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10 year challenge celebrates 200 years of Union Canal

Creative Director and Co-Founder
August 26 2022

Our 10 year active travel challenge completed in time to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the Union Canal.

On Sunday August 28th the HarrisonStevens team honoured one of our 10 year challenges to actively travel between Edinburgh and Glasgow on the canal network. This was a challenge set to us in 2020 to mark our tenth anniversary as a landscape architecture practice. Due to the pandemic and lockdown with all its restrictions and social distancing we were unable to complete this during 2020. We are delighted to now have completed it, using canoes, bikes, running, and walking as modes of travel. It is of course amazing timing to coincide with the 200 year anniversary of the Union Canal. To mark this amazing milestone we sowed 200gms of Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor, seed into the existing grass areas at significant junction and connection points along the towpath network. This gesture aims to assist in enhancing the biodiversity of the canal estate.

During lockdown we did our best to adjust to the environment and sought ways to complete this challenge, which was set to us by Helena Huws, with an innovative twist of maintaining social distance and within the confines of the city boundary. See our blog; https://blog.harrisonstevens.co.uk/2020/06/04/05-10-canal-challenge/

Our journey across the canal started at the Edinburgh end in Lochrin Basin. Martin and Masha accompanied by Skye the puppy took to the waters in the canoe bright and early on Sunday morning.

 The peaceful journey took them westward from Edinburgh towards Ratho where the “baton” was passed over to Mike and Sam on their bikes. To signify the changing of the baton, the team looked for a sheltered spot beside the canal to plant the yellow rattle and post our signage to mark the change of the relay.

The weather warmed and the sun shone through the tree lined canal path as the team journeyed on visiting numerous past and present HS projects such as Wavegarden, Westside Plaza, Bridge8.

The team planted their way along the canal as members joined the cycle to the Falkirk Wheel, passing Linlithgow where Tom joined in for a run.

As lunchtime drew near the team arrived at a bustling Falkirk Wheel. The baton between Debbie and Liz was exchanged and the team powered through for a well-deserved lunchbreak.

The Wheel marked the halfway point in the journey between Edinburgh and Glasgow for the team. Further yellow rattle was planted along the canal path and Scottish Canals were out in force with litter picking equipment to clean up the canal areas around the Wheel.

Why Yellow Rattle? Yellow Rattle is often seen as the meadow makers secret helper. This plant will help to suppress more aggressive grass species in a meadow and in so doing provide a more conducive environment for a diversity of species to establish. It is a stepping stone and knee up to establishing meadows which are fantastic habitats for bees, butterflies and many other little critters.

The afternoon progressed and those keen enough cycled on reaching Glasgow in the early afternoon. Liz and Mike exchanged the baton at Croy and planted further seeds.

As the afternoon came to a close Martin and Mike passed Kirkintilloch and Maryhill aiming for their final destination, Spiers Wharf.

A great day was had by everyone involved, accompanied by a lot of tired legs! A healthy and enjoyable time outdoors visiting past and current projects whilst planting and documenting our active travel throughout the day.

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