Programme Reflections: David Barnes

David joined our Green Leadership Programme from his project: Ambassadors for the Canal – Canal Lengths Persons (CLP). The CLP Project provides a structured and purposeful opportunity for trained volunteers to support and promote the blue and green environment of the canal, towpath, and neighbouring areas as a resource for exercise and wildlife habitats.

‘Canal Lengths Men’ is a traditional term for people looking after sections of canal, and so David’s work is about an updating of the practice. This project is carried out under the auspices of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society (MBBCS) of which David is also a trustee and company director.

Here’s what David said of the Green Leadership Programme:

“The Green Leadership Programme has given me a direction in the work I want to do to bring wellbeing and wildlife together in urban areas through the opportunity for green and blue exercise. As a canal restoration activist, a regular wildlife conservation volunteer and social worker I’ve always looked to find ways to combine these imperatives in my life and the programme has helped me find that way.

“Despite nearly 40 years of conservation work I have never been a confident ‘nature spotter’; I do know the difference between a blackbird and a sparrow but not much beyond that. So, I was a little nervous that I would be out of my depth for that reason but the programme has allayed those concerns as it is clearly focused on participation in nature. The workshops with the guest speakers have emphasised that aspect and have piqued my brain cells to think more widely about how to achieve the outcome of canal restoration for the benefit of people and wildlife.

“I tend to be a reflector activist so the practical activities on the programme are not the most fruitful aspect for me. It is the opportunity to think about and discuss ideas for practical application beyond the workshop. The mentoring has been excellent both for helping to structure my thinking and to open doors to opportunities to put it into practice. So, since commencing the programme I have initiated the process for consulting on the project with the society members and beyond. This has included organising a major event for the canal restoration community bringing together canal activists from across the Midlands and north of England, with developers and community leaders in the local area of the canal.

“As a canal society we have been successful in achieving additional funding which will complement the programme funding to put on a series of learning workshops on a range of topics for the role of Ambassador/Lengthspersons. Having been recently trained on Discovering Priority Habitats by the Freshwater Biological Association this will be integrated into the learning programme. I have also had one-to-one advice on use of the storymapping app. But it will also promote the vital contribution that community activities such as litter picking make.

“I would have pursued this path without the Green Leadership Programme but the programme has had a vital role in giving impetus and additional inspiration to my pursuit of the outcomes.”

Green Leadership Programme

The Green Leadership Programme is supported by Natural England and takes place over 5 months between July – November 2023. Participants take part in practical workshop sessions at different Green Community Hubs across the North and are matched with a Groundwork mentor providing ongoing support through the programme. Find out more below

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