Building Waterways for the Future

Training Weekend
Created on 07/09/2017

Skills development and succession planning are key to the on going viability of our waterways. Investing in the right ideas now will help ensure the continuation of restoration projects and create the passionate campaigners of the future. We look at a few of the ways IWA are leading in this area and supporting others to do the same ...

Waterway Recovery Group has always recognised the importance of developing the skills of volunteers and hosts both an annual training weekend and leader's traing day to help do this. To get ready for a summer of Canal Camps, the training weekend focuses on key skills that will be needed on site. Volunteers can get an authorisation ticket allowing them to operate excavators, dumpers or vans for WRG, making them very valuable to the projects they visit.  They can also receive training and guidance on using site tools and scaffolding ensuring sites are a safe place for all. Leader's training focuses on up-skilling current Camp leaders and training future candidates, to ensure Camps will continue to run for many years to come.

This year, thanks to a grant from The Pilgrim Trust, they were able to add even more to the training calendar, by having lime mortar specialists Ty-Mawr deliver a two-day brick laying training course alongside the normal training weekend activities. The Ty-Mawr tutors are specialists in heritage assets and the use of lime in conservation and restoration. Fifteen volunteers were trained on both the science behind lime and material selection, as well as practical skills such as setting out building lines, building a corner, building a pillar, arch work and learning how to do pointing for face work. These volunteers then went on to use these skills at sites such as Inglesham Lock on the Thames & Severn Canal and Lock 15 on the Grantham Canal which are both at critical re-building stages. 


Grantham Canal Camp - Lock 15

For those individuals that want to train in a specialist skill, WRG also offers a training grant , with the aim of promoting a more confident and pro-active volunteer workforce. The award can provide up to 75% of direct costs, up to £750, with a maximum of 6 grants being awarded every year. Applicable skills are priority areas of interest, such as conservation/restoration skills, heritage management, ecology surveys, quantity surveying, nature conservation and first aid.

Skills training is crucial to future-proofing waterways restoration, but when the need can be addressed whilst also providing a solution to another problem, we start to see fantastic opportunities opening up for the waterways. A good example of this is the 'Waterworks' project that took place in Cwmbran, Wales. 

‘Waterworks’ was a heritage lottery funded project to restore 1.5km stretch of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, in Llantarnam, South Cwmbran. It was a partnership between Torfaen County Borough Council and the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canal Trust and involved a number of training organisations including Coleg Gwent, Torfaen Training, ITEC Training and Rathborne. The project was led by community volunteers and provided training in canal restoration and heritage skills to help sustain the canal in the future; the scheme has been celebrated not only for involving nearly 300 volunteers (including many from Waterway Recovery Group) but also for helping a number of its newly trained volunteers find work, in an area that is keen to see youth unemployment fall. In July of this year, the project won the coveted Preservation and Rejuvenation Award at the annual Construction Excellence Wales Awards, which are recognised as the biggest celebration of construction best practice in the country.


A very enjoyable WRG camp at Ty-Coch Locks!

Practical, hands-on proficiency is not the only skill-set required in waterways protection, restoration and management however. When IWA's Restoration Hub was establishing its vision for the future, it identified a need for groups to have team with a wide variety of skills and knowledge, in areas such as communication, marketing, fundraising, planning and health & safety. With this in mind, this year's joint IWA & CRT Restoration Workshop directly addressed a number of these topics, under the theme 'Fit for Purpose'. Sessions were held on areas such as building a sustainable volunteer workforce, working with policy makers, the current funding climate and developing a culture of health and safety. There was also a communications clinic hosted by IWA's marketing manager Alicen Stenner and Sheila Wade from the Wilts and Berks Canal Tust. A further need for support in this area was recognised and IWA & CRT have gone on to host dedicated communications workshops for restoration groups looking for help on this topic.

Help is available year round from IWA’s Restoration Hub, with advice, guidance and resources just a phone call, email or click away.  As well as assisting with problems though, we are keen to share achievements. In our role championing restoration at a national level, being able to tell success stories and examples of best practice is vital for demonstrating the value of the work groups are doing on our waterways and ensuring that key stakeholders, particularly in government,  put waterways  on their agenda. If you have a story or experience you can't wait to share with us, let us know on Twitter or Facebook using #HaveYourSay.

The future of our waterways was always going to look different to its past, but with creative ideas and passionate individuals, we can hope that it will be bright.

Find out more about how a gift in your will can help IWA inspire the next generation to protect and restore our waterways, by visiting or contacting our Finance Manager.

Tags: Restoration