Poet pens ode to love for local waterways

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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.

In the poem he refers to a stretch of the Calder and Hebble Navigation which has been improved by the local community who have improved the towpath surface, planted trees, improved flood defence walls and repaired crumbling dry stone walls.

The piece, titled Words on Water, was launched as part of the annual meeting of the Canal and 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.

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,.

Ian McMillan said: “The work of the Canal and 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”.

Here is the poem:

A canal is a mix

Of fragility and strength

Of ancient locks

Up and down the length

And breadth of the North

And, for what it’s worth (they soon dry, wring ‘em out)

Pairs of soaking socks

Oh yes,

Pairs of soaking socks.

A lot of people lend

Willing brains and hefty brawn

A helping hand

In a flooded dawn

In all the pouring rain;

And in Pocklington (or Mirfield, or Naburn)

Loads of great ideas

Oh yes,

Loads of great ideas.

A canal is a road

For a lot of freight to ride,

Landscape to read

Two centuries wide.

Kennet in the sun

Workshops growing strong

And, to top it off (and here, and now)

Waterside restored

Oh yes

Waterside restored.

A lot of people love

The canals and what they mean

To work and live

By the water’s gleam;

They will have their day

Then everyone will say (or sing, or shout)

Canals are back for good

Oh yes

Canals are back for good!