Active waterways

The Active Waterways (Cheshire) project is a three year project funded by Sport England to increase activity among over 55s living in Cheshire on or by our canals and waterways.

Running by the canal Running by the canal
Active waterways in Cheshire

The project is specifically looking at people who have little or no activity levels - around 30 minutes or less moderate intensity activity per week. Moderate intensity is basically an activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster.

As our news story explains, we’ve been given funding to use our extensive canal and river network to find new ways to encourage older people to get active on and by water.

Looking for a fun, social activity?

Active Waterways Cheshire is a free 12-week programme (one hour/week) for people aged 55+ designed to get you up and about to learn about local history and nature, socialise, have fun and enjoy the beauty of canals and rivers on your doorstep.

Read more about our programme of events

Community groups or individuals will need to sign up to the 12 week programme prior to the start date, therefore please contact Anika Neill Tel. 07990 612700 (please leave your name and phone number) or email

Please note: Vulnerable adults aged over 55 will need to attend with their carer.

Macclesfield (Fairways Garden centre, Sutton)

  • Dates: Friday 28 February – 15 May 2020
  • Time: 11am – 12pm

Audlem (Shroppie Fly pub)

  • Dates: Thursday 27 February – Thursday 14 May 2020
  • Time: 1.30pm – 2.30pm

Ellesmere Port (National Waterways Museum)

  • Dates: Thursday 27 February – Thursday 14 May 2020
  • Time: 1.30pm – 2.30pm

Northwich (Anderton Boat lift)

  • Dates: Wednesday 26 February – Wednesday 13 May 2020
  • Time: 11am – 12pm

Congleton (Derwent Drive)

  • Dates: Monday 24th February – Monday 18th May (excludes Easter Monday 13/04/20)
  • Time: 1pm - 2pm

Active waterways in Cheshire - the facts:

  • There are 92 miles of canal and river navigations in Cheshire. Used and enjoyed by people both on and off the water and evidence is mounting that spending time by water makes us healthier and happier 
  • By bringing communities together to value and help us care for their local waterway, they'll be creating places and walking routes that everyone can use and enjoy, every day
  • For those who may be less active or looking to start improving their physical wellbeing, canals offer 24/7 informal free accessible routes, which are generally level throughout, making them an ideal place for exercise regardless of physical ability
  • In Cheshire, our canals connect and travel through the heart of many diverse communities, some areas are severely deprived
  • Almost 41% of residents living in Cheshire are over the age of 55, of which, almost 54% do not meet Chief Medical Office (CMO) guidelines for exercise (Public Health England, 2015)

Active ageing on the Cheshire Canals

What we’re doing

The funding means we can recruit active waterway volunteers, create support networks across six key areas along our waterways. Activities will appeal to anyone aged 55+, with a specific focus on existing canal users such as boaters, anglers, community groups in the area and our own volunteers.

Our new active waterway volunteers will act as a mentor, motivator and support network for anyone who wants to take part in the project. 

The six pilot sites for the project are:

  • Macclesfield (1st phase pilot completed)
  • Middlewich (1st phase pilot completed)
  • Audlem
  • Congleton
  • Northwich
  • Ellesmere Port

How to get involved with the Active Waterways project

If you run a group or are an activity provider working in these locations and you're interested in collaborating on this project, please get in touch with Anika Neill (Active Waterways Project Lead)

Want to be one of our active waterways volunteers? Again get in touch with Anika Neill or Emma Hicks. or

What the volunteers think

We spoke to three of our local volunteers about the project:

John Sedley volunteer lock keeper

"I’m John Sedley, I’m a volunteer at Red Bull, in 2014 my life shattered with the death of my wife…I heard on the local radio that they needed volunteers on the canal and river trust so I volunteered and that’s when I started my life on the canals…I came down as a greeter originally and I was asked to be a lock keeper. Now I’m a lock keeper, greeter and I go out an assist on the reservoirs.”

John Parry, volunteer lock keeper

John Parry, greeter on the Trent & Mersey Canal: "It’s my third year of volunteering and I just love the outdoor life. I find now that I am a qualified lock keeper it’s fantastic…you can come any day of the week…it’s good exercise, you get plenty of fresh air, you walk, you talk, it’s a really fantastic opportunity I think.”

Janice Gledhill, volunteer Cheshire

Janice Gledhill, based at Red Bull: “This volunteer position came just at the right time. About five years ago I was diagnosed with Osteoarthritis and I had to give up my regular employment. For me [the activity] is everything, it’s fulfilling, it’s empowering, it’s great for the mind, you meet people, you have a really good time. I would recommend it to anybody who’s looking to get out when they’re having life changes because it really has been for me just an amazing adventure.”

Somewhere to stroll

If you're just looking for a little fresh air, Cheshire already has several routes and places to visit for a Sunday afternoon stroll, a calmer communte to work or simply somewhere to walk your dog:

Last date edited: 10 February 2020