If you’d like to wake up to the sound of gently lapping water and birds singing sweetly at the crack of dawn then you should consider getting on board with the canal revival currently taking place in the UK. Many people still have an image of canals filled with broken shopping trolleys and a putrid smell, but it’s time to right this wrong because many canals are no longer the eyesores to be avoided like the plague that they once were. Instead, these days you’re more likely to see otters at play and kingfishers flying overhead than gurgling slime and swarms of flies.
The clean-up of the country’s canals has been one of the UK’s biggest environmental projects. The clean-up began during the 60s, which also marked the rise of leisure boating and so, the natural union between environmental agencies and people who wanted to keep the canals open for boating activities was inevitable. At the time, government was proposing to close canals that weren’t commercially viable, but with the help of dedicated volunteers, the reparation and restoration of the canals began.
Environmentalists believed that the canals added value to their surroundings economically, aesthetically and socially and research from the University of Northampton has proven the environmentalists right on the money and then some!
According to the research, canal restoration can trigger an increase in walkers, joggers and kayakers, which contributes to an increased number of commercial enterprises, like restaurants, which in turn can boost property values by 15 to 25 per cent.
To maintain this increase in value, communities living along the banks of two Victorian canals in Manchester have started running monthly clean-up days to keep the canals looking their very best. They have set up the Ancoats Canal Project and are working with support from the national charity The Canal and River Trust to publicise the history of the canals to encourage more people to make use of the waterways as places of leisure and relaxation.
The Canal and River Trust oversees 2,000 miles of historic waterways in England and Wales, and has been actively working to raise awareness of the waterways by recruiting and calling for more groups to keep up the project of regeneration.
A large number of the new-build regeneration schemes near inner-city canals target first-time buyers. For example, Bellway’s Canalside project is a small development of 13 homes on the Kennet and Avon Canal in Thatcham, Berks. Alperton in North-West London has a big development project to the value of £530 million, with 441 apartments along the Grand Union Canal; it is projected to take ten years to complete and includes a communal garden, shops, a health centre and primary school.
Even Richard Branson has been part of the canal revival (albeit perhaps unwittingly), as he launched his very famous and successful Virgin Empire from his houseboat on the canal. So if you’ve still got a stale picture of the canals as a prop left behind from some long gone industrial age, it’s time to revisit the idea and take a walk along any of the many canals found in the UK. You’re almost guaranteed to feel a sense of peace and wonder.