tools drawing (4K)
Horsham Green Health
A project to promote canal restoration as a form of exercise and therapy
~ by Dr Jonathan P. Heatley








Map 7

This is a project that has been put together during the summer of 1999. It�s based on the Green Gym concept but because the BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) has registered this name we are calling it Horsham Green Health.

It was started in Horsham and the idea is to promote canal restoration work as a form of exercise and therapy.

General Practitioners (GPs, ie local doctors) have for a while been using 'exercise prescriptions' where they refer unfit patients to a gym for physical exercises under supervision. The problem with this is that it becomes boring and most participants eventually drop out.

Horsham Green Health by contrast, involves people in a long-term restoration project to which they hopefully develop loyalty and a sense of commitment. It not only provides a variety of physical work/exercise but in addition there is a social element - friends are made and there is a sense of achievement in the restoration work.

Regular volunteers receive a working party newsletter and soon develop the satisfaction of knowing that someone is depending on them and grateful for their help. One of the most damaging effects of mental illness is always being on the receiving end of help and money and never having the positive feedback of being useful. Comments from my own patients have been highly favourable and a few have become regular attendees.



I have been co-operating with the Alpha Project, which is a club for the mentally ill in Horsham, and together we have been putting in the backpumping and lower training walls at Drungewick lock.

group at Drungewick Lock (12K)

  walls for backpump at Drungewick Lock bridge (9K)

We have made good progress and one of the group has been doing the block and brick laying work. He has schizophrenia, which is well controlled, but he has been unable to hold down any regular work for many years.


However he enjoys the relaxed atmosphere at the canal and has been invaluable with his brick laying skills. Others usually have no particular skills but soon learn the common tasks ranging from how to mix concrete to 'jungle bashing'.

laying bricks for wall (10K)


The Health Department is keen to see projects such as this, and they are sometimes funded under the guise of Healthy Living Centres. One of the earliest of these was started by a GP in Sonning Common who began by organising country walks then moved on to woodland management.


  group (13K)

The National Trust and the BTCV are also promoting countryside management projects but WACT has one crucial advantage:- it is a long term project with well over 25 years to go. This allows volunteers such as those from Alpha club to develop a long-term interest.


WACT members all know how satisfying it is to return to a section they�ve worked on after a gap and witness the progress made by others in their absence.

We live in an age when the average attention span as measured by TV and films is reported to be under three minutes, so to find a project that engrosses us for many years is both rare and undoubtedly therapeutic.



The canal also stretches down from Surrey across the whole of West Sussex and there is no other comparable restoration project in the area.

[photos: Jon Heatley]
canal scene (13K)


There is scope to involve other groups such as retirement clubs, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme and colleges such as Brinsbury. Recent results have shown that donors - such as the landfill sites and the lottery - favour projects either with a social element or that can demonstrate benefit to large numbers of people (for instance the Sustrans national network of cycle paths).



The Canal Trust therefore, is very supportive of Horsham Green Health and would like to see it expand providing there are sufficient supervisors to maintain safety.


Last updated July 2000