Charity calls for local people to get involved with a new ‘Canal Shed’ project in Edinburgh

Scotland’s only national waterways charity, Scottish Waterways Trust and partners Polwarth Parish Church are calling for adults of all ages and abilities to join in a brand new waterways ‘Canal Shed’ project along Edinburgh’s historic Union Canal.

Already, those attending the Canal Shed, which has been made possible with funding from the National Lottery, have learned new skills and helped transform canal greenspace and some areas around Polwarth Parish Church gardens for everyone to enjoy.

Lord Provost Frank Ross and Councillor Gavin Corbett were joined by local people who are already involved with the Canal Shed on Wednesday 23rd August to formally launch the project. Participants showed off an exhibition of their work so far, including conservation volunteering, biodiversity surveying, bird-box building and waterways themed arts and craft activities.

Through the new Canal Shed project people can meet up in a relaxed and inclusive environment, get involved with a range of practical activities, share skills and learn about, and be inspired by, their local waterways’ history at weekly Canal Shed get-togethers.

Although the site does not boast a physical shed, the ‘Canal Shed’ is based on the concept of men’s sheds, which started in Australia to get men together for companionship and to skills-share. The ‘Canal Shed’ project aims to encourage people to get together, make friends and care for the environment.

Those attending the sessions will be able to make a difference to the Union Canal, which is a haven for a rich variety of flora and fauna, and enhance the area surrounding Polwarth Parish Church, whose Drennan Hall provides an indoor base for the project.

Anna Canning, ‘Canal Shed’ Project Manager for Scottish Waterways Trust:

We are thrilled to launch the Canal Shed with partners Polwarth Parish Church in Edinburgh to welcome the local community, care for the historic Union Canal and help tackle social isolation and promote inclusion.

Scotland’s canals once stoked the fires of the industrial revolution, and today they play an important part in communities as places to learn, restore and get active.

The Canal Shed project will provide local people with a welcoming space to exchange skills, learn new skills such as biodiversity survey and printmaking meet new people and take part in practical activities outdoors which care for our special waterways environment.

There is great support locally for the project already, and we look forward to welcoming more people to the Canal Shed over the coming months.

Opening the project, local Green Councillor Gavin Corbett said:

Polwarth Church is one of the great sights of the Union Canal, heading west on a curve in the water, with the backdrop of the Pentland Hills. I love to hear of projects which emphasise the connection between the local community and the environment. The canal is a living canal, alive with people coming together, sharing skills and experiences and enhancing community life. That is exactly what the Canal Shed aims to do, bring the community together. I’m excited to see how it will grow.

Lord Provost Frank Ross said:

Scottish Waterways Trust are increasing public awareness of this magnificent asset for education, health, and recreation through the ‘Canal Shed’ project. It’s a tremendous opportunity, and hopefully more local people will engage with the Union Canal as a result.

From Maureen Bowman, the Convener of the Polwarth Garden Group at Polwarth Church:

It’s taking off now – people are coming back each week. On a nice day there’s activities in the garden. We’re hoping to get more people along after today’s launch. We’ve learned a lot from Anna Canning, the Canal Shed Project Manager for the Scottish Waterways Trust. It’s community outreach. Each week lots of activities are planned. The Edinburgh Printmakers came to show people printmaking. Anna has done water quality testing and foraging. People have done gardening and cynanotype printing. It’s keeping the church and all of these communities working together.

Scottish Waterways Trust hopes to roll out the initiative to other canalside communities in coming years.

The Edinburgh Canal Shed runs every Wednesday 10.00-13.00. Those who are interested in joining in can contact or 07790 885 969.

Over the coming weeks, Canal Shed activities include a ‘citizen science’ canal water survey, guided nature walks and activities, conservation volunteering, canal-inspired printmaking and wild cordial making with canalside hedgerow fruits.

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