It may be a pure PR stunt, but it does have the potential to give towpath users a better appreciation of boaters and boaters the rare chance to feel valued.
C&RT's Boat in Bloom awards offer both instant gratification and the chance to build long-term appreciation.
Of course corny quotes are essential in any C&RT press release and its Boats in Bloom initiative is launched with the words: “It’s blooming marvellous on the waterways” says the Canal & River Trust as it celebrates green-fingered boaters and waterside gardeners.”
Starting in May, the Trust will be presenting colourful certificates to anyone whose boat or waterside planting is putting a smile on the face of passers-by. The charity is also calling on people to share photos of blossoming boats and waterways to create an online gallery to inspire and delight others.
There will also be a number of special prize categories for which people can nominate themselves or others. Nominations will run through to 31 July and will be whittled down to a shortlist by a judging panel. The shortlist will be published on the Trust’s website and boaters and waterway and gardening-lovers will be able to vote for their favourites.
Matthew Symonds, boating strategy and engagement manager at the Canal & River Trust, said: “Take a walk along any towpath and you’ll be likely to come across a boat or a garden that lifts your spirits with its beautiful blooms. With Boats in Bloom we’re saying thank you to all these gardeners who bring so much pleasure to other people.
“We’d love to see how boaters and waterside gardeners are transforming the space around them. If you have a favourite boat or towpath garden, or are especially proud of your own, please let us know. We want Boats in Bloom to raise a smile, give people ideas and maybe inspire them to try a spot of gardening, or boating, themselves.”
Beyond all the flowery quotes it is undeniable that, organised well, the scheme can give other canal users an appreciation of what boats bring to the waterways as well as increasing the general levels of prettiness at the interface between canals and the public.
Boaters will feel more appreciated by C&RT – something sorely lacking at present – and will be encouraged to take even more pride in their vessels.
The special prize categories are:
Boats in Bloom
· Most flower filled boat
· Most edible growing boat
· Most imaginative use of space
Towpaths in Bloom
· Best towpath garden or open space
· Best towpath business in bloom
· Best wildlife friendly towpath gardening initiative
To find out more about Boats in Bloom please visit: www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/boatsinbloom
What do you think of it so far?
It makes a new effort to raise public awareness each year just after the stoppage season when it has harvested a new collection of pictures of discarded junk but this year, perhaps because of a small government anti-litter campaign, it seems to be making better inroads into public consciousness, particularly in city areas.
Boaters would be delighted to spend less time scraping over discarded rubbish and suddenly finding their boat lurch to a dangerous angle as they pass over a dumped shopping trolley or worse.
One highlight of the publicity campaign was the regional media coverage of the junk in the pounds of the Rochdale flight in Manchester, where C&RT cleared the rubbish before re-watering and the local council also took steps to close the underground section at night.
In Birmingham the regular BCN clean-up brought headlines in the local evening 'papers and in London stories about odds finds on the canal bed also earned coverage.
The Trust highlighted the weird and wonderful junk dumped in canals - a blow-up doll, golf buggies, pogo stick, flat screen TV and opened safes in its efforts to highlight the effect of dumped rubbish on nation’s waterways
In true tabloid form C&RT announced; “At an annual cost of £1 million to clean up after litter-happy Britons – from blow up dolls to shopping trolleys - the Canal & River Trust is saying enough is enough.”
It also provided a snapshot of public attitudes by producing a survey in which 96 per cent of people said that they didn’t think it was acceptable to drop litter, but 66 per cent still admitted to doing it.
It also highlighted the damage: “Most of the discarded rubbish on the waterways sinks to the bottom of the canal or river bed, causing an invisible hazard to the environment and boats.
“Tyres and other rubbish contain pollutants which leak into the water and poison fish and other wildlife. Often rubbish acts as a choking hazard and wildlife can become trapped in it.”
The survey also showed 80 per cent of people concerned about the amount of litter in their local area – yet every year thousands of plastic bags (which take up to 20 years to break down) and drink cans (which can take up to 200 years) are thrown into the waterways.
Peter Birch, National Environment Manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Rubbish being thrown into our canals and rivers is a problem that is not going away. We are asking members of the public to join the fight against litter. We should be protecting these special places not damaging them. Our excellent army of volunteers help us to clear rubbish but the funds that we have to allocate to it could be better spent.”