Posted on 16/09/2019
The canals of England and Wales would not be the same without their volunteers. These often consist of groups of locals who are determined to protect, restore and promote their nearest stretch of canal. Some societies have roots that go back decades, into the post-war era when canals were threatened with annihilation. Others like the Braunston Canal Society (BCS) are more recent creations, having formed in 2012 to improve and maintain the section of the Grand Union Canal that runs through Braunston. The BCS was formed during an era when canals are highly valued as public spaces, and they want to ensure people can continue to enjoy and benefit from their local waterway.
Located at the junction of the Grand Union Canal and the Oxford Canal, Braunston is one of the busiest parts of the UK canal network. Part of that is due to the presence of Braunston Marina, which has moorings for 250 boats, a popular brokerage, and dry and wet docks. The marina hosts an annual Historic Boat Rally, which attracts dozens of old working boats and features a variety of traditional crafts and trade exhibitors. This brings thousands of people each year to Braunston, making it a busy and high-profile event but leading to increased wear and tear on canal infrastructure. That’s what the Braunston Canal Society is there to deal with. The group was formed in February 2012 and by the end of that year had agreed with Canal & River Trust to adopt the canal at Braunston. Canal adoption can take many forms, but for a larger community group like the BCS it means promising to hold monthly work parties while remaining in close contact with Canal & River Trust to let them know about any larger problems that require greater intervention.
Braunston Canal Society have task party days twice a month. The collect litter, clear towpaths, paint locks, lay stones, trim hedgerows and maintain the flight of six double locks. They also look after the various canal buildings at Braunston, including the lock keeper hut and dry dock. It’s quite a commitment but it means one of the UK’s most visited stretches of canals remains a local and national treasure.