Photo: Peter Scott
Strips of land alongside canals can often fall into dereliction and misuse. But if they are handed over to the local community, remarkable things can be created such as the linear garden in Todmorden alongside the Rochdale Canal, which has been designed and maintained by volunteers with the support of the Canal & River Trust. The garden is one of several spaces in Todmorden that provide food for the local community, but it also acts as a place to get away from the whirlwind of modern life and re-engage with nature and your inner self.
The linear larder was created with the support of the Canal & River Trust thanks to a local volunteer, who campaigned to raise funds to install public benches, bird boxes and fruit trees on the towpath alongside the Rochdale Canal. The Trust donated some wood to the project, which was used to construct a bench where people can stop and think.
Volunteer Jon Stopp explains how the garden emerged from wider attempts to rejuvenate the area following floods. “The whole of the Calder Valley was devastated by the flooding and although much of the fractured infrastructure has been fixed, re-energising the community has not been quite so easy,” he says. “There has been a huge increase in stress and anxiety-related mental issues, which will take much longer to heal. This will raise awareness of the wonderful healing qualities of being by water. Incredible Edible Todmorden is a great model for improving well-being and can be replicated anywhere on the canal network.” The garden has already featured on BBC1 as an example of local community work.
It also demonstrates one of the many innovative ways that the canals are being re-integrated into society in the modern age. The Rochdale Canal was created in the heat of the industrial revolution to connect Manchester and Sowerby Bridge. It was completed in 1804 but closed in 1952, with reopening taking place as recently as 2002. It is now a popular route with boaters, who appreciate the spectacular way it passes through the Pennines as it climbs high above the moors.