heritage tracker

iwa word on the waterways

autumn 2019

The year is flying by and it really makes us think about time and the passing of the ages. This year, The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has launched its new Heritage Campaign, which is celebrating all that is unique about our waterways, especially the canals with their industrial past.

As anyone who has spent any time on the canals knows, each waterway has its own individual features. There are bridges, locks and canal-side buildings that add to the story of the canal’s rich history, but more than that, there are smaller assets that help to build up the bigger picture of the canal such as signage, canal furniture and other remnants from the past.

IWA Heritage Tracker

Heritage BridgeIWA is asking people to fill out an online survey which asks for examples of areas where waterways heritage has been saved, where it has been lost due to unsympathetic development and where it may currently be at risk. It asks for views on the importance of waterways heritage, does it help to draw visitors to a particular stretch of canal, does it help bring economic benefits to a region?

In another question, the survey asks if respondents feel that there is any place on the waterways for modern structures to replace the old. An example of this is the Falkirk Wheel which, although modern, is a stunning addition to the waterways. So far, it seems that people feel that, where possible, the original features should be replaced, using traditional crafts, skills and materials. However, where it isn’t financially viable, or where circumstances have changed, there is a place for sympathetic replacement with a more modern design. The waterways need to evolve and change with the times and while the past needs to be remembered, new designs shouldn’t always be overlooked.

IWA has set up a Heritage Advisory Panel and is currently looking at commissioning some research into the value of waterways heritage, with a view to ensuring it is protected and respected in all future development plans. If you would like to fill out the survey, please visit the website  or send your comments to Jo Henderson's email.

Restoration Experts

IWA Canal Camps Group PhotoIWA has been involved in canal restoration in one form or another for close on 75 years and through its Waterway Recovery Group Canal Camps we have the potential to achieve huge things in a short space of time with all volunteers working together. Already this year alone, volunteers have spent over 8,000 hours on restoration projects, working alongside canal restoration groups to move projects forward. Also this year, IWA has added more Family Camps to the calendar, inviting young people to find out more about the waterways and especially the wildlife that it attracts. Family Camps are open to parents and children aged 6 -14 years. At a recent Family Camp on the Uttoxeter Canal, one family brought along three generations, grandparents, parents and grandchildren were all working together to clear vegetation, remove Himalayan balsam and build bat boxes.

The IWA Restoration Hub is looking at providing expert help to restoration projects across the country. Expert engineers, planners and most recently, heritage advisers are on hand to help canal restoration groups to overcome any issues that arise on their projects. The aim is that IWA Restoration Hub can help remove obstacles that cause a project to stall, whether that is planning matters with the local council, complex engineering issues or restrictions due to fragile heritage assets. For more information on the expert advice available, please visit website

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About Jo Henderson

Jo writes on behalf of the Inland Waterways Association, the membership charity that works to protect and restore the country's 6,500 miles of canals and rivers. IWA is a national organisation with a network of volunteers and branches who deploy their expertise and knowledge to work constructively with navigation authorities, government and other organisations.