The Canal clear ups and tackling the Climate Emergency

A review of the canal clear up programme and some considerations for moving forward in the long term:

The Projects central aim was to deliver monthly Canal Clear ups and Conservation sessions and to be targeted and made available to local community organisations, groups of young people, schools and youth groups, and local families.  The Project was to be a collaboration and implemented as part of the wider community safety strategy for Camelon and Tamfourhill. The Project was developed and coordinated  by Our Place  through funding provided by the Great Places Falkirk Heritage Lottery Project.  

This was an activity-based Project with a community development ethos, the focus was to clear up the canal, but it was also a means of encouraging involvement and to contribute to the  process of putting the canal at the centre of the community: socially, culturally, and educationally. Additionally, the Project was facilitating a  community education approach with a focus upon environmental awareness and encouraging the local community to have a sense of ownership and responsibility for this historical and culturally significant resource. 

The Project was run for a fixed term period from April – October 2021, and is evaluated in terms of its wider community and environmental  impact and in relation to the learning experiences of the participants. A longer-term consideration is to establish this Programme as a sustainable activity which provides ongoing learning and development  opportunities for local people  and also continues to make a significant contribution to keeping Camelon and Tamfourhill: Tidy, Clean and Green.  

Paddle pick up with local young people

It was good fun in the canoe although it was hard work-my arms were very tired by the end. We could spot the litter but working out how to get to it in the canoe was tricky! I enjoyed people on the tow path saying Hi and thank you to us as we cleaned up the litter. It’s sad how much rubbish had been thrown in but glad I could help to clear it up.  (Hannah Rous: young volunteer)

The Programme and its  outputs: April -October 2021:

Each day was split into 3 distinct stages: Paddle pick up on the water, canal towpath litter pick & Learning evaluation workshops. Certificates of achievement and community volunteering awards were an important aspect of the Project. 76 people took part and everyone received a certificate of achievement, 20 Scottish Government Group challenge Saltire Awards were made and 98 hours of saltire volunteering credits were earned.

Discussing the problems with plastics at Tamfourhill Community Hub

The school pupils responded well to the workshops when they often do not respond positively in classroom learning contexts, they had got a lot out of these sessions and participated really well ( Ankale Denovan: CLD Worker St Mungo’s High School)

Getting instruction on using a canoe

Scottish Canals’ Activities Manager Matt Skilling:

“I have delivered many Paddle Pickups across the Lowlands Canals network since 2017 however this focussed community effort has been outstanding. The group have successfully created a programme of events over the 2021 season.  The group have engaged and involved a variety of local people which has brought a positive environmental impact particularly on the stretch of canal from TFW to Lock 16Scottish Canals’ Activities Manager Matt Skilling:

The Canal project learning workshop brought a conclusion of activity and educational learning around plastics and the impact litter in waterways can have on the environment. Pupils were engaged with discussion about plastics, their uses, why we produce so much of it and how it’s a huge aspect of life (e.g. packaging). Pupils also thought about their own consumption and how they can reduce plastic litter and also plastic waste with some small changes that can be used within their everyday habits. With great discussion and learning about plastic facts with a interactive quiz, pupils gained insight to the consequences of plastic while also relating it to habits and behaviour. The project was a worthwhile experience that brought together a practical activity that benefited the community (canoe litter pick) but also the educational workshop that bridged the activity with the why. The project was well received by the pupils with many asking to do it again.’ Ella Gorman Education Enforcement officer, Waste Management, Falkirk Council

A learning workshop at the Falkirk Wheel

The opportunity to be participants within the canal clear up has given our youth groups the opportunity to engage in a fantastic outdoor learning experience in their own  community.

Some of our young people had never been on the canal before even though it is on their doorstep.

They were able to express their feelings on community issues and put forward their ideas whilst learning new skills  and engaging with other local children.

Tamfourhill youth group

The wider community has enjoyed seeing the local youth participate in litter picks, providing great links for intergenerational work within the community going forward. Lynne Boslem Youth Worker: Tamfourhill Community Hub

An interesting and refreshingly positive aspect of the Canal Clear ups has been the young people’s workshops which have concluded the days clean-up work on both the canal and the towpath. The group who took part on Wednesday 21st July were tasked with thinking about where they lived and the places they played with their friends and to then consider some of the environmental issues at these places and to come up with their own plans and ideas for keeping these special places #tidycleangreen. I was really privileged to hear about all the locations the youngsters went to and were important to them, from the Roman Park in Tamfourhill, the places with the special named stones in Rowen Crescent and the skatepark in Falkirk. The group who were aged 8 -11 years old worked in groups of three or four and  a taste of their ideas  for improving and keeping their special places #tidycleangreen, can be found at this link: .

A group working on their ideas in July

64 individual participant evaluation forms were completed , they were all asked what they had learnt form taking part, here is a brief sample of the responses:

  • How stable the canoes are
  • How many beer cans people throw into the canal
  • The amount of people that smoke
  • Canoeing is not dangerous
  • Putting all he boats together as one
  • Not to be afraid of the water
  • Micro plastics get into the crops on our farms
  • The amount of rubbish me and my partner found
  • The amount of micro plastics in the world
  • It was cleaner than we expected
  • My Xbox has plastic

What was the part they had enjoyed the most?

  • The canoeing or learning how to canoe x 40
  • The Camaraderie
  • Having a McDonalds for lunch
  • The Litter Picking
  • Helping the environment
  • Climbing trees
  • Family time and being part of cleaning up the area
  • The Banter
  • My parents helping out with the clear up
  • Sitting on the canoe collecting plastics
  • Making new friends

90 % of respondents said they would take part in these activities again , and when asked to rate the days activities on a scale of 1-10 the average score was 8

There Is no doubt in my mind that this was a very successful Project, it was an enjoyable learning experience for everyone who took part and community volunteering was recognised  through the Scottish Government’s Saltire Awards and also with certificates of achievement  being awarded to all participants. The positive impact upon the  canal  between lock 16 and The Falkirk Wheel has been notable, and this has been acknowledged by the wider community encouraging many to take an interest in this project. Local people made positive comments from the tow path during the sessions and this support was also expressed through social media.  The canal is a key aspect to the local community and to see local people connecting with it positively in this way and within the context of the local community safety strategy has been a rewarding and very worthwhile experience. The climate emergency and the requirement to move towards  Net Zero should accentuate the  significant role that can be played by the canal and that this needs to  involve the local community. Community safety is integrally linked with environmental improvement,  and  it is therefore advisable that the existing partners and other stakeholders  meet in the coming weeks to examine how they can resource and support a longer term #tidycleangreen project based around the canal network

This Programme was supported by the following agencies & organisations :

  • Tamfourhill Community Hub
  • Scottish Canals
  • Carmuirs Primary School
  • St. Mungo’s High School
  • Forth Valley Recovery Community
  • The Conservation Volunteers
  • Tidy, Clean & Green Community Group
  • Falkirk Council Waste Management
  • Great Place Falkirk
  • Our Place Camelon & Tamfourhill
Introducing a group to their canal clear up day

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