I have always enjoyed canals, often walking along their towpaths, the occasional experience of being on a barge and over the years taking part in some coarse angling. These have never been very productive sessions, but urban canals present their own characteristic challenges for the angler. Camelon and Tamfourhill are synonymous with the Canals, you cannot really think of one without the other, and these great engineering feats played a critical role with the establishment of the Port Downie or Camelon iron works in 1845 and it is unlikely that these famous works would have been built here if the canal had not been here first. In terms of community safety and the development of our local plans, it seems that the canal and Lock 16 can once again play a critical role in making the local community a thriving and dynamic place to live and work. I am aware of the positive contributions that Canal College and the soon to be relaunched go forth and Clyde have played in the life and regeneration of the local area through their focus on the canal. The conservation work and outdoor learning programmes supported by TCV and their nearby nature trail have provided another dynamic strand to the community’s involvement with the Canal. We have also had the Millennium Link Project which facilitated the creation of the Falkirk wheel and this has added another aspect to the area and contributed to the emergence of a new tourist attraction. There is therefore the potential to see the Canal further reenergise the local area, bringing skills, opportunities, and a fresh impetus to the community. There are plans for the redevelopment of Lock 16 and with the relaunch of Go Forth and Clyde (formally reunion) and the significant investment from Scottish canals and further inputs from Falkirk Council through the Growth Deal, this then very much seems like the right time to be supporting the local community to come forward and engage with these new opportunities.
I am fully aware that there have been long standing issues with anti-social behaviour and difficulties with substance misuse and other high-risk activities around the canal and the towpath. Consequently, many local people do not feel safe to go and make use of the canals outdoor benefits and are therefore missing out on the positives that this great outdoor resource can provide. The community safety survey and more recent postal survey, asking local tenants if they are interested and would like to see this area being better used, have indicated that they think this is a good idea, they would support the development of new community projects and would welcome the opportunity to make use of the canal and its environs, that is, if it can be made more accessible and safer. The community safety strategy will therefore be prioritising involvement in the further development of the lock 16 area, the tow path along to the Falkirk Wheel and potentially some artistic creations and landscaping projects around the Juniors car park. It will be important to make sure that all such developments meet the local communities’ aspirations, and that local people are at the centre of developing and implementing these projects. All developments need to be coordinated and joined up in a planned way and I will be ensuring that this happens with the voice and needs of the community at the centre of this process. I will off course keep everybody updated of all developments and as a first part to this I will be looking to involve some local people with developing the plans for the before mentioned projects.
In partnership with Scottish Canals and other local agencies we plan to pilot, as part of the #tidyceangreen campaign, two full day canal clear up sessions. The intention is that these two days of activities will take place over the Easter School holidays (COVID Excepted) There will be an estimated 24 places available over the 2 days and participants will get a chance to help on the work boat, clear litter using paddle boards, take part in conservation and clear up activities on the tow path. Everybody will be made very welcome provided they have booked onto the activities, they will be suitable for young people, families, older people, and anybody with disabilities will be supported to take part. This will be a day on the canal with a difference, but the core of the pilot activities is to help with making the canal a safer, cleaner, and greener place whilst taking part in some fun and interesting activities.
The bigger and longer-term picture will be about the assured safety of people so that they can use and enjoy this great local resource. The vision could include, water sports, proper seating, organised walks, angling classes, volunteering opportunities and training courses, new information boards, local history murals and pop-up parks, training and employment initiatives and conservation and outdoor learning programmes, or simply somewhere to go for a nice walk and then a comfortable relaxed seat beside the old canal. These are admittedly only aspiration or a wish list but there is the potential to make them happen, so we need volunteers to come forward and we require the community to take ownership of their own vision. In the first instance please look out for advertising and information about the 2 days canal clear ups scheduled for April, and hopefully it can be the start of something much bigger.
Here is some music and a nostalgic look back at the history of the canal as it flows through Camelon onto Falkirk.