The Basingstoke Canal Society has made fantastic progress since it was set up in 1966. It kicked off the restoration of the canal with a huge mobilisation of volunteers working closely with Surrey and Hampshire County Councils who bought the land. Since then the Society has actively worked with the council owners to help maintain the canal, and over the years has raised over £800,000 from trip boat operations which has been invested back in the canal through our working parties. It also continues to actively recruit volunteers and has over 250 people helping with day-to-day operations and the behind-the-scenes planning and promotional work.
However despite this effort, over recent years the future of the canal has increasingly become under threat as the County councils and local council budgets have increasingly become stretched with limits on the funding going into the canal. Indeed with the Society’s whole objective being to protect the canal for both the present and future generations our strapline is now a very clear ‘Keeping the Canal Alive’.
Moreover these council budgets will no doubt become even more stretched and under threat as a result of the Coronavirus. We are working with the councils to understand what this means in terms this funding ongoing projects and work on the canal.
However what has become very clear during the pandemic is that we have seen a very significant increase in people using the canal and seeing it as the ‘place to go’ for peace, relaxation and exercise. Quite simply, the message is that people love and value our local canal.
So what happens next? What can we all do?
Firstly, the message is that AS A COMMUNITY, we all need to get involved to help protect the canal. Doing nothing is not an option.
- Becoming a member of the Canal Society: This will really help us with our work along the canal. You will also get regular newsletter updates and discounts on boat trips.
- Volunteer: we are always looking for people to help both with practical tasks and crews, along with ‘behind the scenes’ roles. It’s great fun working as part of a team, and very rewarding.
- Book a trip on one of our boats (when they get going again) which is a great way to see the canal.
- And finally please email your local councillors to tell them how important the canal is for you and the local community. We need the local councils to promote and support the canal.
And let’s tell you what the Basingstoke Canal Society is doing. We are:
- Continuing to improve the Canal by running regular volunteer working parties to help do necessary maintenance and development work.
- Fundraising from our boat trip operations, donations, legacies, membership and corporate partners to fund a programme of projects including more information points, visitor centres and adding to and upgrading our trip boats with environmentally-friendly trip boats, along with improved facilities for disabled users.
- Publishing a new website in the next couple of months which will help with donations and Online Membership.
- Getting the local community, clubs and users actively involved in supporting the canal with such activities as boating, canoeing, walking, etc, all of which provide leisure, health and well being benefits.
- Helping to identify potential water supplies for navigation and the protection of the natural beauty of the Canal and its species, this being a key environmental aim.
- Working closely with the councils to ensure that they realise what a wonderful local amenity the Canal is, that is valued by the local community. Yes we understand the budgets are tight but there is a real opportunity for councils to actively promote and support the Canal for the benefits of all concerned, not only health and well-being, exercise and environmental.
Quite simply let’s ‘Keep the Canal Alive’. Just explore this website to find out more.