Yearly Archives: 2022

droning on

droning on

canals from the air

Amongst the array of cameras we’ve amassed over our time as Narrowboat vloggers, I suppose it’s the drone that provides a completely different perspective of the countryside.

If, like us, you’ve ever wondered just what is the other side of that hedge you’ve moored up against, by taking the drone to the air, suddenly it all becomes clear!

Oxford Canal - aerial shot

I want to point out straight away, that we steer clear of houses, and I’ve passed my CAA exams to ensure we comply with all the flying regulations in the UK. The drone, itself is also registered with the authorities so, if by some quirk, it lands in a field, it can easily be identified.

Naturally, on the waterways, the beauty of the landscapes become so much clearer from the air. Even industry areas, like Birmingham look completely different from the air.

The latest “attraction” that I flew the drone around was Warwick Castle. What an impressive structure! It fills you with awe when you look at Caesar's Tower, which was originally built between 1330-1360. I took the drone up the side of this impressive tower, all 40 metres of it and then flew over the River Avon looking back at the south side of the castle where you can also see St Mary's Church in the distance.

aerial shot Warwick Castle

You have to plan your flight in advance so you don’t waste too much time. The drone I have is a Mavic Mini 2 which has a maximum flying time of about 30 minutes, so you want to use all of that time constructively. We had already visited Warwick in 2021 not long after we’d bought the boat to get some work done at Knowle Hall Wharf (where she was originally built by Stephen Goldsborough back in 2000) so I had a pretty good idea of the type of shots I was looking for and an idea of the location from which to launch the drone.

Because of the relatively light weight of the Mini 2, legally, I can fly over most locations, although as a precaution I obviously don’t fly over crowds and there are several maps which highlight the “No Fly Zones.” The most obvious of those are airports – no matter the size.

You also can’t fly over prisons...! And when we were on the Thames this year, flying anywhere near Windsor Castle was a no-no. Shame because it’s a lovely castle with tons of history. But I respect the law and I wouldn’t want to be locked up in one of the cells there!!!

Like most things, the more time you spend flying your drone, the more skilled you become. I’ve learnt so much from drone operators who post videos on YouTube which have been a great help.

Hatton Flight, aerial shot

If you want to start flying, and with the January sales potentially providing some “deals” what should you look for?

First, of course, is budget.

There are some really cheap drones on sale at a popular online shopping website around £50. But these are cheaply made, with substandard camera quality and will leave you frustrated!

Forget the myth that you have to spend £0,000’s on one. That might have been true a few years ago, but you may be surprised that the most popular drones are no where near that price bracket, in fact there’s one that is considerably cheaper than it’s more famous rivals.​

Second thing to consider is which country you live in, because where you live will determine the laws by which you need to comply with.

Assuming you’re in the UK, to legally fly a drone, no matter how heavy it is, you need to take an online theory test to get your Flyer ID, costing just £9 and you must register for an Operator ID (over 18 year olds). Your registration with the CAA is renewable annually.

alrewas aerial shot

If your drone weighs more that 250g there are limitations about where and how far away from people and buildings you can fly. The Mini 2 weighs 249g so falls below the major restrictions. However, in practice, you should aim to stay clear of large groups of people and, no matter the size, must retain VLOS – Visual Line of Sight – you must be able to see where your drone is.

There are some changes to the classification of the heavier drones from January 2023 and I would advise you to check these online at the CAA’s website for more information.

Other considerations, as I’ve mentioned above, are battery life and also the quality of the lens.

Most drones these days shoot at 4k resolution giving you an excellent quality of picture, remembering of course that you can shoot still images with a drone, not just moving images.

Of course, I would recommend Mavic, not just because they are the market leader, but they offer a after care package that will replace your drone should you unfortunately end up crashing it or it disappearing below the water!

However, there is a sub £100 drone that is definitely worth looking at judging by the number of positive reviews it received this year. It’s the Quinux K8 which boasts full 4k resolution and a long battery life. It also looks well built and more solid that its other budget counterparts.

Whichever drone you decide to get, make sure you get in lots of practice. Find an open space, a field or something similar (try to avoid too many trees) and get a feel for the controls. Fly low at first so you can see how it reacts before attempting higher flights. It can be fun but remember your responsibilities.

Recently we posted on YouTube a compilation of drone footage from last year. You can watch it here :

Jan and I wish you a Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year.

