Friday, 22 January 2016

Towpath Walks

I like  boating. I like walking. What better occupation than to combine the two?
So I started by Googling “towpath walks” and visited the walking section of CRT. But there, at I’m told:
“We’ve previously hosted the details of a number of different walking and cycling routes. However, when we looked at them closely we weren’t convinced that all of our routes were completely accurate.”
 They then ask me to help identify and describe canal walks for them!
Now at one level that might be a good project for me, but at the other level it doesn’t get me very far in finding canal walks and aiming my boat in that direction.

So I visited my usual walking site, Walking World. Finding the walks that use canals wasn’t obvious, but at last I stumbled on which has an excellent selection covering 32 counties or areas of the UK. I recommend that list, though you will need (inexpensive) membership to view them.

What other alternatives are there?
·      You could wait until CRT’s collection of towpath walks is complete. Or perhaps someone has stored the (admittedly out dated) walks from the British Waterways site.
·      You could create your own using an OS map – though even where a circular route is identified you can never be sure of how accessible (surface, nettles, width etc) the towpath will be.
·      You could also buy a book of well-researched walks. I have Weekend Walks by Phillippa Greenwood and Martine O’Callaghan – an attractively photographed and well laid out selection, though few walks in the east. You can usually buy walks locally wherever there is a canal tea shop or chandlers. Julia Bradbury's books and TV programmes (also on DVD) are an excellent source.
·      More Googling shows Cool Canals with a useful list of canal walks which you’ll have to Google again for more details (The Planekeeper’s Path, Somerset Space Walk) and some free downloads.
 I discovered useful suggestions from the Long Distance Walkers Association (ldwa) site which has all sorts of publications and links.
For example, The Grand Union Canal Walk,
And Oxford Canal Walks : “A walk connecting the cathedral cities of Oxford and Coventry using the continuous canal towpath, passing 43 locks, many bridges, one tunnel and crossing only one road.”
“A series of shorter walks, the North Oxfordshire Circular Walks, with distances varying up to 14 miles, have links to the Canal walk.”

I also found TowPath Treks, a site with walks on the Leeds and Liverpool canal.

And don’t forget that, using Google Earth, you can select the canal and river option and use this as a guide to find walks near where you plan to be boating. It won’t give you the walk but it will guide you to the canal-related area.

The next step (ha!) is to decide how to walk it. Will you moor up, do the circular walk then return to the boat? Or will you venture forth leaving your boat at home? Or leave one person boating while the other walks alongside, to meet up at the next lock?
I think I prefer the moored boat, which is more relaxing and – assuming you remember where you moored it – something pleasurable to come back to. Having someone walk alongside the boat seems to me to create tension as to who is travelling faster, so I find it best if the walker goes on ahead and waits for the boat by the next lock or mooring place – which helps of course in locking through. 
Any more suggestions for sources of good canal towpath walks?