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Celebrating England's waterways

The River Colne and Grand Union Canal, Uxbridge The River Colne and Grand Union Canal, Uxbridge © MikeT/Flickr

Claire Norman of the Inland Waterways Association guides us through some of the highlights of the network with special CPRE connections

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Tim Green Leeds Liverpool Farnhill‘Crossing the Pennines, this canal follows the contours of the hills (halfway up), offering views along the Aire valley - really special between Gargrave and East Marton – and two of the ‘Seven wonders of the waterways’: the impressive embankment through Burnley and the five-rise staircase locks at Bingley. An excellent example of campaigning activism, the canal would surely have been lost 60 years or so ago if not for people determined to keep it open.’

CPRE Craven regularly clean up the Skipton section of the canal, while CPRE Yorkshire & Humber recently celebrated the canal's 200th anniversary by presenting a £200 cheque to the Canal & River Trust’s Every Mile Counts restoration campaign. Back in 2012, CPRE Sefton district group helped defeat a damaging marina development on their stretch of the canal.


Photo: The Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Farnhill, near Skipton © Tim Green / Flickr

The Stroudwater Navigation

Stroudwater Navigation St Cyrs church Stonehouse RPM‘Promoted by an Act of 1730, another in 1776 authorised the navigation because works undertaken in 1730 were found to be illegal. In 1954, it was closed by another Act, but is now the rightful recipient of restoration attention. The missing section between from Stonehouse to Saul Junction will be delightful when replaced, and back in navigable reach of Britain's wonderful 2,500-mile waterway network.’

CPRE Gloucestershire continues to supporting the restoration for its enhancement of landscape and heritage, and as a catalyst for the regeneration of the whole corridor from Stonehouse to Brimscombe. CPRE Stroud's Val Kirby is leading on the Heritage Lotterty Fund bid for the Cotswolds Canal Trust and two projects from the first phase of the restoration received CPRE Gloucestershire's Awards in 2012 and 2014.


Photo: St Cyr's church at Stonehouse on the Stroudwater Navigation © RPM / Flickr

The Buckingham Canal

Great Ouse from iron aqueduct Rob Crewe‘Walkers will be delighted by a circular walk from the end of the Buckingham canal at Cosgrove, southwards along the Grand Union to the Iron aqueduct over the Great Ouse, upstream to the mill and then across the fields, looping back to where you started.’

The Buckingham Canal Society received a CPRE Buckinghamshire award for the Hyde Lane towpath hedge restoration, carried out with help from volunteers and pupils of the local Stowe School. The restoration has brought back wildlife by creating hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel habitats for birds and mammals.


Photo: A unique view of the Great Ouse from the iron aqueduct at Cosgrove © Rob Crewe / Flickr

The Grand Union Canal, Leicestershire

Rodney Lewis view from Foxton Locks‘Foxton staircase locks are fascinating and it’s a rewarding pastime to watch the boats work through (although boaters don’t always appreciate scrutiny!). The view from the top of the site of the inclined plane - built to move narrow boats in tanks of water up and down the hill on rails - is amazing. Restored in 1969, the Welford Arm of the canal is a mere 1.5 miles long, and perfect for hedgerow lovers - nature's corridors line the path of the waterway especially attractively along this section.’

CPRE Leicestershire continues to promote this landscape after undertaking a project in the 1970s to clear the incline site and, in conjunction with the County Council, producing a booklet, ‘Foxton Locks and Barge Lift’.


Photo: The view from Foxton Locks © Rodney Lewis / Flickr

River Dee, Cheshire

River Dee in Chester Steve Wilson‘It’s fair to say the Dee has always been unpredictable, to my mind it manages to still possess an utter wildness. Because of the river’s marshes and sandbanks, entire sections are very popular with bird watches. Perhaps the safest ways to enjoy this lovely, wild river is from the banks.’

CPRE Cheshire has helped look after a number of the county's waterways and is currently supporting a new waterways strategy for Chester. The strategy aims to improve connectivity and promote cycling and walking by using towpaths and other riverside paths to offer traffic-free routes into the city.


Photo: The River Dee in Chester © Steve Wilson / Flickr

The Stort Navigation

Stort Navigation Mark Seton'The section that I love and call home is around Roydon, and never fails to charm. Why do some persist that Essex cannot be beautiful? Some sections of The Stort are also wonderfully tranquil because the lie of the land lends the sensation of travelling right through fields.'


Photo: Stort Navigation near Roydon © Mark Seton / Flickr


Find out more: Discover the wonderful work of the Inland Waterways Association

Being on England's waterways can give a unique sensation of travelling right through fields

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Hay field harvest

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