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commercial tiller pins

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cooking on the cut – winter 22

cooking on the cut

with Lisa Munday


Winter has well and truly arrived with short days and cold crisp frosty mornings, as we enter into this extremely cold spell the clear skies have given us some beautiful sunrises and sunsets, not to mention that amazing full moon.

This year has flown by, I have now shared four Seasons with Canalsonline magazine and am looking forward to lots of exciting things happening in 2023.

With so many heart- warming recipes at this time of year we have all enjoyed slow cooking those casseroles and throwing together hearty soups and one pot meals.

Now though we are thinking towards our Christmas feast and treats. Let’s not wait until the big day for those lovely homemade stuffings, bread sauces and the somewhat underrated red cabbage and Brussels sprouts. We have already cracked into our nuts and chocolate stash, not to mention the Port and Brandy, oh and the Baileys, which of course are purely for culinary use!

I’ve done quite a bit of “pruning” when walking Rosie through the woods and have a very natural look in the boat this year, homemade wreaths and swags using trailing ivy, fir, juniper and rhododendron, I have also collected lots of pinecones throughout the year which double up as great firelighters!

christmas decoration

So, the list of favourite seasonal ingredients is endless. The Christmas spices of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, star anise and ginger are essential for me, as are the use of chestnuts, walnuts and almonds with the fruits of cranberry, pomegranate, oranges and pears.

Parsnips, leeks, celeriac, red cabbage and of course sprouts are my favourite vegetables. For cheese it has got to be stilton and brie. Then those Christmas herbs of Sage and Bay are the perfect partner to Christmas meats, sausage and stuffing. It’s worth keeping some fresh herbs in as they make such a difference to any dish as opposed to using dried.

Store cupboard goodies are luxury mincemeat (if you don’t make your own) or make a basic mincemeat into luxury by adding extra chopped nuts, orange zest and brandy. A jar of goose fat is also a must for those luxury roasties.

Roast Gammon

A cooked gammon joint goes a long way. For me it has to be slowly boiled in cider and finished with a glaze using two tbsp Demerara sugar with ½ tsp mustard powder, studded with about half a dozen cloves.

roast gammon

roast gammon with honey roasted veg

  • First soak the gammon in water overnight in the fridge. When cooking in a large saucepan it’s useful to sit it on a trivet using a small plate or tin, this stops the bottom from overcooking.
  • The next morning after soaking drain and place in the pan, pour the cider over to cover and slowly bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour.
  • I then transfer to a low oven or cook over the stove top for a further two hours on low heat.
  • Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly before slicing off the thick part of the rind. Save the cooking juices to use as stock for soup.
  • Score the fat in diamonds and place a clove in each diamond. Mix the mustard and sugar together and smear over the scored fat.
  • Stand on a baking tray and spoon a little of the cooking liquid over the lean meat area.
  • Finish by roasting in a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.


This a great dish to serve with a cooked gammon. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry a small onion or a couple of shallots finely chopped with 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped. Drain a tin of butterbeans and mash with a potato masher or whiz in a blender. Stir into the onion pan and heat through, stirring in 4 tblsp crème fraiche and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Add a little cooking liquid from the meat if the consistency is too thick.


I Always boil potatoes, carrots and parsnips before roasting. Ensure the steam has totally dried off when draining before roasting to avoid soggy veg. Squash, leeks and onions can go straight into the pan. For roast potatoes, after par boiling, make sure the edges are roughed up by giving them a good a shake in the colander. If honey roasting, melt equal quantities of oil, butter and honey in a pan and always make sure the roasting tray is hot before the veggies go in. Don’t forget to check after about 10 mins and turn to evenly brown the edges. Sprinkle malden salt flakes and fresh ground pepper to finish.

roast potatoes

roasted tomatoes

Stuffing and bread sauce mixes are so cheap to buy, but not a patch on home made. It’s worth taking the time to make your own, they will keep in the fridge for a few days or freeze well.

