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

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