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The Canal & River Trust

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Cleaning up Birmingham’s Waterways with the Canal & River Trust

GL events UK recognised its obligation to contribute to the wider community ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and create a long-lasting legacy. Through a strategic social value programme, the business was able to provide our support to local charities and community organisations, with a focus on social change. The GL events UK team will be getting involved in the programme by dedicating their time and effort through a variety of volunteer activities.

What is the Canal & River Trust?

The Canal & River Trust looks after 2,000 miles of waterways, owing to their ethos of “wellbeing for everyone.” With an emphasis on being by the water as a way of improving mental health and general wellbeing, this organisation operates in some of the most populated regions of England and Wales.

Working with an array of volunteers, they aim to make local environments more accessible and strengthen communities by cleaning up litter from the canalside and the watercourse itself.

Committed to supporting these solutions, GL events UK took part in a number of volunteer days in the run-up to Birmingham 2022, including tree planting, graffiti removal and lock clean-ups.

GL events Plastic Challenge

Faced with an abundance of litter destroying waterways and surrounding environments, the Canal & River Trust has established several initiatives to help. One of these is their Plastic Challenge, which involves litter-picking along canals and rivers in some of the most populated regions in the UK to decrease levels of water pollution. 

On 17th February 2022, various GL events UK personnel took part in the first of several volunteer days scheduled with the Canal & River Trust. Positioned at the Wednesbury Old Canal, staff members collected over one hundred bags of litter from the area for onward separation and recycling.

GL events UK’s CSR Lead, Rachel Baker, who took part in our initial volunteer day, commented:

“The work of Canal and River Trust is very much aligned with the Social Value Objectives of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – not only is this work making sustainable improvements to natural habitats across the country, but it is providing much-needed spaces for people in local communities to look after their physical and mental wellbeing. During the early lockdowns of 2020, it became apparent that those people without green spaces on their doorstep were left with nowhere to go in their local community to get some space. This work is changing this and opening up the outdoors without people having to go too far from their local community. We are also glad to be able to give our teams the chance to spend some time away from their day jobs in this way, giving something back to the community.”

Cleaner canals initiative

The Canal & River Trust estimates that 14 million plastic items end up in waterways annually. Accordingly, the charity’s mission is to eradicate plastic and has urged local individuals and community groups to pick up litter or undertake waste prevention activities. GL events UK was thrilled to assist with the charity’s cleaner canals initiative through this waste collection.

Volunteers spent the day undertaking a water-based litter collection in two bell boats at Port Loop, Birmingham. Using long litter pickers, the team collected a range of waste, including floating plastic bottles, food wrappers, fishing tackle, polystyrene and much more.

Plastic pollution in aquatic ecosystems is an emerging environmental hazard that has the potential to cause adverse ecological effects, endanger aquatic species, and cause economic harm. Rivers are known to inadvertently transport waste to the oceans; however, canal and river ecosystems are directly affected by plastic pollution.

Getting Games Ready

GL events UK continued its proud partnership with Canal & River Trust by supplying volunteers for fruit tree planting and graffiti removal at Cambrian Wharf in Birmingham.

Graffiti can be toxic to local ecosystems, as aerosol sprays can contain volatile organic compounds. Its removal is intended to help deter further instances, as well as helping to improve the aesthetic of the local area. These aims form part of Canal & River Trust’s Getting Games Ready initiative, which is focused on improving the environment in and around the West Midlands.

Armed with paint rollers and graffiti removal sprays, GL events’ volunteers soon got to work on improving this area. Although typical of British weather, intermittent rain often restricted the team to areas under cover.

However, even in inclement conditions, the team of volunteers were able to assist with weeding and planting along the Canalside, which included the introduction of strawberry plants, redcurrant and blackcurrant trees, and honeysuckle. Not only will these plants and saplings help to improve the aesthetic of the area, but it’s also hoped that some of the fruit trees will provide nourishment for local wildlife and maybe even the occasional passerby.

Creating a record-breaking orchard

As part of the Canal & River Trust’s mission to create a record-breaking orchard, GL events UK personnel planned to take part in an additional volunteer day to assist with the planting of 3,000 fruit trees that will eventually span 50 miles along waterways in the region.

In planting a community orchard, the Canal & River Trust felt it was important to conduct an assessment of local site conditions, taking into account the potential for soil and water contamination. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, GL events UK was unable to plant fruit trees before the evaluation was completed.

GL events UK and Canal & River Trust hope to continue planting fruit trees to be part of the linear orchard, as well as restoring gaps in hedgerows later this year.

Instead of the fruit trees, the volunteer day involved GL events UK personnel planting numerous nut trees and daffodils along an embankment near the towpath.

In the long term, these trees and flowers will contribute to the growth of wildlife habitats, the promotion of health and wellbeing, the improvement of air quality and provide nuts that can be harvested by local communities.

Camilla Wood, Corporate Fundraising Manager at Canal & River Trust was grateful for the ongoing support that this partnership provides, commenting:

“We are delighted to have GL events working with us, alongside our other corporate partners, making a real difference to the Birmingham environment – work that will benefit the local community for generations to come.”

For more information on Canal & River Trust initiatives, visit their website.