Project will uncover canal's past

Canal enthusiasts received a boost this week with news of a £60,000 grant to help celebrate the area's natural and cultural heritage.

Barges have navigated the Union Canal for almost 200 years
Barges have navigated the Union Canal for almost 200 years

The cash will be used to engage communities the length of the Union Canal from Edinburgh to Falkirk.

Re-Union Canal Boats received the Heritage Lottery Fund money for the new project, Union Canal Unlocked, which will see them work in partnership with Scottish Waterways Trust and Scottish Canals.

The initiative will provide a variety of “unique learning, training and volunteering opportunities”, according to the partners.

Volunteers will undertake oral history training to gather stories and memories of the historic canal to contribute to the creation of an oral history archive.

Bringing the 200-year-old waterway bang up-to-date, collected stories and photographs will be available on a new Union Canal Unlocked smartphone app. It will be designed to open up its past, as well as identifying sights of historic and local interest.

The app, along with a colourful leaflet and heritage signage to be installed on the towpath, will encourage visitors to explore and enjoy the rich heritage of the canal.

There will be a chance for local people to get involved too, in the production of a community-inspired animated film, while there will also be a travelling community exhibition.

Working with the local communities until the completion of the project in early 2017 will be project officer Louise Gamble and heritage adviser Karen Marnie.

Welcoming the funding, Patricia Bowie, manager at Re-Union Canal Boats, said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident the project will engage local communities, provide learning, training and volunteering opportunities and celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of the Union Canal.”

Lucy Casot, head of Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players HLF grants preserve fine examples of Britain’s industrial, maritime and transport genius that not only helped create the nation, bringing jobs and economic prosperity, but also influenced the world.

“HLF is pleased to support Union Canal Unlocked that will pass on experiences and achievements from our working past to future generations.”

Opened in 1822, the Union Canal was constructed to provide the people of Edinburgh with direct access to cheaper coal.