Passing on a passion for our waterways

Created on 07/09/2017

'Remember a Charity', a campaigning group which aims to inspire more people to consider leaving a charitable gift in their Will, is encouraging people to ‘Have Your Say on the World You Want to Pass On’. In the spirit of this, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the future of the waterways and look at what is being done throughout IWA and beyond to pass on a passion for our waterways to the next generation. We also want to invite you to share your own opinions about your personal vision for the waterways – let us know your thoughts on our Twitter and Facebook pages using #HaveYourSay. 

Summer Camps, Shows and 'Staycations'

Exciting and engaging the canal campaigners of the future will help to ensure the legacy of industrial heritage lives on and is enjoyed for generations to come. Waterway Recovery Group has long been helping enthusiastic volunteers aged 18 - 80 to engage in waterways heritage through their summer canal camps. These camps can be a fantastic first introduction to  canal restoration - in 2016 alone, 58 students completed the residential section of their Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold awards by partaking in one of the week long working holidays.  For many this leads to a long-term interest and 2017 has seen a fantastic number of younger volunteers progress to senior roles on camp, such as assistant leaders and cooks.


This year WRG have taken things one step further though, hosting a dedicated ‘family camp’ for keen volunteers who are under the current camp age limit of 18. In late July, six families with children aged 9 – 12 enjoyed a weekend of volunteering on the Uttoxeter canal, taking on a variety of tasks, from Himalayan Balsam clearance to making bat boxes. Following the event, Steve Wood of Caldon and Uttoxeter Canals Trust said  “It was great to introduce young people to volunteering on canal restoration projects, and to see the families enjoying each others company in the beautiful surroundings of the Churnet Valley’’. One of the young attendees also commented “It was a really great weekend because we got to make new friends and have fun.  My favourite activity was the Himalayan Balsam sculpture competition because it was easy to pull up and it also helped the environment.”

Waterway Recovery Group certainly thought the events were a success and plan to host even more family camps in 2018, so look out for upcoming dates.

WRG Family Camp

Hopefully we will see some of these faces on restoration sites in the future!

 The festival season also provides a perfect opportunity to interact and engage with a new audience. IWA brings canal history and heritage to life with fun, interactive activities and WRG regularly teach some very young candidates how to brick lay and ‘drive’ a digger – nothing wrong with laying the groundwork early!

Bricklaying at Ricky

When we speak to our volunteers about how they got interested in the waterways, a huge proportion of them say their first interaction was through a boating holiday, often with their family when they were younger. This seems to reoccur as a formative experience for so many people involved in the waterways and acts as a trigger for them finding out more about what they can do to help the network thrive. Speaking to owner of popular holiday hire-boat company, Wyvern Shipping, there certainly still seems to be a market for younger cruisers; they approximate that 35% of their bookings are for couples aged under 50 and 15% of are taken from families with children of a school age. Furthermore, with 2017 seeing a 23% rise in Brits deciding to stay in the UK rather than venture abroad for their summer holidays, plus the growth in popularity of TV shows such as ‘Great Canal Journeys’ and ‘Celebrity Carry on Barging’ , we may see even more families opting to spend a ‘staycation’ on the waterways in coming years.

When IWA Raffle winner,  Janette Horton, claimed her prize of a weekend boating trip, one of the highlights of her trip was being able to take three of her grandchildren out on the waterways for a day, she said ‘they really enjoyed the boating experience and were very interested in the wildlife on the canals’.

So, with the continued commitment and effort from organisations  it seems there is hope for a future generation of Navvies yet!

To find out more about how a gift in your will can help IWA inspire the next generation to protect and restore our waterways, visit or contact our Finance Manager.

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Tags: IWA Campaigns