23 July 2021
Inland waterways see use exceed pre-pandemic levels
The Canal & River Trust, the waterways and wellbeing charity which looks after 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales, is seeing boats returning to the water in fleets as restrictions lift and the sun shines. With school holidays starting, it could be a record-breaking summer for boating.
Boats cruising the canals pass through locks when they need to go up or downhill, filling and emptying the lock with water. These ‘lockages’ are monitored by the Trust as an essential part of its water resources management to understand the changing patterns in use across the waterways.
Comparing the weekly lockages in 2019, 2020 and 2021 for the three busiest lock sites in each of the charity’s six regions indicates that the numbers of boats out cruising have recovered and in some regions are higher than before the pandemic.
The data compares the latest figures from mid-July, which covers the final week of Step 3 of the UK Government’s coronavirus roadmap, and shows a 5% increase in average lockage counts compared to 2019 and an 11% increase compared to 2020 when boaters were able to take advantage of the reopening after the first national lockdown.
Matthew Symonds, national boating manager at Canal & River Trust, said: “It is said that boating is the fastest way to slow down, and it is clear to see that boaters are keen to get back out on the water cruising after a year that has seen them moored up for months at a time, or unable to take their hireboat holidays. The four-mile an hour maximum speed gives people the perfect opportunity to unwind, take in the changing landscape, spot wildlife, and let the stress of the past year float away.
“With recent research showing that regularly spending time out on the water has a beneficial effect on mental wellbeing, it’s heartening to see boaters exploring the canals once again. As we head into the summer holidays, this could be a record-breaking year for boating on our inland waterways.”