MAKE YOUR SOUP SPECIAL by adding cheese croutons.

bowl of soup

creamy soup with croutons

  • Mushroom or Leek soups are perfect with stilton croutons. Just make stilton cheese on toast and cut into small pieces to add to the top of your soup bowl.
  • If you have some tomatoes looking a little past it, roast them by drizzling with olive oil and placing a few garlic cloves, herbs and pepper over them, add a little balsamic if you have it, then blitz to a puree to use in soup or sauces. Cheddar croutons are great with a tomato soup.
  • Finely shred some spring onion or chilli and fry to top your soups or add a dash of cream or flavoured oil.
  • Grate any cheese over such as parmesan or cheddar.
  • Toast a few flaked almonds or crumble a few tortilla crisps over.
  • Butternut squash soup goes well with toasted sage leaves or crispy shallots and bacon bits or a dash of coconut milk if it’s a spicy soup.


  • Cut about three to four slices of bread into small cubes. Gently toast on the stove top, in the oven or dry fry in a pan and set to one side. I use sourdough or any crusty bread for better texture.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop 1 carrot, 1 stick of celery, 2 cloves of garlic and a small onion (I use my mini chopper it saves so much time) and gently fry in oil and butter. Add freshly ground black pepper, chopped sage and thyme if you have it or a mixture of dried herbs.
  • Keep moving round the pan to avoid catching. Then add half a pint of stock and stir well.
  • Turn off the heat and top with the dried bread cubes and finely chopped walnuts and a few sage leaves fried in a little butter. Cover the pan and leave for ten minutes.
  • Then remove the lid and fork through to mix well. Dot with a few pieces of butter to finish.
  • If not using straight away this will reheat or crisp up in the oven.

I make a larger than necessary pan full of this stuffing and use it as a crunchy topping over baked cauliflower cheese, casseroles or toss through cooked sprouts with bacon lardons.

homemade stuffing before cooking

homemade stuffing

CHRISTMAS RED CABBAGE Is the perfect partner to red and white meats or just with brown lentils as a casserole. Here’s my version. I don’t use all the cabbage, saving some for a winter salad with the addition of white cabbage, raisins, orange juice and sweet honey dressing.

  • Finely chop 1 to 2 red onions depending on size and fry in about 75g butter in a pan or casserole dish .
  • Add 1 red cabbage finely sliced, 1 finely chopped apple, 1 tbsp chopped dried fruit such as prunes or raisins, 3 tsp soft brown sugar, juice of 1 small orange, 3 tbsp red wine, 1/4 pint stock, 4 cloves, 1 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, salt and pepper.
  • Thoroughly mix all the ingredients to coat the cabbage well, cover and simmer for about an hour until the cabbage is tender and cooked. Can be cooked on the stove top or in the oven and will keep well for five days or freeze.

red cabbage

red cabbage after cooking

With fried sliced potato, leek and shallot. Stir in a little mint sauce to serve.

This is an alternative way to cook your sprouts and particularly good with cold leftover meats. Slice them in half lengthways from the top, make sure they are dry if you have washed them otherwise they won’t go crispy. Roast in the oven tossed in oil. Meanwhile, gently fry two garlic cloves with finely chopped onion or shallot, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a generous drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Once the sprouts are cooked and crispy on the edges combine with the other ingredients and sprinkle over some chilli flakes, chopped spring onion and toasted nuts such as almonds or cashews.


For sweet pastry use 150g plain flour with 75g unsalted butter rubbed in until like breadcrumbs, add 50g sieved icing sugar, 1 egg yolk and zest from ½ orange. Bring together with 1 tbsp cold water and shape into a ball, flatten into a disc and chill for half an hour. Roll out and line the tart tins with discs of pasty, prick with a fork and add the mincemeat filling. I add brandy, orange zest from the other half of the orange and a few extra chopped nuts such as walnuts. Place the pastry lids on and brush the edges using egg to seal, pierce a little hole in the tops to let out the steam. Cook at 180 fan or gas 6 for about 10 to 15 mins. Dust with sieved icing sugar when cool and enjoy with a glass of sherry!

Merry Christmas to everyone and a Happy and safe boating New Year!

RCTA donate to waterway charities

RCTA donate to waterway charities

£500 each to Waterways Chaplains and Forces Vets Afloat

Since the start of Covid19 the Roving Canal Traders Association (RCTA) along with many other charities, non-profit making groups, business's & traders that make up our canal network have had a tough time. This year however, things returned to almost normal & our Floating Markets started to take off once again. This meant that we have been in a position this year to resume our annual charity donations as voted for by our members.

This year our members voted for the Waterways Chaplaincy charity & the Forces Vets Afloat Project with a donation of £500 to each.

