Friends of Cromford Canal need volunteers for a vital job

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It is well-documented that canals provide some of the best opportunities for cycling, walking or just gaining access to water for those who are not lucky enough to live near the seaside.

But maintaining access to these restorative waterways is not something which just happens - it is normally achieved by unpaid volunteers.

Bushes have to be cleared, paths maintained, fences to be painted and rubbish removed.

And though a lot of this work is by no means glamorous, without it there would be a lot less canal to see.

One such group swapping slippers and slacks for high-visibility overalls is the Friends of Cromford Canal.

The waterway - which dates back to 1794 and spans 15 miles - starts in Brinsley and runs through Jacksdale, Ironville, Butterley, Ambergate and Whatstandwell to finish in Cromford.

The Friends of Cromford Canal, now 15 years old, are currently hoping to recruit more volunteers to help with their tireless work.

Vice chairman John Barker said: “One of the best things about volunteering along the canal is you are in the fresh air and there is a lot of conversation going off.

“It’s just a really friendly atmosphere - I think it’s really good for you.”

Former fuel retailer John, now in his 70s, first became interested in canal restoration while on boating holidays with friends and family.

He said: “The wildlife and lovely countryside you see is so appealing but so many areas are neglected and I just wanted to make a better place for people to enjoy.

“I started as a volunteer eight years ago and was eventually asked to become work party leader.”

Although most the Friends’ work at present is confined to keeping paths clear, they really would like to see the restoration of a fully navigable Cromford Canal.

“At the moment we are looking at a consultation to begin at Langley Mill and move the canal forward up to Ironville,” said John.

“But we need to work with landowners and get together with potential partners such as the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Wildlife Trusts.

“And then there is all the financing through organisations such as the National Lottery.”

For more information on Friends of Cromford Canal, visit www.cromfordcanal.info, or to volunteer phone John on 01773 760358.