Use­ful and beau­ti­ful but threat­ened by a load of rub­bish

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

of Rot­ter­dam is still trans­ported on­wards by canal. In Amer­ica, the New York State Canals have demon­strated that ship­ping freight by canal is more than 30 per cent cheaper than mov­ing it by truck and in ad­di­tion there are huge en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits: far less air and noise pol­lu­tion and far less road con­ges­tion.

In Bri­tain, how­ever, com­mer­cial cargo has vir­tu­ally dis­ap­peared from the canals and has been re­placed with plea­sure craft. The old build­ings along the banks have changed too. Many have been con­verted into apart­ments and trendy of­fices where the tedium of gaz­ing at a com­puter screen can be al­le­vi­ated by star­ing at the serene wa­ter. Shiny new build­ings, of­ten fea­tur­ing huge win­dows and bal­conies to take ad­van­tage of the views, have been pop­ping up over the past twenty years.

Those who rent or buy th­ese properties tend to live in them for rel­a­tively short pe­ri­ods be­fore mov­ing on. This con­trasts with the moored barges that have be­come quirky and de­sir­able homes. Their oc­cu­pants stay for longer and have cre­ated proper com­mu­ni­ties where res­i­dents sup­port each other. They have long since been aware that canal tow­paths are ideal for strolls, pic­nics and cycling and that their moor­ings are slap bang in the mid­dle of town yet shielded from road traf­fic, noise and fumes. They are like a lit­tle oasis in an ur­ban land­scape.

Un­for­tu­nately, as th­ese idyl­lic water­ways have be­come more pop­u­lar, they are in dan­ger of be­ing con­tam­i­nated and spoilt by thought­less acts of lazi­ness, as rub­bish is thrown into the wa­ter and along the paths. Amongst the de­bris are pizza and burger boxes, cof­fee cups, crisp pack­ets, beer cans, glass bot­tles of spir­its, plas­tic wa­ter bot­tles, cig­a­rette butts and some things too dis­gust­ing to men­tion. Some­times bits of this garbage have been imag­i­na­tively used by ducks in the con­struc­tion of their nests but, more gen­er­ally, this rub­bish at­tracts mice, rats and ur­ban foxes. This shows com­plete dis­re­gard and spoils the out­look for the house­boat res­i­dents.

As­ton­ish­ingly, some of the worst af­fected ar­eas along the canals are where waste bins have been in­stalled. In­stead of us­ing them, the de­bris of mod­ern life is cast around them. To ap­pre­ci­ate the size of this prob­lem, a cleanup pro­gramme along a 10 mile stretch of the Grand Union Canal re­sulted in the col­lec­tion of 10 tons of waste.

It is pos­si­ble that the use of our canals as a trans­port sys­tem will be res­ur­rected in the fu­ture but un­til then, if they are not shown the re­spect that they need, they will be­come in­creas­ingly un­savoury.

When cou­pled with the tran­sient na­ture of the apart­ment res­i­dents, this may sig­nal an­other nail in the cof­fin of our old, in­dus­trial city cen­tres.

Yet, the so­lu­tion is in our own hands. All we have to do is use the bins.

Robin and Pa­tri­cia Sil­ver are own­ers of The Home store at Salts Mill, www.the­home­on­line.

CLEAN UP: Canals are ur­ban oases but are in­creas­ingly blighted by lit­ter in our towns and cities.

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