class honours and my dissertation, which investigated subjects raised by the Trust’s environment team, was awarded best dissertation by the Manchester Geographical Society.”

After graduation, Glen joined the Trust’s environment team as graduate environmental assistant, initially part time whilst he studied for an MSc in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development. He is now a full time environmental assistant with the Trust.

Canal & River Trust knows the waterways that it cares for have the power to make a real difference to people’s lives, and that spending time by water makes people healthier and happier. The Trust cares for and brings to life 2,000 miles of canals and rivers across England and Wales. Through its work, it is transforming places and bringing communities together to create places where people want to be.

To find out more about Canal & River Trust and how you can help as well as the volunteering and work opportunities available, visit

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Posted On: 11/12/2018

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