canals for the better good

charitable walks by a canal wanderer

During 2018 I walked a considerable stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal during April and May for very good causes. Firstly (over two walks) for English in the Community, an ESOL project I run in East Leeds, and funds were also raised for Freedom4Girls, a charity which works with women and girls and tackles period poverty, and Leeds Conversation Club for Asylum Seekers and Refugees. Secondly in May, via work, for Candlelighters, a children’s cancer charity and part of the 'Just One Day' Lord Mayor (of Leeds) Charity Appeal.

Kirkstall Bridge to Crossflats

The first walk was from Kirkstall Bridge to Crossflatts, approximately 13 miles. My family walked the first mile with me and I walked the remainder on my own. I had to battle all the weather elements from snow to heavy rain! I was soaking head to toe but it was for the better good. Did stop in Saltaire at The Boat Inn, to seek dryness and warmth and finished at Crossflatts where a welcoming lift home came my way.

Wigan to Burscough

The second walk, a month later, was a 10 mile stretch from Wigan to Burscough. Unlike the last walk we were greeted with blue skies and sunshine and contrasting hot weather. From the rich industrial heritage in the Wigan area to walking through the scenic Douglas Valley via Crooke, a former mining village, where we had a refreshment stop.

The walking was bit of a challenge at times because of the hot weather. Ice-creams and cold drinks were welcomed enroute in Parbold and near our destination, Burscough. We successfully finished at Burscourgh Bridge and we caught out train back to Leeds via Manchester.

Soltaire to Skipton

For the third walk we walked approximately 16 miles from Saltaire to Skipton with my colleague, Myrte. We met at Saltaire and we had the pleasure of Ozzy, Myrte’s dog, join us. We passed through Hirst Woods, Dowley Gap and of course the infamous Bingley Five Rise Locks where we sought refreshments at the Horse Stables Café. We were very fortunate with the weather – no rain and not too hot.

We had to divert after Riddlesden because of a towpath closure and we rejoined the towpath in Silsden after a well-deserved drink, Ozzy was very grateful. The stretch from Silsden to Skipton is pleasantly rural. We had a short stop in Kildwick and we spotted a deer distant in the surrounding woodlands. The stretch of the canal is a haven for wildlife and we saw a considerable number of geese with their goslings. A final stop at The Bay Horse near Skipton then we reached our destination. 16 miles of walking is a challenge and the most I ever done in one stretch but worth it.

The money raised from the walks will make a difference for many in need -  whether it be to help someone learn English or to support families of children suffering with cancer.

The canals are a perfect platform to make a difference for the better good!

Editor's note: Dawn is doing three sponsored walks over April and May this year to raise money for English in the Community, ESOL Sunflower Project and Freedom4Girls. Please get in touch with Dawn if you can help in any way.


Dawn Smallwood offers us a personal look at canals through a series of walks. She includes  some local history, comments on social and industrial landscapes, and gives recommendations for local attractions and places to eat or drink. She also raises a great deal of money for charity.

Contact details: Email