The Waterways Chaplains work alongside Canal & River Trust to make sure boaters who have fallen in hard times or need some sort of support are not missed or lost in the system, they work with food banks around the country & make sure that essential meal, bag of coal or fuel gets to those who might otherwise go without, they maintain contact & support in so many ways. Our traders often come into contact with some of the Waterways Chaplains who are very supportive of our events so it was suggested that our donation was presented to the charity via Waterways Chaplains Malcolm & Stephanie who live beside the Shropshire Union Canal in Market Drayton & are very well known within the boating community. Mark Chester Senior Chaplain said “This donation of £500 will make a real difference in the lives of some of the boaters we encounter.”

Sue Meades presents cheque to Waterways Chaplains

The Forces Vets Afloat Project are close to finishing one of their donated boats nb Daisy ready for a Forces Veteran to make her their home. The founder of this project Andy Flint said "what a lovely email to wake up to" when we informed him of the donation. We hope it helps them with ongoing projects.

We also make a smaller annual donation to CRT if possible, as without their support Floating Markets & other waterways events would not take place.

RCTA is open to all licensed Roving Traders & we welcome new members via our website We strive to support Roving Traders and open up as many trading opportunities as possible. We are run solely by volunteers & are always looking for new volunteers to help with moving the Association forward.

RCTA donate to charities

Since the start of Covid19 the RCTA along with many other charities, non-profit making groups, businesses & traders that make up our canal network have had a tough time. This year however, our Floating Markets started to take off once again.  This meant that we have been in a position  to resume our annual charity donations as voted for by our members.
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boat horses

tales of the old cut

boat horses

As some people know, I am the owner of 2 ponies. One is a micro heavy horse, the other is an animated sock puppet, and they are currently causing me untold sleepless nights because one of them is very poorly.

I’m very fortunate that we have a good vet and modern medicines, and in the long, dark hours of the night sitting up with the patient, I’ve been thinking how it might of gone if we were back in the “golden age” of the canals.

Remembering of course that a newspaper wont publish a story unless it has a little bite to it, a very quick search of the newspapers using the keyword ‘boathorse’ brings up a plethora of court cases that show the darker side of horse boating, with headlines full of “brutal boatman” causing untold cruelty to animals, but pushing past the genuine cruelty you start to see some of the real veterinary story.

CRT boat horse harness

Horses are naturally rear-wheel drive, that is to say that their propulsion comes mostly from their back legs pushing them forward. Boating is collar work: a broad leather collar his goes around his neck and rests on his shoulders, from the collar two traces run down his side to the straight bar - the swingletree - that is coupled to the towline. To start off, he will lean his weight into the collar until the load comes on the traces, and then he’ll use the strength in his back legs to push himself forward into the collar to keep going.

With this in mind, it will be of no surprise to learn that one of the two most common problems a boathorse could suffer from was issues with his shoulders. An ill-fitting collar could rub the skin raw and quickly become an open sore through continued work, and the wrong size of collar could also put pressure against the shoulder joints and injure them.

treatmments for lameness in shoulders in horses

When the horse was company owned, the boatman would simply swap the animal at the first chance he could. The treatment for those horses would generally be rest and having their collar changed. Where the horse was the only one a boatman had access to, it became more difficult.

That’s not to say a boatman would ignore the problem until the horse fell down, but he couldn’t lay the boats up as long as there was motive power. First of all he’d look at the collar. Sometimes he could ease the problem by pulling the stuffing out of the collar where the injury was, removing the pressure while the horse was working. If it wasn’t an open wound and he was feeling flush, he might just buy a bottle of rubbing lotion to take the pain way; the active ingredient in these was usually opium so it may well have worked.

Foot issues were the other common problem. Aside from the obvious problems of treading on stones or cinders, a horse’s hoof grows continuously and if it’s allowed to grow too long or is trimmed badly, it can force the horse to walk in an unnatural fashion, making him lame. By the same token, a horse who was shod (not all of them were, some boatmen swore that keeping their horses ‘barefoot’ was much better for the horse) could find the shoe come loose, come off completely or even just have it badly fitted, all of which would leave a horse limping on one or more feet.

These problems were the realm of the farrier. These men should not be confused with blacksmiths; a blacksmith is a smith who works with iron – for example gates or tools - but he may never work with horses, while the farrier is the equivalent of an equine podiatrist, and will know enough blacksmithing to make and fit horseshoes.

