A canal calling
Richard Alford on the work of a waterways chaplain
They say Birmingham has more canals than Venice. I can only cover a small area, but once a week I walk the towpath, talking to people and helping where needed.
Last year, I was commissioned as a waterways chaplain, which means I look after people who are living on, working on or are connected in some way with our rivers and canals. In the morning, I walk the Birmingham Fazeley Canal. There are people living on board their boats in the two wharf areas and so I chat to them, and make sure they are all right. Sometimes, on the towpath there are people who are homeless or just drifting, so I chat with them and point them to the various services that exist in Birmingham. This canal has a flight of locks so I help boaters through them, especially when they are singlehanded.
In the afternoon I go to Lapworth, where the Grand Union and Stratford Canals meet, and do the same there, chatting to people who live on their boats and helping with locks. This area is very popular with boaters and walkers, especially in the summer – the junction means that boaters can go in the direction of Stratford, Birmingham, Worcester or London.
This is an extract from the June 2014 edition of Reform.