The past couple of years have been a time for us to break old habits, and find new ways to relax. Particularly when it comes to leisure activities, as British people have looked to nature and more sustainable ways of getting away from it all. So instead of jetting off to foreign parts, or even driving to the seaside, the country’s waterways have seen a resurgence in interest.
And the UK’s canals – whether on the water or the towpath – are a great place to experience the great outdoors. Indeed, a recent survey by the Canal & River Trust found that around two thirds of people experienced an improvement in their mood after visiting a canal, their sense of calm, happiness and energy boosted.
The Canal and River Trust is a charity responsible for the 2,000-mile waterway network of England and Wales, and which has launched a new podcast series, CanalCast. Its episodes involve experts from a range of areas, all helping to share the benefits of blue and green spaces to people’s wellbeing, how local communities can support their local spaces, and what people can do to get involved themselves.
Each episode sees host Louis Howell meet a range of experts from across the Trust, including Laura Mulholland (left), an Ecologist. “I’m really proud to work for the Trust,” she says, “especially now when we are reaching the final stages of the Unlocking the Severn project, which has been developing for the last six years in ‘my patch’.”
As an ecologist the wildlife in and around the waterways is of primary interest.
“This multi-million pound project is going to have such a significant impact on the fish populations in the River Severn,” she adds. “We are undoing some major mistakes that our ancestors made when they needed to make the river more navigable, and that is such an incredible achievement – hopefully boosting the protected Twaite shad population!” (a herring-like sea fish which migrates into fresh water to spawn).
Louis is Chair of their Youth Engagement Advisory Group, showing the Trust’s commitment to get young as well as old involved, and he also talks to Lucie Unsworth, the National Youth and Civil Society Manager. “Much of my work focuses on young people and their wider communities,” she says, “and encouraging a sense of ownership amongst local people.
“We want all communities to use, enjoy, love and help protect their canals, and benefit from spending time in these fantastic green and blue spaces.”
As well as encouraging people to make use of and enjoy the canals they also encourage involvement. National Boating Manager, Matthew Symonds (left) says: “We know that spending time besides or on the water is good for your wellbeing, so by helping maintain the waterways for boaters to enjoy, this certainly helps contribute to their wellbeing. Volunteers play a big role in supporting what we do – be it through our volunteer lock keepers, or people getting involved with a towpath task force, there are lots of ways you can help care for our waterways.”
Hear Canalcast and find out more at canalrivertrust.org.uk.