Farriers were often considered as good, or better, then vets and farriery books were often full of veterinary advice. By the same token, a vet would be given full tuition in basic farriery (and still is.)

modern Farriery manual

In the 1930’s farriers became a little thin on the ground. A huge amount of the apprentices had been killed in the war, and the rise of the motor car made farriery seem an unstable career option. Getting a farrier full stop started to become difficult, let alone getting a good one, and reports increased of badly shod boathorses being worked while lame. A judge in London reduced the fine of a boatman found working a lame horse because the boatman had been seen to make a marked effort to find a decent farrier and was still working the horse out of necessity rather than active cruelty.

Canal stables, with their vast turnover of occupants from all over the country, could be rife with contagious illnesses, some of which were zoonotic and could spread to the humans as well. Ringworm is an unpleasant example, often known as rain scald, and its treatment was variously sulphur, iodine, turpentine or sometimes a mix of all three.

All working horses were at risk of stomach problems, from eating too fast or not getting enough to balance against their work, and boathorses also had a higher risk of eating things they shouldn’t. A mouthful snatched from the hedgerows of the towpaths and or grazing at the lockside as the boats came through; it was all too easy for a hungry, or greedy, horse to grab a mouthful of a toxic plant.

Colic was the general result. Colic is something of a catch-all description that basically means the horse has stomach ache, and caused by everything from drinking cold water to constipation, as well as being a bonus problem for serious complaints like liver disease. Every horse-keeper would have had his own recipe for a cure. One man’s immediate go-to was a salt-water enema for one end and a dose of liquid paraffin down the other, while another’s was a draught made of 3 parts whiskey, one part laudanum. Both men remarked that these were the same treatments they gave to their children, although the former noted that his wife wouldn’t suffer the same ministrations!

the present of time

the present of time

“what can I give him, poor as I am. If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wiseman, I would play my part, Yet what I can I give him, I give my heart”.

One reason for buying our narrowboat was to slow down time. Leave the mad rush of living in the South East and enjoy the tranquillity of the canals. We had a plan of where to go and what we would do, all at a slow pace you understand, but I did not expect it to be quite so protracted. Covid, family concerns and then finally the weather all hampered our progress and in the process I learnt that on a narrowboat you cannot do the dictating!

Our plan to get nb Naomhog to the River Wey for the winter, instead of taking a week took a month. I am not complaining – we moored for ten days outside the Anchor pub at Pyrford and another ten days at Dapdune Wharf, both great places to stay. The relentless rainfall during the month of November saw the river flood and the lock gates padlocked. There were a few windows of opportunity to move but they didn’t coincide with other plans we already had in place. November took on a strange hue as daily we would look at the weather conditions on the Wey. We learnt adaptability and to live in the moment. To do otherwise would have led to frustration and irritability. It reminded me that whatever our circumstances we have a choice as to our attitude towards them. We learned to value our time, partly because we unexpectedly had so much of it and we didn't want to waste it! In truth, we took a chance leaving it so late to get on to the River Wey, but it had made economic sense to wait until the beginning of November. A week earlier, the sun was shining, the rainfall was minimal and the River Wey would have been a breeze to travel along.

My mum, a Scot, was always economic and brought me up to be frugal and to shop cannily. Our childhood diet was rich in fruit and veg, leading me towards vegetarian cooking. Wearing extra layers of clothing, using hot water bottles and woolly hats for warmth, rather than central heating, reminds me of growing up in a cold draughty vicarage where we got dressed under the bedclothes! We may not want to return to that but it has become all too easy over the years to be profligate with our utilities. (Boating has really taught me the value of water!)

The choice between heating and eating is sadly on the increase, with the prospect of unpaid bills leading to anxiety and fear, especially for those with families to support. The fast approaching Christmas festivities, with continuous TV advertising telling us what we need to buy to have the perfect Christmas, compounds this problem. How to afford all the gizmos and gadgets that are on offer, wrapped in festive paper, that will eventually end up in landfill sites. There is a subtle pressure that encourages us to spend money to be happy. I may sound bah humbug, which I don’t really want to do. Rather, I would like us to be able to celebrate the Christmas season without it costing the earth and eroding our mental health.

Instead of worrying about how to afford to buy material presents, why not give the present of time? Time is our most precious gift because none of us know how much of it we have. To give our time to others is therefore a great gift. Taking time to listen to a friend in need; chopping up wood for someone’s stove; offering to do boat or clothes repairs; sharing a meal; walking a dog; lending a book. So many ways to show love in a non materialistic way. We all have different gifts to give.

