The CRT has recently published its latest heritage report. It provides an overview of the the state of conservation across the CRT’s canal network and associated land holdings, and illustrates current conservation and restoration projects. The range of work continues to be impressive, with the report reminding us that the CRT is the 3rd largest owner of protected heritage assets in the country (behind the Church of England and the National Trust). Having moved from being a public corporation (British Waterways) three years ago to an independent charity as the CRT, illustration of its conservation progress is a vital part of not only the stewardship compact with Government, but also the marketing communications around heritage conservation by the organisation designed to garner support in wider society for the organisation and the canal side environment as a place to actively rather than passively engage with. The dual fundamental challenge for the organisation is the stewardship of a dynamic physical environment which has to be managed safely and sensitively (canal breaches can be devastating!) and the fact that the vast majority of its asset base is free to access, as the majority of canal users are on the towpath as opposed to licence-paying boaters.
Notable in the report is the chart illustrating damage to the asset base, listing graffiti and vandalism as the major ongoing problem. This suggests that within urban settings, there is still a lot of progress to be made to encourage wider societal appreciation of the waterways as a community place and recreational asset that needs to be actively looked after.