Sunday, 16 June 2013

Councillors view Canal restoration progress


The canal narrow boat Waterwitch was the venue for a delightful trip by Kendal, Lancaster, District and County Councillors to see the excavations and restoration of Lancaster Canal at Stainton on Friday.

Waterwitch, owned by the Lancaster Canal Trust, sailed under new livery featuring Nether Bridge, Kendal and Lancaster Castles and the coat of Arms of Lancaster and Kendal, painted by a group of artist members.

They were met at Crooklands landing stage by LCT President Hal Bagot and Richard Trevitt, the chairman of the organisation that has been dedicated to restoring and re-opening the length of the canal from Tewitfield, just north of Carnforth, to Kendal since 1963. The Trust also aims to increase awareness and promote interest amongst all users of this historic and beautiful waterway, be they boaters, walkers, cyclists, or anglers.

Disembarking at Stainton landing stage, where work continues in earnest on this long term engineering project, the party were impressed with the work already completed, mostly by volunteers, and looked forward to seeing the project complete and in water. The wildlife, flora and fauna of this beautiful stretch of canal was also appreciated.

The party were presented with information packs detailing work so far, as the Trust continues to seek support and backing for its restiration activities, which would do much to encourage more tourism, benefitting Lancaster, Carnforth and beyond.

"It's impossible for me to find adequate words to express my overwhelming admiration for all the Trust members and volunteers who have done such outstanding regeneration work," commented Lancaster City Councillor Ron Sands, who was so enthused by the trip he promptly joined the Trust to support what he calls their "exceptional work".

The 25 kilometre Northern Reaches of the Lancaster Canal were effectively blocked in the 1960s by the construction of the M6, which severed the waterway in three places. The restoration work, co-ordinated by the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership, seeks to tackle the reintegration of the waterway with three motorway and four trunk road crossings and work includes the enhancement and conservation of 52 historically important and listed structures.

Recently, the LCRP revived its attempts at canal restoration and is now looking at breaking down the long term programme into smaller projects that have more chance of finding grant funding, which can build on the volunteer work already in progress by Canal Trust, and possibly reverse the direction of restoration activity to proceed from south to north.

This means that the two miles of canal from Tewitfield to the Lancashire county boundary near Burton-in-Kendal are now critical to the restoration programme and the Trust has already begun discussions with Lancashire County Council and South Lakeland District Council.

The LRCP's work is one of a number of important projects across the UK to restore the canal network across the UK getting attention at the moment, considered vital for tourism and business alike.

As well as working towards full restoration, the Trust is committed to the ongoing maintenance of our existing heritage. As a result of the efforts of the Trust many of the Canal's original structures have been protected, further losses of cruising waterway have been successfully resisted, notably in Preston, and improvements have been made to the towpath by erecting interpretative panels at various sites along the canal.

The Canal Trust is one of the members of Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership, which aims to restore the Lancaster Canal to Canal Head, Kendal. It includes South Lakeland District Council, Cumbria County Council, Kendal Town Council, Canal & River Trust, Lancaster Canal Trust, The Inland Waterways Association, Lancashire County Council, Lancaster City Council and other interested groups.

• Lancaster Canal Trust web site: www.lctrust.co.uk

Read an article about work on the 'First Furlong' of work on the Canal at Stainton last year, which includes pictures of some of the canal still awaiting restoration on the Epiphany narrow boat web site

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