The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society will bring the Heritage Angel Awards to Northern Ireland for the first time and IWAI Newry and Portadown have been shortlisted to receive a Heritage Angel Award in the category Best Rescue, Recording or Interpretation of a Historic Place. On learning of the group's success Peter Maxwell the Branch treasurer said: "It's a huge honour for us to have won through the nomination process and we are looking forward to the decision. It's a great opportunity for us to spread the word about the canal and what a fantastic asset it is to the community."
IWAI Newry and Portadown volunteers have created a video entitled ‘New Life for the Old Canal’ that celebrates the project to re-water the summit level of the Newry Canal, a four mile stretch of water from Poyntzpass to Scarva. New lock gates were built and installed by the volunteers to allow canoes and small boats to use the canal. Alongside this the group researched and published a guided walk app highlighting the history of the canal. They also manage a heritage centre on the towpath with displays to help visitors understand how a canal works and how its restoration could help boost the local economy.
The purpose of the Heritage Angel Awards is to recognise groups that inspire and increase activity to help conserve and protect built heritage, a purpose that according to Peter, IWAI Newry and Portadown volunteers support very strongly; "We certainly meet that aim as our volunteers contribute more than 2000 hours annually to canal projects. Without our input it's fair to say that the canal, dating from 1742 and the first of its kind in Ireland & the UK would again become a neglected, overgrown ditch as was the case when it was abandoned in 1949. Instead, our project on the summit has shown how the canal can be used by many different types of people for recreation and enjoyment."
Peter’s enthusiasm and that of his fellow volunteers clearly shows the potential impact that a project like this can have on society as a whole. Please show your support and cast your vote now to show that there most definitely is new life for the old canal. Logon to https://www.heritageangelawards-ni.org.uk/ Voting closes on Friday October 27th. The awards ceremony will take place in the Grand Opera House, Belfast on Tuesday November 7th. The Awards are funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and the Department for Communities.