Britons turn to canal paths for their daily exercise, charity finds

Britons are turning to little-used canal towpaths to get their daily exercise during the Coid-19 shutdown, according to a national heritage charity.

Data from the Canal and River Trust, which looks after 2,000 miles of UK waterways, said foot traffic to some of the most famous routes was down as people try to stay local.

Figures from towpath counters showed visits to routes around Burnley and Blackburn in Lancashire were up 261% and 187% respectively.

Footfall to towpaths in the Midlands town of Sandwell was up 199%.

Elsewhere, visits to the popular Paddington Basin in London were down 72% and down 47% to canals around London.

Traffic had also dropped to Birmingham’s Brindley Place by 52% and by 38% to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales – a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The trust said it welcomed the Government’s guidance that parks and green spaces should remain open but asked towpath users to maintain social distancing at all times.

It also asked cyclists to go slowly and consider using roads where possible now that traffic levels have dropped significantly.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal and River Trust, said: “The figures bear out that people are heeding the Government advice to restrict their daily exercise to local green space to maintain their health and wellbeing.”

He added: “It is wonderful to hear that people are discovering their local towpaths for their daily exercise. Our canals can be a lifeline for people but only if we use them responsibly.”

More information on the nation’s waterways can be found on the Canal & River Trust website.