How a stroll along your local canal can help protect the environment

With 500km of towpaths and beautiful waterside vistas steeped in history, Yorkshire’s canal and river network offers some truly memorable walking routes.

Research shows that spending time by water can help you feel happier and healthier. Here at the Canal & River Trust, a waterways and wellbeing charity, we are keen to encourage visitors to our network. We strive to ensure towpaths are open and accessible so people can enjoy a waterside ramble whatever the time of year.

Our charity’s commitment to improving Yorkshire’s canals is clear: 92 miles of the county’s waterways carry the prestigious Green Flag status. A programme of towpath improvements across Yorkshire is also making access for more easier than ever.

There’s another huge bonus for a canalside stroll: the paths are level (aside from lock flights), with no steep hills to navigate. And, of course, there is little chance of getting lost!

More walkers are enjoying canals than ever before. During the first lockdown, many stretches of towpath, particularly those in rural areas, saw a huge rise in footfall. Many took the time to enjoy their local waterside haven, whether for daily exercise or just for some fresh air.

Unfortunately, the rise in visitors has also seen a rise in littering. To illustrate this, we’ve seen a 136% increase in reports during the six months following the March 2020 lockdown. At the Trust, we are urging people to help us keep their local canal pleasant through our Plastics Challenge.

Each year, an estimated 14 million pieces of plastic rubbish end up in and around our canals and rivers. Even worse, around 500,000 pieces flow out into our oceans.

Our dedicated volunteers and employees work hard to keep the canals clear with regular litter picks and general vegetation maintenance. However, we’d also like the public to help by taking one piece of litter home with them after every visit. If every visitor did this, every towpath across the country would be clear within a year.

For more information on the Plastics Challenge, to find a canal walk near you or to find out about volunteering opportunities, visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

Wellbeing By Water – Looking Beyond #BlueMonday

Blue Monday…. Is it really the most depressing day of the year?  Simply put, no. 

The third Monday in January isn’t the most depressing day of the year (there’s no evidence to back this) but as we continue to navigate through the current pandemic, the particular challenges that brings, coping with shorter daylight hours and colder weather, it’s a useful reminder for us to take time to check-in with ourselves.

Spending time outdoors in green spaces with nature is a widely recognised as a way to help us combat stress, anxiety and low mood.  

But did you know that time spent by blue spaces such as canals, rivers and reservoirs, may have even greater wellbeing benefits?

Research shows that spending time by water, whether that’s a couple of minutes on a lunchbreak, or a longer walk or cycle along a towpath really does make us feel happier and healthier. Find out more here: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/recharge-by-water

Our charity looks after 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales, with 316 miles of our network in Yorkshire and the North East. Some of our waterways run right through the hearts of our towns and cities – Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Sheffield & Tinsley Canal, Huddersfield Broad and Huddersfield Narrow Canal course through their namesake towns, providing open space for people living in these urban communities.

Sheffield and Tinsley Canal

8 million people in the UK live within 1km of a Canal & River Trust waterway (that’s 15% of the population) and 1 million people in Yorkshire & North East live near their local canal or river, so you can really appreciate the potential that the waterway network can bring to the wellbeing of the nation. These waterside places, on the doorstep for so many people, are more important than ever and our blue spaces are a fantastic free way to enjoy during your daily dose of exercise. 

If you live near to a water why not go and experience the benefits for yourself?  If you’re not sure where your local waterway is have a look here: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/local-to-you

Please follow the latest government guidance and stay local, follow social distancing at all times, both from other people and from moored boats where people may be living aboard.

You can also experience our waterways that are further afield virtually, from birds eye tours, virtual open days, online jigsaws, audio tours and more: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/features

View the Canal & River Trust walks on our map:

Tees Barrage Park (East) Infinity Bridge Loop
Saltaire to Bingley
Goole to Rawcliffe Bridge
Tinsley Pump House to Rotherham

Written by Lizzie Dealey, Canal and River Trust