The Interreg Europe Programme provides support to the protection and development of cultural heritage as part of the environment and resource efficiency theme. Of the current Interreg Europe projects two, HERICOAST and SWARE, work on sustainable management of heritage in coastal and waterway regions.

Coastal and waterway regions are home to a rich array of natural, built and cultural heritage. The popularity of these areas as visitor destinations but also as locations for maritime activity and other industry creates a unique set of pressures. There are also vulnerabilities resulting from environmental challenges such as rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

One organisation which has experience of dealing with these challenges is the Canal & River Trust (UK) which is responsible for safeguarding and protecting over 2,000 miles of historic waterways in England and Wales, as well as 49 scheduled monuments, 2,701 listed buildings, 317 conservation areas and many other non-designated assets. Caring for these assets involves a continuous programme of maintenance and repairs and each year the Trust produces a report which highlights the steps which have been taken to care for this heritage. The Trust’s strategy involves having its own dedicated team of heritage advisers who provide the expertise to understand and conserve the heritage of the waterways (including training for other staff). The Trust also benefits from the inputs of a specialist Heritage Advisory Group which acts as a sounding board and provides advice and support.

In recent years, there has been a growing role for volunteers in supporting activities and a new programme has been developed to train young people in heritage skills.

  • In 2015/16, volunteers working with the Trust’s heritage team contributed over 1,200 hours of their time. Heritage volunteers are able to get involved in a wide range of activities including historical research, heritage assessments, conservation management plans, practical works to historic structures and recording historic structures.
  • Starting in September 2015, the Trust has offered an apprenticeship scheme for young people to develop the traditional heritage skills of carpentry, stone-masonry and brickwork through a mix of work on site and classroom studies.

Further information about the work done by the Canal and River Trust to conserve and manage waterways heritage can be found in its series of annual reports (available here).