Students from the University of Northampton are being given the responsibility to boost a village’s tourist appeal, by breathing new life into a stretch of the Grand Union Canal.
The University has adopted a mile’s length of the historic waterway which flows through the centre of Cosgrove, a Northamptonshire village which lies between the towns of Towcester and Milton Keynes.
The stretch was identified by the Canal & River Trust, the charity which cares for more than 2,000 miles of canals and rivers across England and Wales, as a location which could be developed further to help promote the Grand Union Canal at Cosgrove as a place for people to visit and enjoy.
Alan Lovell, Programme Leader in Leisure Management, said: “The adoption allows our Travel and Tourism students to get hands-on, real-life experience of managing a visitor attraction in conjunction with experts from the waterways sector. “
Around 20 students will visit the canal in the coming weeks to carry out an audit of the signs that are on site, with the chance to re-design new signage in line with the Trust’s brand guidelines. They will also carry out maintenance of the canal, including dredging, painting, litter picking and maintaining the towpaths.
The undergraduates will also survey canal visitors to assess their demographics and needs, and help Buckingham Canal Society with regeneration of an adjacent stretch of the waterway that is being restored.
“It is an excellent opportunity for them to leave a lasting legacy at the adopted site by having input into the interpretation, signage and visual aesthetic of the attraction,” added Alan.
“Students will be able to explore the concepts of managing an area that requires consideration from environmental, socio-cultural and economic perspectives and developing working relationships with key local stakeholders. Also, dredging a canal and seeing what is on the bottom will be a lot of fun.”
Sarah Brown, Development & Engagement Manager for the Canal & River Trust said: “This is a great opportunity for us to get a new perspective and some fresh ideas by working with students from The University of Northampton. Cosgrove is an excellent place to explore the history of the waterways and the students will give the canal a new lease of life, by improving this section for many years to come”.
The students’ work aligns with the University’s social impact agenda, which is embedded in the institution’s five-year strategy. The strategy includes four ambitious social impact challenges, one of which aims to build the cultural and heritage traditions of Northamptonshire into world-class attractions.
The University has strong links with the Canal and River Trust. In 2015, Dr Richard Hazenberg and Dr Meanu Bajwa-Patel from the University’s Institute for Social Innovation and Impact authored a report on the social impact of canal restorations, which identified the financial, social and environmental benefits of such work.
They have also produced reports for the trust on canal restorations in London and are also exploring further work relating to restorations in the south west.
Students Hulda Adao, Jelizaveta Scerbina and Sandra Prawda are pictured during their first visit to the Grand Union Canal.