Volunteer waterway partner Jon Stopp brings bird boxes and benches to the towpaths
Waterways volunteer Jon Stopp is helping to nuture nature on the network
1 What first attracted you to the waterways? I lived by sea and rivers and all things that go with that for 15 years but in this context - volunteering on the waterway - being fascinated by the engineering and the heritage and all the things that come with being in a peaceful, tranquil, rural and urban environment.
2 Where is your favourite view of the water? In the middle of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct taking in the 360° vista or at the bottom of the busy Hatton flight on the Grand Union in summer walking up, or even the Marple Aqueduct on the Peak Forest which is my favourite biking and walking route locally – and that’s where I did my helmsman training.
3 What do the waterways have to offer the country? Almost limitless leisure time opportunities or a total alternative lifestyle and you get to choose and, of course, it’s healthy and stressfree too.
4 Tell us about your boating experience… Not extensive... limited to family holiday – River Shannon boating. I liked the tradition of rewarding lock keepers with a bottle or can of Guinness. Motor cruising/ fishing off the Florida coast. American fishing is just unreal with sonar to find the fish and then lob six rods in and trawl away. In contrast a bit of small boat sea/river fishing in Devon. Does Cornish surfboarding count?
5 Have you ever fallen in? No, but seen a few bikers especially negotiating bridges – why not get off and walk!
6 What do the waterways need most? Keeping them special but that doesn’t always sit with having visitors and the desire to get more of them.
7 How long have you been a volunteer? Six years pretty much from the inception of Canal & River Trust and a bit beforehand.
8 What were the effects of the 2015 floods? Devastating firstly from a pure engineering perspective but easily resolved. Design it, fix the breach, fix the landslide, pay for it, get onto the next one. Secondly, and much more importantly, tackle the impact on the community and people’s lives – much harder to fix and you can’t buy your way out of it, and then despite all the flood alleviation it will happen again. No wonder it makes people want to leave, putting whole communities at risk of collapsing.
9 Describe Incredible Edible Todmorden Very passionate and enthusiastic local group encouraging community engagement through building and maintaining herb, fruit, vegetable gardens accessible to all and free. Will happily tell the world about and share what they do so long as it’s all about Todmorden. The ethos has been successfully taken on board elsewhere with no commercial intent. They are simply lovely people on a mission.
10 How important is canal wildlife? Fundamental, its a barometer as it tells you whether the environment is healthy and friendly to live in and visit. No wildlife, no sustainable environment. Watching wildlife in unusual locations such as kingfishers, wagtails and herons in drab Manchester urban waterways definitely enriches the experience and brings home the benefits of having wildlife around.
11 And the waterside gardens? Not all canal locations are chocolate box worthy, waterside gardens can help change that and provide a great source of community, making it a good friendly environment to visit or just sit and watch the world go by.
12 What has been your biggest task? The vast number of tasks to help the community recover socially and economically from the floods on Boxing Day 2015. The list is almost endless and we’re not there yet.
13 What are your fondest memories on the cut? Whatever unfolds from tomorrow, add it to the list.
14 What do you think of people on the water? Just what you’d expect from a community like those sharing the wonders of the canal network – boaters, walkers, anglers, bikers, land residents, canoeists, tourists are all passionate about their own bit and prepared to defend its existence. Just don’t get in their way or suggest something different.
15 What is your proudest achievement? Too many to mention: family, life, business and volunteering. It’s great to be with people in an environment that gels and getting involved with the next one – onward and upward.
16 What would you like to see happen to the waterways in your lifetime? Just keeping them going for future generations to enjoy and embracing communities in the network’s success. Just as a well known conceptually similar organisation says, for everyone for ever.
17 Do you own a boat? No, but often helm some of CRT workboat fleet.
18 What did you want to be aged 12? A London bus driver – particularly No 73 from Brixton to Tottenham. It’s still running so I haven’t given up yet.
19 Where in Britain would you most like to sail? Not usually one to do things twice ( except golf courses) but many years ago enjoyed the Norfolk Broads so there again please. Expect memory matches experience – wonder if Roy’s of Wroxham is still there and the holiday home lost to the sea.
20 What would your superpower be? The Tardis