Our Chairman on the Caley

Our Chairman Andrew Thin took to the towpaths of the Caledonian Canal recently, braving some wild and windy weather as he walked the length of the waterway. We caught up with him to get his impressions of the Caledonian in winter…

So where did you walk from and to, Andrew?

My walk took me all the way from Neptune’s Staircase at one end of the canal to Muirtown Basin at the other. It has to be one of the finest long distance walks in Scotland.

And what were you hoping to see on your travels?

I really enjoy taking to the towpaths and meeting our staff and customers, but this time I was more interested in taking a good look at the canal and its assets. It was fantastic to see that, at every stage along the canal, there was good evidence of pre-emptive maintenance taking place. Lots of small things were being done to prevent bigger issues from arising, and there was definitely a sense of Scottish Canals being very much on top of cost effective maintenance.

What else stood out for you during your journey?

One thing that was clear is that Scottish Canals is an organisation that understands the need to focus on providing a great experience for its customers. There was no shortage of signage along the canal and all the information presented to our users was clear and well-worded. I had a very real sense that everything we do is driven by an understanding of our customers’ needs. At a time of intense competition for public funding support from government, it’s something that is vitally important.

Did you bump into any of our staff on your trek?

I did. They were easily identifiable in their uniforms and, as always, were a pleasure to speak to. Importantly, all of the staff premises, associated facilities and vehicles that I saw were tidy, well-maintained and created a real sense of a business that’s professional, capable and customer-facing. Our staff are one of our greatest assets and the team on the Caledonian are fantastic ambassadors for the organisation.

So what were your overall impressions of the canal?

It was a very encouraging and enjoyable trip – despite some pretty awful weather. I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to our staff for all their hard work during the winter; thanks to them, we seem to be in a great position for what I hope will be a very busy and successful season. I’ll be taking to the towpaths again later in the spring to see how that work has paid off – hopefully in sunnier weather!

We also hear you explored the majority of the Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail recently. How did you find it?

I set out from our head office in Applecross Street after a meeting with some of our hardworking management team, and spent a couple of days paddling my kayak through to Fountainbridge in Edinburgh. Again what struck me was the huge amount of work being done by our staff on the ground by way of low cost pre-emptive maintenance, which is so important in the current financial climate. I was also delighted by how many people I met along the way. This was the first week of March, yet despite the cold there were hundreds of people out there enjoying what we provide and deriving a great deal of personal benefit from doing so.

How did it compare to other paddles you’ve undertaken?

The Lowland canals are one of Scotland’s hidden treasures. Of course we know that they are perfect for walking and cycling, and thousands of people use them for that purpose every week. But they are also absolutely ideal for small craft, and one of the safest places I know for paddling. One of the opportunities available to us over the next few years is to increase their use for this kind of activity.

What were the most memorable sights of the route?

There were several, many of them to do with the remarkable scenery and wildlife that I came across along the route. A fox sitting outside its den in Maryhill. A kingfisher skimming along the water ahead of me. But by far the most inspiring moment was as I was paddling through Wester Hailes in Edinburgh and a bunch of schoolkids came running down the towpath in a state of great excitement to ask me where I was going. It is their enthusiasm and support that is so vital to our long term future.

Where will you be headed to next on the network?

My immediate priority is to walk along the Crinan Canal – the only bit of canal that I have not yet explored. But beyond that I will continue to be out there on all the canals whenever I can. There is no better way to understand the business that we are in, and to see at first hand the excellent job that our staff are doing on behalf of the people of Scotland.

Share this Story