A group of teenagers have been hard at work rejuvenating a stretch of canal by improving the towpath, building new steps and making homes for wildlife.
Wilds Lodge School pupils began the major project on the Oakham Canal, at Ashwell, three years ago and their efforts are really beginning to show - much to the delight of fishermen and nature lovers.
The project, carried out in partnership with Oakham Angling Society, has helped the enthusiastic volunteers - aged between 14 and 16 - learn new skills and work towards their Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.
Using around six tonnes of gravel donated by Tarmac, the group have been resurfacing the towpath which had been damaged by floods. They have also built a conservation area with handmade bird tables, bat and hedgehog boxes, repaired fishing platforms and planted daffodils.
Paul Rogers, environmental studies teacher at school, in Empingham, said pupils have been on site every Tuesday.
He said: “Three years ago, the angling club approached the school and asked if we would like to get involved with some clear up work and renovations after the towpath was flooded. The site had become overgrown and was in need of some work.
“It seemed like a great opportunity and we’ve been committed to the project ever since. Our pupils get a lot out of it – confidence, team work, construction skills and volunteering experience.
“As well as repairing the path, we’ve also helped restock the canal with four or five hundred carp.
“We’ve had five lads from Years 10 and 11 involved recently, and some help from parents. It’s still a work in progress, but roughly half of the towpath has been completed so far.”
Anthony Brown, from Oakham Angling Society, was full of praise for the school.
He said: “It’s a real team effort getting this far and the boys have been a great help.
“There’s still more work to do, but we’ve broken the back of it. The canal is now really popular with walkers and nature lovers, as well as anglers.”
Oakham Canal opened in 1802 and ran from Oakham to Melton Mowbray. It was never a financial success, suffering from the lack of an adequate water supply and its demise was hastened by the arrival of the railways in the area.
Most of the original canal has long since been filled in.