As we come to the end of our project, we’re in Manchester, meeting local volunteer groups, museums and study centres. We’re showing people what we have produced during the project, getting feedback and encouraging them to make use of our work to start to make their own canal trails and share them.

We’ve created three trails using the app.

There will also be a how-to guide, which will be available online. It will include technical tips and advice on how to source materials, copyright and so on. Our Dutch colleagues are putting that together for the end of August.

We’ve also learnt a lot about who is developing canal heritage along the Ashton and Rochdale Canals, how they’re doing that and what canals are ‘for’ in our age. This is really varied.

Canaboats mooredThere are people who love to walk and take photos of beautiful scenery or interesting structures. Some people love to come down once a month and pick litter or weed the towpath. Others see canals as an enhanced setting for new housing developments or public spaces. There are canal boaters and those who wish they were, people who run businesses on board them, those who paint them, and people who organise festivals and fairs. And there are those illicit uses of the canal and its towpath – diving and swimming or using the towpath for secret liaisons, barring the odd dog walker… Sometimes these different groups are in harmony and sometimes there are tensions.

We’d like to add to this list the creation of imaginative, evocative, curious guided walks. Walks that draw people’s attention to the details of the waterside, that slough off the accumulation of years and reveal the many layers of history along the canals and the communities that line their route.

There are so many stories that can be told. Of bricked up tunnels to underground canals. Of well-known local characters, like Spring-heel Jack, who could leap the canal. Or of the industries that the canal aided – the mines, the steel works, the glass factories.

If you have an idea for a trail and want to know more about how to make it happen, please do get in touch.