Since the start of the pandemic, people have gravitated towards their local canal towpath and discovered the wellbeing benefits of being by water.
What improvements have been made?
For many people the towpaths are the first places people of every age and background go for a bike ride and more people than ever are now enjoying towpaths by walking or cycling and using them to travel as an alternative to using public transport.
The Trust and Hillingdon Council have been working together with Transport for London to improve the towpaths in Hillingdon and beyond for walking and cycling, as part of the Trust's Grand Union Canal Cycleway project being delivered between Paddington and West Drayton.
So far, 3.8km of towpath has been widened and resurfaced between Printing House Lane Hayes, Stockley Park and Trout Road, Yiewsley. You can also walk or cycle all the way to Paddington from Bull's Bridge, Hayes where the Paddington Arm meets the mainline of the Grand Union Canal through Southall, Greenford, Alperton, Park Royal, Old Oak Common, Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park. And within Hillingdon, although not yet fully surfaced, the towpath extends north past Uxbridge and through the Colne Valley Regional Park into Hertfordshire, in a beautiful rural setting with waterside pubs and cafes.
The new towpaths provide more space for everybody and have a better surface so they can be enjoyed in all weathers.
Transforming the towpath
Susannah Miller, our enterprise manager, says: “The transformation of the canal towpath between Hayes and Yiewsley has provided such a great resource for residents and visitors to get their dose of exercise and wellbeing; it's so important right now.”
Councillor John Riley, Hillingdon Council's Cabinet Member for Public Safety and Transport, said: “The canal towpaths are a lifeline for many – providing much-needed respite from the bustle of city life, and a safer, more sedate means of getting from A to B, which has been highlighted during the pandemic.
“This investment means they can offer year-round access safely to all those for whom they've become vital. The muddy puddles have gone and there's more room to enjoy the scenery and even catch a glimpse of a heron or cormorant.”
The Trust and Hillingdon Council offer led walks and cycles with the support of trained instructors through our Let's Walk programme, Hillingdon Led Walks and Hillingdon Cycle Skills programmes.
What can you do?
We're also keen to remind people to be considerate when they visit the towpaths, in particular to take it really steadily when on a bike. Our Stay Kind Slow Down campaign encourages people to continue that care towards others that's been so evident during the pandemic and give others space and time to enjoy the canal in a relaxed environment.
Diana Fitzwilliam, our urban engagement projects lead, said: “We'd also really like to encourage people to take their litter home with them so other people and wildlife can enjoy the canal too. Our Plastics Challenge is helping people get involved with the clean-up to prevent plastics polluting our canals, rivers and ending up in the oceans.”.
If you'd like to find out more or get involved with keeping Hillingdon's canal towpaths happy and healthy:
Join our Towpath Taskforce teams
Join our super volunteer teams who meet up regularly to care for their local canal