A new canal section forming the eastern gateway to Scotland’s historic Forth & Clyde Canal is set for a royal seal of approval as it is officially named in honour of Her Majesty The Queen.
The ceremony on July 5th will see The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh board the Seagull Trust barge ‘The Wooden Spoon Seagull’ and lead a flotilla along Scotland’s newest canal section, built as part of the £43m Helix project which features the internationally-acclaimed, 30-metre-high Kelpies sculptures, before unveiling a plaque officially naming the new section the Queen Elizabeth II Canal.
The Helix, driven by a partnership of Falkirk Council, Scottish Canals and the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, and supported with £25m in National Lottery funding from the Big Lottery Fund, has transformed 350 hectares of underused land between Falkirk and Grangemouth into a vibrant parkland, visitor attraction and marine hub with the canal and The Kelpies at its heart. The site is now managed by Falkirk Community Trust on behalf of the partners.
Communities Secretary Angela Constance said: “I’m delighted to attend this event where Her Majesty, the Queen is undertaking the official naming of this new stretch of canal, linking Grangemouth with the Forth and Clyde Canal.
“The Queen Elizabeth II Canal has transformed access for mariners from Northern Europe and created a world-class marine hub in and out of Scotland.
“I’d like to congratulate all the organisations involved in developing this innovative and new section of canal, the Helix Park and the Kelpies, which have helped boost the local economy and tourism in the area.”
Since The Helix was opened in April 2014, more than 2.5 million visitors from all over the world have stood in the shadow of The Kelpies, taken to its 27km network of paths by boot or bike, or watched boats travelling along the new canal. The project has brought renewed vibrancy to the area and boosted the local economy by an estimated £1.5m per year.
The Queen Elizabeth II Canal forms the eastern gateway to the Forth & Clyde Canal, which carves across Scotland from Bowling in the west to Grangemouth and the River Carron in the east. One of the most complex sections of waterway ever constructed in Scotland, the Queen Elizabeth II Canal passes underneath two major trunk roads and across utility pipelines, demanding innovative engineering solutions from a UK-wide team of experts.
The Queen Elizabeth II Canal has transformed the maritime experience of sailors arriving from across Northern Europe and beyond and created a world-class marine hub into and out of Scotland. The one-kilometre canal returns the Forth & Clyde back to its birthplace in Grangemouth some 250 years after it was built. The QEII Canal is the final piece of the Millennium Link – an £83.5 million project that restored the nation’s inland waterways to a navigable state for the first time in more than 50 years and saw the construction of the iconic Falkirk Wheel.
Andrew Thin, Chairman of Scottish Canals, said: “The Kelpies and the canal they tower over have captured the imaginations of people the world over but they belong to the people of Falkirk, Grangemouth and Scotland itself. We hope everyone will join us in welcoming Her Majesty to The Kelpies and the Queen Elizabeth II Canal on July 5th for a fantastic celebration of the industrial past and bright future of the area and the waterway that sits at its heart.”
Clad in almost 1000 shimmering steel panels, standing the same height as six and a half double decker buses, and weighing more than 600 tonnes, The Kelpies are a monumental addition to the Falkirk and Grangemouth skyline that are estimated to be seen by more than 50 million people per year from the canal, the M9 motorway, and The Helix itself.
Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, Leader of Falkirk Council, said: “The official naming of the canal is another huge landmark in the Falkirk area’s transformation from an industrial heartland to one of Scotland’s best tourist destinations. The Kelpies and Helix Park have attracted visitors from throughout the world, shining an international spotlight on our area, boosting the local economy and creating new jobs. Falkirk Council has played an important part in this transformation, working alongside our partners and our local communities, and we welcome this exciting addition to what the Helix has to offer.”
Inspiration for The Kelpies came from the heavy horses which pulled boats and cargo along the towpaths of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals in their heyday. The transport arteries of the Industrial Revolution, the canals and the horses that walked them played a huge role in the development of the area. The sculptures’ name was derived from the mythical Celtic water horses which could transform their shape and which were reputed to have the strength of 10 horses and the endurance of many more.
Originally envisioned as a moving boat lift, during the early design process the notion of The Kelpies changed to monumental sculptures symbolising the industrial past of both the canal and the communities that line its banks. Glasgow-based artist Andy Scott – Scotland’s best-known equine sculptor – transformed The Kelpies from idea to reality, imagining a colossal gateway towering either side of the canal to welcome weary sailors and visitors to the nation’s hospitable shores.
For more information on the ceremony, see https://www.scottishcanals.co.uk/events/official-naming-of-queen-elizabeth-ii-canal/