The Union Canal was one of the last canals ever built in Britain. The Union was almost immediately overshadowed by the faster rail network in 1849. By 1965 the canal was closed, and became a stagnant ditch, receiving minimal maintenance to prevent leaks. Blocked by roads and housing development in the late Twentieth Century the canal almost disappeared.
However, over 30 years of enthusiasts’ effort, community campaigning and British Waterways Scotland’s foresight has resulted in the re-opening of the Union Canal.
The canal now forms a unique wildlife corridor connecting the heart of the city with the rural countryside and country parks of West and Midlothian, and linking with the Forth & Clyde canal via the Falkirk Wheel.
The successful Millennium lottery bid that made the project possible has at its heart the notion that a redeveloped canal has the potential to regenerate communities along the canal. That potential is being seen in the success of the Falkirk Wheel becoming Scotland’s third largest tourist attraction in its first season.
Timeline to Revival:
1970s: campaigning began.
Early 80s: aqueduct built over city bypass.
1997/8: millennium lottery bid made for canal rejuvenation project.
Successful after community support was demonstrated.
1998: £78 million allocated for the Millennium Link Project
Wester Hailes section re–dug
Numerous bridges repaired and raised
32 miles dredged
Result – a reinstated waterway.
For more information on the Union Canal please visit www.canaljunction.co.uk
The Union Canal is an important wildlife corridor for Edinburgh. This strip of habitat is vital to maintain wildlife population size and range of species. If these delicate ecologies are not sustained and protected, many forms of plant and bird species may vanish from the city.
“Scotland’s canals act as a wildlife corridor through our cities.
Where you find plants, you find insects, and where you find insects you find birds.”
Dr Olivia Lassiere Heritage and Environment Manager at British Waterways, quoted by Peter Ranscombe in The Scotsman