It’s been a couple of weeks now since the EU referendum. It still hasn’t really sunk in. But I’m still surprised everyday by some of the comments people make about the EU, highlighting just how deep the gap between perception and reality is. People rejoice at the end of Barmy Brussels Bureaucrat’s Bendy Banana Bans (that never existed). Two people I know have suggested we can finally go back to the halcyon days of pre-decimal money and Imperial weights and measures, as the EU took these away (decimalisation happened before we even joined the EEC – and the EU specifically protects many Imperial measures – pints as an example). One comment on a heritage thread on Facebook looking at the potential impacts read: ‘since when did the EU care about our heritage’. The sheer ignorance of this statement left me (and, by the other replies, many others too) a bit lost for words.
The weekend after the referendum, and my wife and I were in glorious Edale, Camping at Coopers Campsite, our first night under canvas together since our first child came along, almost five years ago exactly (and at the same site too!) After a good old moan in the car we promised to not let the referendum darken our weekend. And this it didn’t, with a great walk up Grindsbrook, and a hunt for the true summit in the mist, working our way round the pools in the peat created through the fantastic restoration efforts of the Moors For The Future project. We found it, after two trick cairns distracted us, but if that’s the true summit these days I’ll eat my hat!
On Sunday we went to Bugsworth Basin, on the the way out the peak towards the conurbation of Greater Manchester to test-paddle our new inflatable canoe before we stick the kids in it! If you don’t know it, pay it a visit, it’s a lovely place. Built to connect the Peak’s limestone quarries to markets in Northern England, the basin was a thriving inland port, providing an interchange between the tramways running up into the hills and the canal network to Manchester and beyond.
It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, but was for many years derelict, taking a huge restoration effort, especially from a group that has now become the Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust and the Waterways Protection Group. As with so many sites on our canal system, it was saved and reopened to boats by the (ongoing) hard work and dedication of volunteers. It’s now a great place to canoe from – not least as it’s about the only place you can easily get to anywhere near the Peak District without someone telling you you are trespassing by daring to paddle (more on this in future posts!). Bare in mind a Canal & Rivers Trust licence or British Canoeing membership is needed!
When we parked up I got out the car and the first thing I saw was a sign stating the project had been supported with funds from the European Union. The referendum debate, and the comments on heritage protection were staring back at me. Along with the additional irony that someone has tried to cross out the EU logo – matching experiences in many areas of the country benefiting from the EU voting to leave (see Cornwall and Wales). Of course, it is true to say the UK government can continue to fun projects like these directly. If the economy doesn’t take a hit (such a massive if right now…) it may even have more money it could allocate. I also don’t know how much the EU put in – or how it compares to funds from other sources. But this does show that it is entirely fair – and necessary – to ensure that we put pressure on the government to ensure the UK’s exit from the EU does not result in a reduction of funds for such projects. For those of us who love the great outdoors this covers a huge range of issues – from heritage, rural development and conservation funding through to legal protections for our natural environment.
There have already been great posts on the potential impacts, along with suggestions for ways forward, from the BMC (see the BMC’s article) and the Wildlife Trusts (with a great infographic). It’s vital we support these organisations in representing outdoor recreation and environmental protection.
You can also, to help Bugsworth Basin, join the charity which currently runs and enhances the site, or even volunteer to support them. You’ll find more details on the Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust website.