Canal & River Trust
Tell us a bit about your community group…
We’re a Scout group based in Thornton, Liverpool. With the support of our young leaders (aged 14-18), we deliver a fun programme that engages young people and encourages them to develop as valued citizens in our community. Scouting covers all aspects of life from community projects, teamwork and global issues, to exploring the great outdoors, leadership, creativity and personal challenges. It encourages young people to learn self respect and respect for others.
What inspired you to adopt a canal?
In 2015, we started a project called A Million Hands – a national initiative that helps young people participate in community projects in their local area. We chose to support the mental health charity Mind because we felt there wasn’t enough awareness about mental health.
We took part in workshops that taught us about the struggles many people face and how it’s good to talk, to enjoy the outdoors and to be with friends.
Working with other agencies, we pledged to create a space where people could go and talk to others, to learn more about mental health and raise awareness of it. The canal, which runs through the heart of our community, seemed the ideal place for this, especially as we use the waterway for a lot for our activities.
So far, we’ve been out clearing the canal on land and water, planting seasonal bulbs, designing mosaics, sculptures and fishing pegs that promote the message: ‘It’s good to talk’. The project is youth-led, so all the ideas have come from our young Scouts.
Tell us about the stretch of canal of you’ve adopted – what’s it like?
It’s between Netherton and Litherland, close to Rimrose Valley Park, which is home to a diversity of birds and other creatures. A number of bridges along the stretch link the housing estates to the park, as well as places to enjoy the tranquility of the countryside.
Our adopted section is just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre and the docklands – a hidden gem where families enjoy walking, fishing, and boating. We’ve seen many people using the stretch to commute to and from work; it’s a much safer option than cycling along the busy trunk roads.
What’s your biggest achievement so far since adopting the canal?
Last year, our troop was shortlisted for the Culture, Education and Learning award at the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Bicentenary Awards, which was an honour. But I think our greatest achievement is that we have developed an understanding of mental health and have helped others to understand more about it, too.
Have there been any challenges?
It was a challenge to get all the partner agencies working together, but we’re now linked with Wirral Mind, Imagine Independence, Merseyside Police and Time to Change, as well as the Canal & River Trust. We feel proud that our project has encouraged lots of agencies to unite.
What’s your current list of tasks?
We’re doing more cleaning of the canal in our canoes and finalising plans for the picnic area, which will involve adding bird boxes, installing notice boards and planting flowers around our rock art installation.
Any plans for the future?
We’ve had lots of ideas to keep us busy over the next year or so, including to make audio recordings called ‘Memory Walks’, which will describe the flora, fauna and other features along the towpath. It will help paint pictures for visually impaired people and help bring back memories for dementia sufferers. Also, we’d like to host a lantern festival, encouraging visitors to make lanterns and float them on the water.
Most of all, we’ll continue to encourage people to keep talking to each other, and to look after your mental health.
How can others get involved?
If you’d like to get involved with our project, email our Scout Leader Catherine Ashcroft:
gsl4thCrosby@live.co.uk or Chris Farley: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you could contact Alice Kay at the Canal & River Trust: alice.Kay@canalrivertrust.org.uk.
The Canal & River Trust is helping local groups around the country to adopt a stretch of waterway to benefit their community. To find out more and get involved visit canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteer/adopt-a-canal