Study asks: why are canals and rivers a watery lifeline during pandemic?

Enjoying boat trip at 2017 summer festival on the Regent's Canal

Enjoying boat trip at 2017 summer festival on the Regent's Canal - Credit: Mike Brooke

A study to see what attracts people to canals and rivers and why they’re no longer dumping grounds for shopping trolleys has been started by the charity that looks after our heritage waterways.

The research to understand what makes “the motorways of their day” tick includes east London’s Regent’s Canal, Limehouse Cut, Hertford Cut by Victoria Park and the Lea River. 

Volunteers planting reed beds along Regent's Canal

Volunteers planting reed beds along Regent's Canal - Credit: Canal & River Trust

“Many households don’t have their own garden,” the Canal and River Trust’s chief executive Richard Parry said.

“Canals have been their on-the-doorstep lifeline through the pandemic.” 

It's not easy being green... but summer algae isn't enough to stop canoes on the Hertford Cut by Victoria Park 

It's not easy being green... but summer algae isn't enough to stop canoes on the Hertford Cut by Victoria Park - Credit: Mike Brooke

Canals provide £1 billion savings to the NHS each year through health and wellbeing linked to active visits to waterways, studies have found.  

The charity wants to understand what actually makes them attractive – the scenery of historic locks and bridges or the greenery of trees and wildlife – and why people respond to these 200-year-old industrial environments. 

Mare Street Bridge at Cambridge Heath... industrial heritage when Regent's Canal was 'the motorway of its day'

Mare Street Bridge at Cambridge Heath... industrial heritage when Regent's Canal was 'the motorway of its day' - Credit: Bishopsgate Institute

Author Dr Amir Khan said: “They are vital blue and green corridors for built-up and deprived urban communities, giving sunlight and cleaner air while being close to nature.” 

The online study has images of canals and rivers to be rated by what people like most.   

Sleepy waters of Regent's Canal by Victoria Park

Sleepy waters of Regent's Canal by Victoria Park - Credit: Mike Brooke

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