A passion for the waterways

Braunston Canal Society, Stop House, Braunston
Braunston Canal Society, Stop House, Braunston

The canals are part of the heritage of the Daventry area and are much enjoyed by walkers, boaters and anglers.

But along the canals there are groups of people who volunteer their time to maintain and improve them.

Braunston Canal Society was set up two years ago by Nick Strivens and others to look after the canal in the village.

The plan was to hopefully get more villagers involved in the canal, and more boaters to take an interest in the village.

Secretary Chris Burton said: “We had conversations with British Waterways, as it was then, and various other people.

“We started it just as British Waterways started its change to the Canals and Rivers Trust – CRT – so that made it a little more tricky.

“Obviously British Waterways/CRT own the canal, towpath, locks and other land so we needed their permission to work on them. But we also work under their insurance.

“When BW turned into CRT the role for volunteer groups like us became strengthened as CRT was founded with volunteers in mind from the start.

“We adopted a stretch of the canal – we look after the Grand Union from the tunnel entrance, down through the locks, to the junction by the Boat House pub.

“We look after the locks, we’ve done work on the opposite bank cutting back vegetation, and a whole range of other things. Obviously our members also pick up litter and other little jobs too.

“We also look after the island at the junction. When we started it was overgrown and covered in weeds.

“First of all we got permission to cut it all back. Now we’ve planted it up with shrubs and other things, and we go back onto the island a couple of times a year to look after it all.

John Highmore, volunteer coordinator with CRT, said: “The thing is the jobs are quite mundane and our workers would rather be off doing other things.

“Also the volunteers are not replacing our staff – they’re doing jobs that would get done, but that might take a few more years for us to get round to doing.”

Being at the heart of the canal network most boaters know of Braunston, but not all of them are aware of what the village offers as its centre is set up the hill, away from the canal.

Chris said: “Part of what we want to do is bring the canal and village together.

“We have 70-odd members at the moment and most are local, but there are a significant number of boaters too.

“We produced a leaflet all about Braunston for boaters which was sponsored by Braunston Parish Council, it highlights facilities on the canal and in the village, as well as events. It also shows people how to walk up to the village, as although you can see it from the canal, finding a way up isn’t always obvious.

“At the same time we’ve done activities with groups from the village and some of them have never been down to the canal.