Lifestyle column: Canal has never looked better

Chichester Canal
Chichester Canal

AUTUMN is here and we are all forgetting those summer days on Chichester Canal... boating, walking, angling in the sunshine.

And this summer, there were many comments made that the canal has never looked better.

Indeed, we were very pleased that Chichester Ship Canal was awarded Level 5, Outstanding, (the highest level of excellence) in the In your Neighbourhood category in the South and South East in Bloom awards.

This scheme is run by the RHS and is designed to encourage new and/or small volunteer-led community groups interested in ‘greening up’ their local areas.

Participating entries are visited by assessors who serve as mentors and give helpful advice on how to make improvements and progress projects.

This year the judges made their assessment by walking part of the canal and were so enthusiastic that they returned a few days later to take a trip on Egremont.

More than 1,000 cities, towns and villages participate each year in the Britain in Bloom contest, and a further 900 smaller communities are involved as part of the In Your Neighbourhood scheme.

The core themes are horticulture and gardening, environmental responsibility and community participation.

But to achieve this, there is a lot of hard work, and much of that starts in the autumn, when it is least disruptive to wildlife and to canal users.

We are lucky to be helped twice a year by the Waterways Recovery Group, part of the Inland Waterways Association, and this December a group will spend a further weekend clearing the off-side (non-towpath) bank.

However, the majority of the work is undertaken by our volunteers, who do everything from planting flowers and bulbs to fighting with the brambles, repairing hedges, keeping the Basin free from weed, and, very tediously, picking up litter.

One unusual project this autumn has been a Plankathon!

The Chichester Festival Theatre kindly donated a portion of its unwanted decking to the canal, following dismantling of the temporary Theatre in the Park, for which the Canal Trust is enormously grateful.

This wood will be extremely useful to us, especially for repairing pontoons.

Over two days a team of 20 volunteers moved more than 500 planks plus bearers from the theatre to our store.

And if the Plankathon ever becomes an Olympic event, Chichester Canal Trust will enter a team!

If you would like to volunteer for the Chichester Ship Canal Trust, please contact Alison Slaney on 01243 536933.