Injured servicemen and women are being given the opportunity to re-build their lives, gain qualifications and learn new skills by transforming and restoring historic canals as part of the Heritage Heroes project.
Canal & River Trust and Help for Heroes have come together for the first time to deliver an ambitious canal restoration and career recovery programme for wounded, injured or sick servicemen, women and veterans.
Up to 60 veterans from across the country will join the Heritage Heroes project to work alongside local canal societies and Canal & River Trust engineers and heritage advisors to transform four canals. The 18-month project will also see 1,000 new volunteers recruited from nearby local communities.
The project, made possible by £500,000 funding from players of
People’s Postcode Lottery, aims to bring pride and purpose back to our heroic veterans while restoring canals, some of which have been left neglected for decades.
These highly-skilled and capable individuals, with a great deal to contribute to society, are often ill-prepared for the transition back into the civilian world. The Heritage Heroes project will equip the wounded, injured or sick heroes with City and Guilds qualifications in construction, health and safety, horticulture and land-based management which can be used to help them identify a new, purposeful career.
Giles Woodhouse, Head of Recovery South at Help for Heroes, said: “Leaving the military or realising that your career choice may no longer be possible can be daunting, especially for those who are living with life-changing injuries and illnesses. Working towards a new goal in life through career recovery can be extremely beneficial to an individual’s overall wellbeing, often accelerating their personal recovery journey. This project will resonate with many of our military men and women who will already have some of the necessary skills and enjoy working outdoors, as part of a team.”
The first phase of the project has begun and is taking place in Stroud, Gloucestershire. Working in partnership with the
Cotswold Canals Trust, the veterans are restoring 500m of canal bank and towpath and the historic Ryeford Wharf. Currently the 200 year old canal is at risk. The fast flowing River Frome is encroaching on the narrow causeway which separates the river from the canal channel. Left untouched this erosion could ultimately cause the towpath to disappear. This restoration project will enable the preservation of our heritage and protect against the destructive effects of the fast-paced river.
Jim White, Cotswold Canals Trust Chair of Trustees, said: “Working with the veterans has been a privilege for us. As a Trust we passionately believe in the restoration works that we undertake and this project has enabled us to share our passion with military heroes. We have enjoyed sharing our knowledge and skills and in turn they have taught us a great deal too.”
Jason Leach, Enterprise and Restoration Team Manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Heritage Heroes is such an exciting project for us. It gives the Canal & River Trust the opportunity to work with a new charity to transform waterways as well as helping to rebuild our wounded heroes’ lives.”
Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery said: “We are delighted that the ‘Dream Fund’ has enabled this partnership between the Canal & River Trust and Help for Heroes. Heritage Heroes will make such a difference to the lives of our injured servicemen and women and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of their hard work on our historic canals.”