Providing for the care and well-being of adults and children through leisure facilities
The waterways support Health, Wellbeing and Social Care by:
- Contributing positively to the good health and well-being of the communities they pass through.
- Providing easily accessible greenspace close to home.
- Building everyday activity into daily routines.
- Encouraging physical activity in volunteer schemes.
The canals represent a ribbon of green and blue space within towns and villages as well as connecting to wider open space and the opportunities that offers. This presents opportunities to address poor health and low sports participation. Access onto or beside water is important and should be encouraged wherever possible. The calmness and serenity afforded by the canals is a major factor: people’s persona takes on a much less stressful nature. The pace of canal life makes people far more engaging. Strangers talk to one another. The canal routes in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire pass through some areas of significant habitat and landscape degradation. The restoration of the towpath in Stoke-on-Trent has demonstrated how the waterway can deliver significant improvements on a short timescale and at reasonable cost. Improvements in biodiversity go hand-in-hand with the improvement of living conditions in the industrial towns and villages once linked by the canals.
Fresh Air and Exercise
The value of accessible, available green space is well known. In presenting the Accessible National Greenspace Standard1, Natural England states: “Access to natural green spaces for fresh air, exercise and quiet contemplation has benefits for both physical and mental health. There is good evidence of reductions in levels of heart disease, obesity and depressions where people live close to green spaces. Everyone should have access to good quality natural green space near to where they live.” In Staffordshire, you are always no further than a few miles from a canal.
Canals offer a useful resource to canoeists, who have very limited opportunities to get onto the water in England. The sport has a low initial cost, is of particular interest to young people and the clubs have a good reputation in widening participation in the sport. The waterways have the potential to provide a safe learning environment for those new to the sport or who simply want to dabble. There is an established Centre of Excellence on the River Trent in Stone.
Recreational angling is the most popular participation sport in the country and is already well represented on the County canals and reservoirs. However there remains plenty of scope for encouraging more angling especially on reservoirs and some sections of canals and in improving access and facilities for anglers and supporting the clubs to extend and diversify their memberships.
Sport: Walking and Cycling
Whether as a dedicated recreational activity or simply as a means of getting from one place to another, these activities can be encouraged on canal towpaths where the space available allows. The towpaths are by their nature level, following the contours of the landscape and can do a great deal to encourage people to leave their cars and sample a different type of journey. This may be short, a pleasant off-road way to the High Street, a commute to work or a stage in a long-distance national trail such as the Staffordshire Way and the Two Saints long distance path2 from Chester to Lichfield. Both of these make full use of the towpath, especially beside the Caldon Canal and river Churnet and along the Trent & Mersey Canal.
1: Accessible National Greenspace Standard (Natural England, 2010)
2: Two Saints Way website