Scotland’s newest canal named in honour of The Queen

A new canal section forming the eastern gateway to Scotland’s historic Forth & Clyde Canal was given a royal seal of approval today (Wednesday 5th July) as it was officially named in honour of Her Majesty The Queen.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh boarded the Seagull Trust barge the ‘Wooden Spoon Seagull’ and led a small 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 unveiling was accompanied by a breathtaking aerobatic display from the Global Stars stunt flying team.

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 along with £480,000 of funding through Sustrans Scotland’s Community Links programme, 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.

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.

Communities Secretary Angela Constance said: “I’m delighted to attend the official naming of this new stretch of canal by Her Majesty The Queen.

“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.”

"We are honoured that Her Majesty The Queen was able to join us to celebrate the naming of the Queen Elizabeth II Canal in her honour. The Helix was alive with activity, from the water to the banks and beyond, and it really showed how the local community has taken the incredible Kelpies and the canal over which they stand into their hearts."

Andrew Thin, Chairman of Scottish Canals

The Helix project and the canal at its heart have 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: “More than 15 years ago, Her Majesty joined us to celebrate the reopening of Scotland’s canals as part of the Millennium Link. Today was a fitting way to mark the completion of that project and the ongoing renaissance of our nation’s incredible waterways.

“The Kelpies and the Queen Elizabeth II Canal are helping put Falkirk and Grangemouth on tourists’ ‘to-see’ lists the world over and serve as a towering tribute to the industrial past of the area and a symbol of its bright future. We’d like to offer a huge thank you to everyone who has visited the new canal by boot, boat or bike since its completion and look forward to welcoming even more visitors in the years to come.”

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 of paths by boot or bike – which form a key part of the National Cycle Network – 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.

Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, Leader of Falkirk Council, said: “Today’s canal naming sets the seal on another significant tourism asset for our area. The Kelpies and Helix Park have become one of Scotland’s must-see tourist destinations, attracting millions of visitors, boosting the local economy and creating jobs, and the new canal section complements them perfectly. We are proud to have such an internationally recognised landmark on our doorstep and of the part the Council has played in the transformation of the area.”

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.

John Lauder, National Director for Sustrans Scotland, said: “Sustrans Scotland is delighted to have supported development of the towpaths by the Queen Elizabeth II Canal. This is part of an ongoing partnership with Scottish Canals that has made Scotland’s canals a vital part of the National Cycle Network.

“The paths around The Helix form a key part of Route 754 of the National Cycle Network and have been developed with £480,000 of funding through Sustrans Scotland’s Community Links programme, which is supported by Transport Scotland.

“We look forward to continued working with Scottish Canals in the near future.”

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.

Notes to Editors

About Scottish Canals

Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of five Scottish canals as well as the surrounding estate and The Falkirk Wheel.

As well as the waterways themselves, Scottish Canals care for bridges, buildings, locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and 19 water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland. The reservoirs cover an area equivalent to 7,494 football pitches and supply the canals with the 332 million litres of water which flow through them each day.

The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands, together extend over 137 miles from coast to coast, across country and into the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

Built two hundred years ago to fire the Industrial Revolution, today the canals contribute to the Scottish Government agenda of developing a Greener; Healthier; Smarter; Safer and Stronger; and Wealthier and Fairer Scotland by acting as a catalyst for sustainable economic development, regeneration and tourism; contributing to education, biodiversity, heritage and promoting active living and healthier lifestyles.

The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22 million visits per year. See scottishcanals.co.uk for more information.

About Falkirk Community Trust

Falkirk Community Trust is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status and was established by Falkirk Council.  On 1 July 2011 the company assumed responsibility for the management and operation of a range of community facing sport, recreation, arts, heritage and library services. As a not-for-profit organisation we strive to support community aspirations, deliver inspiring services and ensure that the experiences we offer provide equality of opportunity and access for all.