The original message of Christmas is all about love - by sending his only son into our broken world, God showed his immense love for us all. In the relatively short span of years that Jesus walked this earth, he gave freely of his time modelling to us a selfless way to live, putting the needs of others before ourselves.

Whatever belief system we may have, this message is as vital today as it was over 2000 years ago - to love one another, to be kind, to bring hope into lives that may be hopeless and to share what we have with one another.

A present of time need not be too costly and you never know how much lasting joy it may give.

the voyage of friendship 4 – the oxford canal

the voyage of friendship

part 4: the oxford canal

Hello again friends; my journey continues.

At last I reached the gentle and picturesque Oxford canal where I wait for my next companion, Helen my best friend from Scotland. Not all middle-aged women would travel to the other end of the country to spend a cold week on a narrowboat but Helen arrived at lunchtime full of enthusiasm. Bunty galloped down the towpath to meet her new aunty.

I had done all necessary engine checks in the morning and tried to start Therapy up, and despite trying my usual tricks with connections and plugs she failed to catch. As I was moored opposite a boatyard I asked the nice man to come and take a look and needless to say his magic hands started her immediately. I did all the boating chores (topped up with diesel, bought a bottle of gas, pumped out the loo, filled up with water and dumped the rubbish) and Helen and I were off.

swing bridge on the Oxford Canal

The voyage has been carefully planned around the winter navigation stoppages, which is canal speak for locks being closed for repairs. At Braunston where I will turn off the Oxford and onto the Grand Union Canal, a flight of 6 locks will close on Monday 12th January and we had just a week to get there. It was important to make the most of daylight hours and I had to be a tough captain to have my crew up and ready to go at 8am. Bunty always helped with this.

Mostly the weather was very kind to us with fantastic bright sunny afternoons, despite storms in Scotland that brought down trees in Helen's garden and put out the electricity for thousands. On Wednesday we arranged to pick up a friend Rosemary and we cruised into Banbury just as the sun set and just as Helen's daughter, Alice appeared under a bridge to meet us. Some big winds blew up to challenge us and give us bad dreams about becoming unmoored at night, on Thursday and Friday but our steering skills were improving all the time.

The week went by too quickly and Friday evening found us moored just outside Braunston with a short run into town left for the morning. I did the usual checks before starting therapy only to find that I couldn't get her going again. Helen and Alice had to catch a train from Rugby to London for an onward flight to Inverness and a decision was eventually taken for my poor friends to walk the last couple of miles into Braunston while I waited for the canal AA to come and help me. As I said goodbye, I noticed that Alice had a wriggling puppy secreted about her person as she tried to steal Bunty!

Alice falls in love with Bunty

walkers on the Oxford Canal towpath

Soon a 15-year-old boy walked towards me waving- he was the engineer come to help me. He quickly and efficiently bled air from the engine and promised that she would start first time every day from now on. He also tried to persuade me that he is 22 but I must be getting old.

I cast off and enjoyed a slow cruise into Braunston, successfully mooring up by myself despite the strong winds. I felt very pleased to be in Braunston on Saturday night, ready to take on the flight of locks before they close on Monday.

I look forward to my next companions arriving and setting off on a new canal that will eventually take me to London.

Best wishes all,

iwa waterways for today 4

iwa waterways for today

lives of individual people

IWA’s Waterways for Today report highlights the benefits of the waterways on the LIVES OF INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE

The final instalment of our blog series from IWA’s recently launched report – Waterways for Today looks at the benefits that the waterways bring to the lives of individual people. We have already highlighted the benefits to the economy, environment and local communities. The benefits for individual people focus on improved physical and mental health as well as creating better places to live. Living close to a waterway creates a sense of place that helps people to better enjoy their local area. By their very nature, waterways are often located in the centre of large towns and cities and can cut through some of the most deprived areas. Through regeneration, the waterways can be opened up to new sectors of the local community bringing greater inclusivity and diversity.

Improving Physical Health


The inland waterways provide up incredible opportunities for outdoor activities such as walking, running, cycling, fishing, sailing, canoeing, rowing, paddleboarding and volunteering. Waterside routes are free and accessible to all, offering flat gradients on good-quality paths. The Covid-19 pandemic brought significant numbers of people to the waterways for the first time and many have seen improvements to their physical health by getting out and about and undertaking healthy outdoor activities.

