An Ealing volunteer with the Canal and River Trust has been recognised for her dedication to the Grand Union Canal in Alperton by getting a Marsh Awards “High Impact Volunteering Award”.
Lorraine “Loz” Leckenby is a former fashion designer who commits huge amounts of time to the canal and the work the Friends of the Grand Union Canal does as well as to wider society.
She recently included helped a rough sleeper being rehomed and begin a new life.
EALING.NEWS spoke to Loz to find out more about the volunteering she does, what the award means and what she likes about the canal.
What does it mean to you to win the award?
My first thought was ‘I’m not worthy of this” but it is a great recognition of the 91 Saturday mornings I have got out of my bed and gone to the towpath to pick litter. I make a blog post every week on FOGUC Facebook page and make interesting stories about the things that we find. I feel very proud that my work has been recognised and as a consequence of this more people are hearing about our hardworking Friends of Grand Union Canal group. It’s not all about the rubbish left lying around. There’s a much more human side to the work that we do. (See below)
How long have you been involved with the canal and how did you get involved?
I have been involved with the canal for almost 3 years. I read about the group, Friends of Grand Union Canal, that David Posnett set up on Facebook, and one day when I was running along the towpath I came across him in a bush reaching for litter to fill his bag. We talked and I joined my first litter pick a few days later with him. I became addicted. The things that we find are sometimes highly entertaining, sometimes very rude (not printable in your paper) and sometimes we wonder why anyone would choose to take such items to the towpath and leave them there.
What do you enjoy about the canal?
I love the diverse nature and the green areas. The birds, the swans that we recently protected as they nested on the towpath and now have 2 cygnets growing fast. We all became very protective of them.
I like being out in the green and getting to know the regular towpath users.
I say hello to everyone. A social event every time I go there. I’m never lonely and this is something other litter pickers say. It’s a social thing too where I have made many new, interesting and interested friends.
What would you like to see to be improved with the Grand Union Canal?
That’s a difficult question. Of course I would like to see less litter and fly tipping but it’s so difficult to educate the litterers. I have made friends with the drinkers and they now respect the work we do and they use the bags we tie in the bushes for their empties. Having managed to home a rough sleeper with the help of Streetlink, he and his friends have become very respectful of us and our work and use the bags until they are full and overflowing so save us work collecting cans from behind bushes. This is great progress.
How much time do you spend on the canal?
I would go there around 4 times a week. I run and cycle the towpaths and also litter pick regularly. I am also a volunteer CRT towpath Ranger checking on anything I see that is untoward and reporting back along with my husband Craig Leckenby, who regularly cycles the towpaths too.
Running around 2-3 hours a week, cycling around 1-2 hours a week and litter picking around 3-4 hours a week approximately.
I also spend a lot of time at my desk emailing and organising meetings with the local councils and community groups, Ealing and Brent along with chasing for full bags to be collected, reporting huge fly tips and discussing how the areas can be made more attractive going forward for towpath users in general.
What do you enjoy about living in Ealing?
I love the fact that I have full access to London and all its possibilities and also that I can reach green areas and head out of town easily that doesn’t involve getting in a car.
I can reach the canal from my front door by bike or running and that is a huge plus for me.