Swansea Canal Society receives the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

The Swansea Canal Society, a group of volunteers based around the Swansea Canal in the Lower Swansea Valley, has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

“Regenerating the Swansea Canal as a community asset for active recreation and as a heritage visitor destination.”

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The Society was formed in 1981. It became a registered charity in 2004 and modified the charitable status in 2016 to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Volunteers care for a linear water park that everyone can be proud of and the Society is dedicated to improving that amenity for everyone’s benefit.

The Society is run by volunteers that come from all walks of life. It is privileged to encourage volunteers with special needs, including the clients of Whitethorns Intensive Day Service, Morriston.

In recent years it has welcomed working parties from the Waterway Recovery Group that have been particularly active in supporting efforts to restore Trebanos and Ynysmeudwy Locks. The Society also hosts volunteer work parties from commercial organisations.

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Its aims are:

  • To promote the heritage and history of the canal
  • To protect its wildlife
  • To restore the canal to navigable standards
  • To improve the canal environment for the health and benefit of all visitors

Although on-site work is suspended currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Society is very “hands on”. Members pride themselves on physical hard work every Tuesday when they undertake various restoration tasks. For example, restoring the canal bank in several sites between Clydach and Trebanos by laying down concrete filled bags and topping these with either flat stone or earth. Another, never-ending activity is litter picking.

The Society operates a vibrant programme of canoe and kayak hire for the benefit of the entire community that, sadly, is also not able to open at the moment. In addition to the physical activity, much work goes on in the background including seeking grant funding to support its work.

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None of the activities of the Society would be possible without close collaboration with Glandŵr Cymru – the Canal & River Trust in Wales – that owns the canal. The Trust gives permission to work on the canal, helps to design and supervise projects, provides much of the materials used in restoration and offers continuing expert advice and support.

Gordon Walker, chairman of the Swansea Canal Society, says: “I am delighted that our group’s work to bring the Swansea Canal back to life for the community through its heritage, wildlife and navigation has been recognised.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the hard work and commitment of the Society’s volunteers, our friends from Whitethorns and everyone else who contributes so much time and effort to the canal. He adds that none of this would be possible without the wonderful support of Glandŵr Cymru.”

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Richard Parry, chief executive of Glandŵr Cymru adds “The Swansea Canal Society is a fantastic group of volunteers whose love for, and commitment to the Canal, and its role in the local community shines through in everything they do.

“They also make it tremendous fun – and by giving their time and energy they are making a vital difference to the health and wellbeing of everyone who uses the canal today. Their enthusiastic work to restore it for greater use is inspiring. This prestigious recognition is well-deserved and Glandŵr Cymru sends huge congratulations to everyone in the Society.”

The Swansea Canal Society is one of 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse. They include volunteer groups from across the UK, such as a community shop in Cornwall, a group working with refugees and vulnerable people in Stirling, a thriving community arts centre in County Down and our own environmental group north of Swansea.

Representatives of Swansea Canal Society will receive the award from Mrs Louise Fleet, HM Lord-Lieutenant of West Glamorgan, later this summer, as soon as the pandemic permits. Two volunteers from the Society will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.

For further information please contact either Andy Ellis [Mobile : 07876412014, Email : funding.swanseacanalsociety@talktalk.net] or Gordon Walker [Mobile : 07794534563] Enjoy more Towpath Talk reading in the monthly paper. Click here to subscribe.

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