Better Mental Health & Wellbeing

The waterways offer a chance to connect with nature, take time out, relax and unwind. They also provide opportunities for shared social experiences. Walking the dog along the towpath, strolling with friends and family, watching the wildlife, photography, boat trips and visiting canalside pubs and cafes all provide a sense of wellbeing. Volunteering can also improve mental health through a renewed sense of purpose, making new friends and satisfaction of a job well done.

Better Places to Live

Waterside locations are perfect for allowing people to appreciate and enjoy the areas they live in. Local authorities need to embrace the trend for providing waterside homes and business premises as well as supporting the growth in residential boating. Redevelopment of the waterside should include residential moorings and facilities for boaters as well as providing for the wider local community.

Waterways and Wellbeing in Nottingham

One of the case studies in the report looks at the waterways and wellbeing in Nottingham. The project uses Nottingham’s canals as a focal point to help tackle mental and physical health problems as part of a social prescribing programme. It encourages local people to visit the canal and take part in a variety of activities including canoeing, running and paddleboarding as well as photography courses, art and craft activities, cookery classes and more. The project was initially only running for 12 months but given the positive results, it has been extended for another year.

To read the full IWA Waterways for Today report or to read the case studies related to all 12 benefits of the waterways please visit the IWA Website.

iwa waterways for today 3

iwa waterways for today

benefits to local communities

IWA’s Waterways for Today report highlights the benefits of the waterways to the LOCAL COMMUNITY

Having looked at both the economic and environmental benefits of the waterways, we are now looking at the benefits for the LOCAL COMMUNITY as outlined in the IWA’s recently launched report – Waterways for Today, which highlights 12 Major Benefits of Britain’s Inland Waterways network.

The benefits for the local communities are wide ranging. They create active travel corridors that connect communities and provide free, inclusive and level routes for walking, jogging, cycling and more.

Connecting Communities

Due to their industrial past, the waterways often run through towns and cities, providing traffic-free passage for residents to get out into the countryside and vice-versa. Those in more rural areas can use the towpaths for easy access into towns and villages. Within cities, the waterways should be considered as sustainable transport networks, contributing towards zero carbon, economic recovery and changing behaviour patterns.

Benefits of Inland Waterways to communities

The regeneration of inland waterways can spur local communities into taking ownership of “their” river or canal, seeing it as a community asset that needs to be protected and improved. It provides a sense of place and civic pride. This is particularly true since the Covid pandemic, where many people discovered their local waterways for the first time and began to realise what a positive environment it can be.

Education and Inspiration for Young People

The inland waterways offer real hands-on education opportunities particularly in science, technology and maths subjects but also humanities and the arts. Outdoor classrooms and visits to local waterways provide a unique opportunity for school-aged children to see the built and natural heritage of their waterway – at near zero cost to the education budget. The waterways can bring history to life for young people.

learning in outdoor classroom

Creating Jobs, Training and Apprenticeships

It's not just school-aged children that benefit from visiting the inland waterways, the learning can be inter-generational and they can provide opportunities for employment, training and apprenticeships. These include jobs in tourism and leisure or the hospitality sector. Restoration projects also offer training and work experience opportunities. Often run by volunteers, restoration sites must comply with all construction, environmental, heritage, health and safety legislation and processes. They have proved valuable for people looking to retrain before seeking employment in the construction industry, civil engineering and other fields including boat design.

benefits of waterways to local communities - apprenticeships

Some statistics in the report include:

  • Of the 76 places now designated as cities in England, Scotland and Wales, 41 are on a navigable waterway. Restoring up to 500 more miles would add another seven cities, connecting them to their neighbouring communities
  • Improving towpaths attracts high numbers of visitors to an area. Canalside paths in Birmingham saw a 128% increase in use by cyclists between 2012 and 2016
    Research by the Blagrave Trust found that almost all outdoor learning interventions have a positive effect
  • Understanding and appreciating what has gone before is essential for creating a more sustainable planet
  • A study carried out 10 years after the Millennium-funded restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow and Rochdale canals found that around 500 jobs had been created

To read the full IWA Waterways for Today report or to read the case studies related to the Environmental benefits of the waterways please visit our WEBSITE

Join us next time to look at the benefits that the waterways provide for IMPROVING PEOPLE’S LIVES.