The Canal and River Trust (CRT) - the body responsible for 2,000 miles of historic waterways across England and Wales – has got together with local residents during the Christmas period to give the Huddersfield Narrow Canal a much-needed makeover.

Huddersfield Canal clean-up

The cleanup retrieved no fewer than 24 shopping trolleys from this Site of Special Scientific Interest.


Large trees had been making it difficult for boats to get along the canal and were also threatening to cause damage to several rare plant species, as Tom King of the CRT explains: “This section of waterway is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and removal of overhanging branches means rare plants such as water starwort, water violets and un-branched bur reed will be allowed to flourish again. If it’s not kept in check, heavy shading stifles aquatic plant growth and can even lead to some plants dying back completely.”

However, it wasn’t just unwanted vegetation that was removed. Complementing the tree clearance was a ‘Community Roots’ scheme designed to improve the waterway by removing rubbish and engaging with the people who live along its banks. Funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the scheme involves a regular monthly clean up led by the CRT, in partnership with volunteers.

The Wooden Canal Boat Society, the Huddersfield Canal Society, Stalybridge Clean Team and other local volunteers were all involved in the job of removing three van loads of rubbish, including roadwork signs, a fence panel, a wheelchair, a suitcase, some prams, some discarded bikes and scooters and no fewer than 24 shopping trolleys from the stretch between Portland Basin and Stalybridge town centre.

While the project has proved a big success, Rhys Wynne, Community Roots Project Leader with the CRT, laments the fact that it has become necessary: “It is extremely sad that some people treat their local waterway as a rubbish dump. The SSSI designation means that this section of the canal needs extra care and protection. The volunteers have done a tremendous job and we would love more people to get involved in caring for this special waterway.”

If you want to help out in your local area this year by getting involved with one of the CRT’s canal management initiatives, visit

For more narrowboat canal news, see: Coast to coast canoe trail to cross Pennines.

Written by: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is a journalist, copywriter and magazine editor with a long history in boating and a happy addiction to the water. He’s worked on boats, lived on boats, bought boats, sold boats and – when he’s not actually on board a boat – he can generally be found in his Folkestone office, tapping away at the computer and gazing out to sea.