A five-year youth project to create the UK’s first coast to coast canoe trail reaches a climax this month with a fortnight’s celebrations organised by the Canal & River Trust charity across the entire 162 mile route, from Liverpool in the West to Goole on the Humber estuary.
Relays will set off from Goole on Wednesday 14 August and Liverpool’s Eldonian Village the following day, meeting up near the Canoe Trail’s mid-point in Burnley on Friday 23 August. This will then be the start of a Bank Holiday weekend of youth-led festivals in Burnley on the Friday, Leeds Dock, Blackburn and Goole on Saturday 24 August, winding up with a finale at Liverpool Waterfront on Sunday 25 August.
Funded by a £1.3million grant from the Desmond Foundation, the trail is known as the Desmond Family Canoe Trail and has provided new training and volunteering opportunities for thousands of young people aged 16-25, on both sides of the Pennines. Community canoe hubs have been created in Sefton, Wigan, Burnley, Castleford and Goole, with plans for extra hubs in Skipton, Leeds and Blackburn.
Several of the young people have become so engaged in the project they have trained as youth leaders and hope to carry on with the project after this stage officially draws to a conclusion next year.
In partnership with British Canoeing, a new detailed trail leaflet has been produced for would-be canoeists and kayakers, giving accommodation options as well as top tips on how to negotiate the route which follows the 127 mile Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Britain’s longest single canal, and 35 miles along the Aire & Calder Navigation through Yorkshire.
This new grand waterway adventure is not for the faint-hearted. It involves carrying canoes around 91 locks, including the 21 lock Wigan flight and Bingley’s famous Five Rise staircase, and paddling under the summit of the Pennine hills through a mile long canal tunnel at Foulridge.
To help paddlers, a number of canoe access improvements have been made at Liverpool’s Eldonian Village and Wigan, with further work planned for Castleford and Goole. New canoe signage will also help people find their way along the coast to coast waterway route.
The Desmond Family Canoe Trail project was the brain child of waterways and well-being charity, the Canal & River Trust, which cares for 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales.
Danny Matley, canoe trail project manager with the Canal & River Trust, said: “Since the project launched in 2015 we have supported thousands of young people in a range of activities, not only giving them the chance to get out on the water in a canoe, but also to learn a range of valuable new skills.
“Thanks to the trail initiative, young people have found new ways to engage with their local communities and grown in confidence as they’ve acquired environmental and waterway skills, working on their neighbourhood canal.
“The amazing legacy from this brilliant project is a coast to coast canoe trail, every bit as challenging and engaging as Alfred Wainwright’s famous coast to coast walking trail. Of course, paddlers can do just as little or go as far as they wish along the 162 mile route, but we are certain this new cross-country waterway trail is set to capture the imagination of every canoeist, kayaker and paddle boarder with a taste for adventure.”