Canal and River Trust launches podcast about canals and benefits of visiting the waterways

Over the pandemic local canals have seen a huge uptake in visitors with many people discovering them for the first time or increasing their visits to get outside.

The nation’s former industrial canals play a vital role as the ‘back garden’ for millions of people, including many of the one in eight nationwide who don’t have a garden.

A recent survey* by the Canal & River Trust, revealed that after a visit to a canal, 63 per cent of people noticed a positive improvement in their mood; delving into this deeper, 67 per cent said they felt calm, 62 per cent felt happy, and 41 per cent said they felt more energetic.

The Canal & River Trust which looks after Lancaster canal amongst others across the country has recently launched their own podcast series, CanalCast, to help share the benefits of blue and green spaces to people’s wellbeing, as well as giving an insight into the experts who work on the canals and rivers network, the work they do to upkeep the space, and how local communities can get involved with their local spaces.

This lovely scene, titled Reflections of the Lancaster Canal, was taken on a January morning by reader Bob Graham.

When asked how her role helps local communities, Lucie Unsworth, the National Youth and Civil Society Manager, who is featured in Episode Two, said: “Much of my work focuses on young people and their wider communities, and encouraging a sense of ownership amongst local people.

"I work with a range of partners, policy makers and young people to understand different needs, priorities and challenges that face different communities and how the Trust can best make a positive difference to personal, community and environmental wellbeing.

"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.”

When asked how the public can get involved, National Boating Manager at the Canal & River Trust, Matthew Symonds, who is interviewed in Episode Four, said : “The favourite thing about my role is meeting our boaters and hearing about their passion for the waterways and boating. There is such diversity amongst the boating community; I love meeting and hearing from them and trying to help improve the waterways for their and others enjoyment.

"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.

"In addition to my work, 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 and in turn help boaters.

Laura Mullholland, an Ecologist from Episode One of CanalCast, shares her favourite thing about her role : “I love my job and I know that I am incredibly fortunate to be earning a wage doing my childhood dream of looking after the wildlife and protecting their homes.

"I’m really proud to work for the Trust, especially now when we are reaching the final stages of the Unlocking the Severn project, which has been developing for the last 6 years in ‘my patch’.

"This multi-million pound project is going to have such a significant impact on the fish populations in the River Severn; 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!”

Join host Louis Howell, Canal & River Trust Council member and Chair of their Youth Engagement Advisory Group, as he meets a range of experts from across the Trust, finding out all about the valuable work that is being done to look after the vital 2,000-miles waterway network.

They’ll also be sharing insight into how this is helping local communities and can improve wellbeing, as well as how the public can get involved with different projects across the Trust.

You can listen to the episodes of the podcast on the CanalCast page here or on other podcast providers including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Tuneln.

What are the different episodes about?

Episode One – Helping Nature Recover

Featuring: Peter Birch, National Environment Policy Officer, Laura Mullholland, Ecologist and Paul Wilkinson, Senior Ecologist

Episode Two – Improving Health and Wellbeing by Water

Featuring: Lucie Unsworth, Youth and Civil Society Manager, Phil Mulligan, Regional Director for East Midlands and Emma Hicks, Active Waterways Cheshire Lead

Episode Three – Managing Water on Our Canals

Featuring: Adam Comerford, National Hydrology Manager, Natalie Bennett, principle Reservoir Engineer and Darren Leftly

Episode Four – Boats and Boaters

Featuring: Matthew Symonds, National Boating Manager, Debbi Figueiredo, License Support Advisor and Seam Williams, Welfare Officer

Episode Five – Our Heritage and Collections

Featuring: Naiomi Kempton, National Heritage Policy Advisor, Graham Boxer, Head of Collections and Archive and Morgan Cowles, Heritage and Environment Team Manager

Episode Six – Managing an 18th Century Network in a 21st Century World

Featuring: Sally Boddy, Regional Engineer, Dean Davies, Head of Direct Services and Daniel Greenhalgh, Regional Director of the North West

For further information on the Canal & River Trust and details on how you can support, please visit: canalrivertrust.org.uk/ .

*Survey data comes from the Waterways Engagement Monitor survey from October 2020 to June 2021. The survey is representative of the adult population of England and Wales (16+) where 1700 people were interviewed each month. The survey was conducted for the Canal & River Trust by DJS research.