A TV historian is backing a campaign to look after Gloucestershire’s once forgotten canals as they are proven to boost the economy.
The well-known presenter of history programme Time Team and Blackadder star Sir Tony Robinson is urging people to rediscover and bring back to life derelict historic canals that helped shape the county and make Britain the world’s first industrial nation.
As part of the campaign the Canal and River Trust, which cares for 2,000 miles of working waterways in England and Wales including Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, has published a map to inspire people to unearth more of their local history.
The map will enable people to explore lost canals and find out about their history and support the local restoration groups working to bring them back to life.
Other examples in Gloucestershire include the Cotswold Canals which were built between1775 and 1779 to connect Stroud with the River Severn, but fell into disrepair in the 1950s.
Cotswold Canal Trust is busily working towards full restoration of this navigation, along with the Thames and Severn Canal.
A new report by the University of Northampton highlights the economic and social benefits a restored canal brings to a community by boosting property prices and helping people lead active, healthy lifestyles.
At the height of the industrial revolution the nation boasted over 5,000 miles of waterway helping to transport goods and raw materials across the country and helped establish Britain as an industrial powerhouse but this has declined over the years.
Sir Tony Robinson said the waterway network was part of the fabric of the nation.
“The fact that we can still enjoy them now is thanks largely to the vision, dedication and sheer hard work of volunteers in the 60s and 70s,” he said.
“These inspiring men and women just wouldn’t take no for an answer and worked on the basis that nothing was impossible.
“We need to recapture that same spirit within our communities to support today’s volunteers in bringing more of these once proud waterways back to life.”
Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal and River Trust, said canals had played a major part in shaping the country we live in today.
“Sadly there are still too many miles of precious canal in need of restoration but the lesson from the canal restoration movement of the last 50 years shows just what can be achieved if enough people get behind an idea,” he said.
“We want more people to appreciate the importance of these historic canals and play their part in supporting and championing the heroic efforts of local canal restoration groups.
“In doing so more lives will be touched by canals, more communities will feel the benefits that rejuvenated canals can bring in terms of regeneration, jobs and leisure opportunities, as well of course as corridors for wildlife and that can only benefit everyone.”
The online map can be found at canalrivertrust.org.uk/restoration