Ian McMillan writes special poem celebrating Yorkshire's love of its waterways

The Bard of Barnsley, Ian McMillan, has written a poem to celebrate the special bond between Yorkshire people and the county's historic waterways and reflecting on the role that local communities have played in improving them for people and wildlife.

The poem, launched last night at the Tetley in Leeds, recognises the Herculean efforts of volunteers in dealing with the impact of the Boxing Day floods, marks the bicentenary of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and hails the efforts of communities across Yorkshire in making their local waterways special, more enjoyable places to visit.

The piece, titled Words on Water, was launched as part of the annual meeting of the Canal & River Trust’s North East Waterway Partnership. In 2013 the Partnership launched its ten-year strategy for improving Yorkshire’s waterways and the poem sets out what’s been achieved over the first three years of the plan.

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In it Ian reflects on the major role that local people played in the aftermath of the Boxing Day floods after they gave more than 8,000 hours to help clear mud and other debris, rebuild canalside walls and reconnect communities by repairing 14km of towpath.

He also refers to a project at Mirfield where the local community has improved their local stretch of the Calder & Hebble Navigation by improving the towpath surface, planting trees, creating new flowerbeds and seating areas, improving flood defence walls and repairing crumbling dry stone walls.

A project to improve wildlife habitats and historic bridges on the Pocklington Canal gets a mention as does ongoing work to restore 200 year-old workshops at Naburn, near York, for use by the community and visitors to the town. Historic boat Kennet which recently lead the celebrations of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal’s bicentenary is included and there’s also a hint of the potential for Yorkshire’s waterways to carry more freight.

Ian McMillan said: “The work of the Canal & River Trust goes from strength to strength and I hope that my poem can be part of the celebrations, illustrating the Trust’s voyage through the tunnel of history to the lock gate of the future”.

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Mark Penny, chair of the Canal & River Trust’s North East Waterway Partnership, said; “We’re delighted with Words on Water, we’ve worked with communities across Yorkshire over the past three years and the poem is a great reflection of the role that local people have been playing.

“It’s a tremendous tribute to all the hard work, creativity and genuine affection that communities across Yorkshire have brought to their local canal or river over the past three years.

“It was wonderful to unveil the poem at our annual meeting last night in which we reflected on what’s been achieved and also outlined our plans for the years ahead. Hopefully we’ll have lots more to reflect on in the coming years as more and more people get involved with our work.”

For more information on the work of the North East Waterway Partnership go to; www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/about-us/our-regions/north-east-waterways

To download a video or audio file of Words on Water go to https://www.dropbox.com/sh/c5uw6mxko885wmu/AABTTr6SV364c-PEoLH9hmzla/Words%20On%20Water?dl=0