We deliver: Arts: Falkirk Town Hall, Hippodrome, town halls, film, theatre and exhibition programmes, box office services, arts development and creative learning. Heritage: Callendar House and Teashop at the Stables, Kinneil Museum, Birkhill Clay Mine, heritage exhibitions, heritage learning, archaeology, archives and local history services. Libraries: public libraries, information, reference and reader development services, Mobile and Homebound services. Fitness: Circuit Club gyms and fitness classes, healthy lifestyle programmes, Let’s Make Falkirk More Active. Sport: sports centres, ski slope, sports pitches, sports events, sports development classes and courses, Active Schools programme. Parks: Helix Park, Callendar Park, Kinneil Estate, Muiravonside Country Park and Farm, parks and community events. Outdoors: Grangemouth golf course, outdoor activities and learning programmes, countryside ranger services. Falkirk Community Trust gratefully acknowledges the support and funding from Falkirk Council.

National Lottery funding in Falkirk

Big Lottery Fund awarded £25m to the Helix project in November 2007 for the groundworks and to pay for and deliver the Kelpies.

Since March 2012 National Lottery funding form the Big Lottery Fund has supported 288 projects with over £7.6 million in the Falkirk East and West Scottish Parliament constituencies.

In 2014, the Big Lottery Fund Scotland began working with the community of Camelon through its Our Place initiative. This uses community builders to deliver an asset based community development (ABCD) approach. Camelon is one of seven neighbourhoods in Scotland benefitting from this focused approach.

Since 2014 almost £100k of small grants (£500-£10k) have been made in Camelon. Two larger awards have been made so far – £100k to support a series of festivals in Camelon and £14k to support the Easter Carmuirs Park Masterplan.

About the Central Scotland Green Network Trust

The Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) is one of 14 national developments for Scotland created in the Scottish Government’s third National Planning Framework.  The initiative is designated a national priority.

The Central Scotland Green Network Trust (CSGNT) devotes all of its resources to driving forward delivery of the CSGN with a wide range of stakeholders including local authorities, regional partnerships, landowners, environmental groups and local communities, in order to help realise the CSGN vision.

With an all-encompassing remit, far beyond just a ‘green initiative’, the CSGN aims to improve the social, physical, cultural and environmental health and well-being of central Scotland, as well as assisting the area to meet the challenge of climate change.

Oversight of the CSGN initiative is provided by the Scottish Government to ensure progress is in line with ministers’ ambitions, as expressed through the CSGN vision, the National Planning Framework and other relevant plans, policies and strategies.

The CSGNT, then operating as the Central Scotland Forest Trust, worked in partnership with Falkirk Council and British Waterways Scotland (now Scottish Canals) during the Big Lottery Fund bid, and development and delivery phases of the Helix.

For further information, please visit www.csgnt.org.uk

About Seagull Trust

Seagull Enterprises Limited operates the Wooden Spoon Seagull on behalf of Seagull Trust Cruises. This is a specially adapted boat for use as a floating classroom with generous support from the Wooden Spoon – the children’s charity of rugby.

Founded in 1978, the Seagull Trust Cruises charity offers free cruises on Scotland’s canals for people with special needs. From small beginnings, Seagull Trust Cruises hosted 22,841 passengers on 2,444 cruises in 2016.

A completely voluntary charity, cruises run from branches at Ratho near Edinburgh, Falkirk, Kirkintilloch and Highland at Inverness. In addition, the Trust has a purpose-built holiday boat Marion Seagull, based at Falkirk.

To find out more about Seagull Trust Cruises and how it works to help people across the communities in which they operate, as well as how you can support them, please visit www.seagulltrust.org.uk and www.seagullcanalcruising.co.uk

About Sustrans Scotland’s Community Links programme

Sustrans is the charity making it easier for people to walk and cycle. We connect people and places, create liveable neighbourhoods, transform the school run and deliver a happier, healthier commute.

Our Community Links programme provides grant funding to local authorities, statutory bodies and educational institutions for the creation of cycle network infrastructure for everyday journeys. It is funded through Transport Scotland. Since 2011, Sustrans Scotland has spent more than £11.9m upgrading the Scottish Canals network throughout Scotland.

For further information, please visit www.sustrans.org.uk

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