Litter Pick-Me-Up: Volunteering on Scotland’s Canals

Volunteers are the lifeblood of what we do. They play an increasing role in caring for the built, natural and cultural heritage of the canals and in delivering projects that help others learn new skills, train for work, gain confidence and get active.

From safeguarding the built heritage of the waterways, which can range from litter-picking on the world’s longest lock flight or managing vegetation in the shadow of The Kelpies, to leading a walk or cycle group or even acting as a mentor for young people on our employability programmes, our volunteers undertake a huge variety of projects that help make our amazing canals a vibrant and valuable part of our communities.

In 2013, our volunteers committed 2,099 days (that’s just under six years!) to projects along Scotland’s canals, helping young people on the path to work, capturing the often unbelievable oral history of the waterways, and undertaking wildlife surveys to protect their rich environments and habitats for years to come.

But there’s also a personal benefit to volunteering. Our volunteers gain valuable new skills, meet new people, boost their CVs, and gain the satisfaction of knowing they’re making a real difference to the waterways and the communities that line their banks.

One of our most successful volunteering projects, Green Action gives young people who are unemployed the chance to work outdoors as volunteers carrying out conservation and vegetation management tasks, caring for and enhancing the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals, learning valuable skills, working as a team and earning vital qualifications. It’s an experience that literally transforms lives.

“From the first day, I knew the project would change my life for the better. Coming to Green Action gives me a sense of achievement I have never had before. I’ve been on benefits since leaving school and I thought I would never achieve or be anything. Coming to Green Action has increased my confidence levels through new motivation and realising I can do anything.” – Lyndsey, Green Action volunteer

To date, 65% of the young people completing Green Action secured a job, place in training or education or a volunteering role. But it’s not just individuals who can benefit from volunteering – businesses such as the Royal Bank of Scotland have also donned their work gear and took to the canal banks, creating bug hotels and clearing space for a wildflower meadow.

No matter who they are or what they do, our volunteers help to connect people with the heritage, wildlife and green, open spaces of our canals, working with us to transform lives and inspire communities across Scotland to create a better future. If you think we can help each other, please get in touch and join our ever-growing network of incredible canal champions.