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Dutch dig canal volunteering

Published: Monday, 20 March, 2017

Fifteen Dutch dignitaries from the Netherlands visited Stroud’s canal restoration project as part of a five-day research trip to the UK.

Their aim was to learn about the work undertaken by thousands of volunteers from across the country in the regeneration of the Cotswold Canals, in particular the work of charity Help for Heroes.

The delegation visited the canal visitor centre at Wallbridge and took a trip along the canal on the Cotswold Canal Trust’s trip boat Perseverance. They were then briefed on the work of the volunteers who last year contributed over 46,000 hours to help restore the canal between Brimscombe and Stonehouse. This included the Help for Heroes team, who helped with building a bridge, installing signposts, repairing benches, building information board mounts and driving in sheet piles.

Johan van den Hout, Regional Minister on Nature, Water and Environment from the province of Noord-Brabant, in the southern Netherlands, said:

'We were all impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of the people we met. We were surprised by the high level of vital responsibility given to the volunteers and also impressed by the way their personal qualities are recognised and put to use.’

Their trip coincided with a visit by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Development Manager as the council and canals trust prepare to put together a bid to it for the next stage of the multi-million pound canal restoration.

Dave Marshall, Canal Manager at Stroud District Council, said:

'It’s not every day that representatives from a country known for its famous and established canals as The Netherlands come along to learn from the work or a regeneration project such as ours, but it was a great acknowledgment of the hard work of the many volunteers that are helping to open up our canals. We’re always on the lookout for more volunteers and we’re looking for a range of skills and people willing to take on differing levels of responsibility – it’s not just about pulling weeds and digging mud.'

Plans to restore the canal between Stonehouse and Saul were transformed by Stroud District Council’s decision to invest £3m in the project earlier this year. The total cost of restoring the four mile length of canal is estimated at around £19m and a bid for funding will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund in November. The project would join the six miles of canal already restored over the past few years and link it to the national waterway network, giving boats access to Stroud and beyond.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer should call 01453 754287 or email canals@stroud.gov.uk

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