Hear more from artist Anna Francis as she prepares for the first of the Nature Recovery Community Walks along the canal at Kidsgrove.
Conversations with the community
The Get Talking Kidsgrove event took place on Thursday October 5th in Kidsgrove Sports Centre. I was really pleased to be invited along to talk to community members about the Nature Recovery project that I am starting with Appetite. In particular I wanted to talk about how people feel about the canal. I got the train to Kidsgrove train station and had a little walk along the canal before heading to the sports centre.
Although it is very much autumn already, I was keen to see what might still be growing along the cut. It was surprising how much colour there still is as you walk along the edge of the water, in terms of flowers and leaves. In fact, I was delighted at the strength of orange of the water, which varies in its intensity each time I visit.
What I found growing along the canal side was a pleasing number of plants with herbal properties. I collected a good range to take with me as a starting point for conversation with community members. My aim was to talk about a number of things with people in relation to the canal.
First, I wanted to explore if people walk along the canal, and if so, how they feel when they are walking. In particular I wanted to know if people feel safe, and their reasons for visiting. I also asked if people would be interested in walking with me if I were to host a series of Community Walks between now and next March.
I had some really great conversations with people, all telling me that they walk the canal regularly. Some us it because it’s a good route to get from ‘a to b’ quickly. Others walk and run there for health and well-being. Overwhelmingly, people felt safe to walk the canal in the day, but not so much at night (a couple said they didn’t want to fall in, as it is dark).
I had a lovely discussion with a young man who likes to run along the canal, who said:
” You know that feeling when have been away and then you get home? That’s how I feel when I visit the canal. “
People expressed that the canal is a place of calm – with one individual describing the canal as their sanctuary. We talked together about recognising the canal as a nature haven, and I heard a number of times that people visit to look at the trees and plants, and that it can provide a feeling of well-being.
Plants along the canal
I shared the range of plants that I had found along the canal and noted that quite a few have life-giving properties. It struck me as interesting, that the sense of calm and well-being expressed by visitors to the canal is relevant to the plants that are growing there. I found sow thistle, whose medicinal uses traditionally have included as an anti-inflammatory, a painkiller and an antiseptic. Herb Robert which has been used to treat nosebleeds and stomach upsets, and coltsfoot which if made into a tea has been used to treat asthma, sore throat, wheezing, bronchitis and laryngitis.
These are all wayward plants, that have self-seeded along the canal side, and I have begun to wonder if a purpose planted herbal bed could supplement these *self-propagated herbalists. The other thing that struck me, in relation to the plants growing along the canal, was the opportunism of some of the self-seeders that had managed to grow in the tiniest of pockets. ‘Pockets of opportunity’ – something to think a bit more about.
The first community walk
People were really interested in joining a community walk. Many expressed interest in being joined on those walks by specialists in a few areas:
- Herbal plant specialists, who could lead a foraging walk to help us identify further herbal species along the canal
- Heritage specialists that could link the natural ecology to the history of the canal
- An ecologist that could help us understand any endangered species along the canal, and how we can better support them
All brilliant ideas!
The first community walk will be on Saturday November 4th, 11am to 1pm.
We will meet and set off from the lodge on the Kidsgrove side of Harecastle Tunnel. I would like to invite organisations and people already connected to the canal in some way to come along and be ‘Human Noticeboards‘ – local group representatives, organisers, makers, doers and practitioners – to speak for around two minutes about your interests and activities, and signpost to ways that people can get involved. You can share your information in any way you feel, from straight informative delivery, to personal anecdotes.
See you there! Anna.
How to join in
You are free to join the walk on the day, however it would be helpful if you could register via Eventbrite in advance so that Anna knows how many people to expect.
Do you have something you’d like to share with Anna about the canal, the plants or animals that live there? Or have questions about becoming a Human Noticeboard? Get in touch at email@example.com
Biodiversity – the different types life (plant, animal, fungi) in the location or area. This project aims to map and track different species to gain an understanding of the variety and numbers.
Ecologies – looks at the relations of living organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. In this project, we are using ecology to describe the relationship between living things, including humans and other species.
Propagation – the breeding of specimens of a plant or animal by natural processes from the parent stock.
Kidsgrove Canal Nature Recovery is a partnership project by Appetite and Canal & River Trust. Appetite are supported by Go Kidsgrove to deliver projects in Kidsgrove.
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