Smiley Movement logo

Community turns messy canal into urban oasis

Words by Smiley Team

A community of eco-conscious residents have transformed a ‘messy and unloved’ canal stretch in West London into a thriving urban oasis.

In 2013, local resident Dave Bedford was fed up with the state of the section of the Regent’s Canal near his home when he decided to start litter picking in the area.

“When the water level was low I’d wade in and pull out all sorts of rubbish, tyres, bits of cars," he tells Smiley News. “One day I was cleaning up and a lady cycling by asked what I was doing, and I just explained I was trying to make it look nicer.”

[Sign up to receive a weekly dose of positive news]

It turned out that the woman worked for the waterways charity Thames21 who she soon put Dave in touch with, to start attending training sessions.

Dave and another volunteer, Mollie, slowly began running cleanup events for the canal and that was how The Lower Regents Coalition was born.

When a canoe company moved into the local area, they offered their services to Dave and together the team hosted monthly canoe litter picking days that are still popular to this day. That was eight years ago, and the local cleanup community has grown much bigger and stronger over the years.

'We pulled 9.5 tonnes of rubbish out of the canal'

In 2014, the canal was drained for wall repairs, and the coalition persuaded Canal River Trust to let the group clean the canal bed whilst it was empty.

The team held eight cleanup events over a six-week period, where they pulled 9.5 tonnes of rubbish out of the canal, from bits of black cabs to guns. 

The success of the cleanup started to get a lot of attention and within two months, the group went from 100 volunteers to 900.