Lord Provost praises Polwarth Church as a "focal point" for the community

The Lord Provost of Edinburgh has officially launched a groundbreaking new project based at a city church known as the Kirk on the Canal.

Lord Provost Councillor Frank Ross with people involved with the project. Photo from Scottish Waterways Trust.
L-r Sheena Bowman, Maureen Bowman and Lord Provost Councillor Frank Ross. Photo Scottish Waterways Trust.

Councillor Frank Ross praised the unique Canal Shed partnership scheme between Polwarth Parish Church and the Scottish Waterways Trust.

He said the church was in a prime location on the banks of the Caledonian Canal, which links Edinburgh and Falkirk.

"The church is so well placed here, it is situated at a true crossroads, " added the Lord Provost.

"And the fact it can become the focal point for the community is great.

"There's not many organisations that could have the same impact locally."

A great sight

A variety of groups are involved in the project which is funded by the national lottery, run by the Scottish Waterways Trust and hosted at the Church.

Local Green Councillor Gavin Corbett also congratulated the success of the 'Canal Shed' project:

"Polwarth Church is one of the great sights of the Union Canal, heading west on a curve in the water, with the backdrop of the Pentland hills," he said.

Group photo of people involved with the canal shed project
Some of the people involved with the 'Canal Shed' project

"I have always loved to hear of projects which emphasise the connection between the church and the canal.

"That is exactly what the canal shed aims to do and I'm excited to see how it will grow."


Maureen Bowman, convener of the Polwarth Garden Group at Polwarth Church, explained that the idea came from Australian 'men's sheds'.

"The concept is to get men together who have been widowed or who are at a loose end or retired but still physically active," she said.

"They get them together for companionship and to use their different skills."

Polwarth Parish Church was approached by the Scottish Waterways Trust, who were interested in opening something similar to a 'men's shed'.

Ms Bowman said: "The aim of the Canal Shed is to get people together for friendship, and this ties in with the Scottish Waterway Trust.

"They want people to work together to keep the canal in good order.

"Members of the shed also do small maintenance jobs for the church.

A cake to celebrate the opening of the Canal Shed Project
Cake to celebrate the opening of the Canal Shed Project was enjoyed by all

"It's taking off now - people are coming back each week.

"On a nice day there's activities in the garden. We're hoping to get more people along after today's launch.

Learning a lot

Ms Bowman said church members had "learned a lot" from Anna Canning, the Canal Shed project manager for the Scottish Waterways Trust.

"It's keeping the church and all of these communities working together," the convener added.

Ms Canning said she was "thrilled" to launch the Canal Shed to welcome the local community, care for the historic Union Canal and help tackle social isolation and promote inclusion.

"The Canal Shed project will provide local people with a welcoming space to exchange skills, learn new skills such as a biodiversity survey and printmaking, meet new people and take part in practical activities outdoors which care for our waterways environment," she added.

Gardens for all

Church members are redoubling their efforts to raise money to buy a second-hand narrow boat.

The move was sparked by a decision made by Scottish Canals to install three leisure moorings next to the building, which is akin to an Anglican cathedral inside.

The congregation, along with community groups and armed forces veterans, have already created three unique gardens in the grounds for the enjoyment of all.

The narrow boat would further enhance the visitor experience and be used for a variety of activities such as weddings and educational and spiritual pursuits.

View from the church of the canal
A stunning view of the canal and gardens taken from Polwarth Church