ALL through the heart of Gloucestershire the volunteers of the Cotswold Canals Trust are demonstrating a selfless passion for making a better and brighter future for us all.

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of this volunteer-led charity. Today 800 registered volunteers and 7,000 members are investing their time, money and expertise. Now is the time for the wider community to build on what has already been achieved and to celebrate the individuals who have made our county a better place to live, work and play.

Cotswold Canals Trust is just one of the many organisations whose volunteers you will see along the towpath this summer. During the pandemic, the towpaths became inaccessible and invasive plant species took over, Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam the particularly unwelcome culprits. The canal channel began to silt up again! A year on and the canal volunteers are raring to go, keeping waterways free from obstructions and hazards.

In the 1960s much of Stroud’s watery canal corridor had been destroyed or infilled and this part of our once great industrial heritage was fast disappearing. Then fifty years ago, on 12th May 1972, 300 residents of Stroud stood together, united in their mission to save the canal from further destruction. They planned to restore the waterway by creating a healthy, thriving environment that would benefit local people, our local heritage and nature.

Environment, education and species protection are taken seriously by all canal partners as we continue to develop our working practices to ensure that wildlife is protected and the environment enhanced. Cotswold Canals Partners include many different organisations such as Stroud District Council, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Stroud Valleys Projects. The canal provides a natural environment in which a great variety of species are able to thrive. And while doing this it also plays an important part in the welfare of the local community.

Cotswold Canals Trust spokesperson (anonymous for their own protection) Without our charity’s and other community volunteers over many hours and many years there would not be a local canal, no water & possibly only a muddy ditch at best in places. It would have become a ‘sterile basin devoid of diverse wildlife’ without volunteers.

The Canal partnership does have a responsibility to maintain certain areas along the canal and towpath to clear of weeds, hazard and obstruction. In recent weeks, volunteers while checking for nests, have been accosted and verbally abused. The work boat teams are being filmed and intimidated, while trying to give something back to the community they love. Is it right that individuals, many elderly, should feel too scared to continue?

We ask that members of the public contact us, meet us, have a cuppa with us, come out for a day with the work teams and help us assess the work sites…. there is no need for verbal or physical threats, which is what we have experienced many times in the last few weeks.

This Charity has overwhelming support, over a hundred collaborative partners and an ambitious plan. If you are inspired to join us to create a better, greener, bluer world please register as a volunteer or call the office on 01453 752568.