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Finding true love on the towpath

With Valentine’s Day almost upon us, we’re celebrating by bringing you two tales of love from the canalside. Our canals and rivers can bring us together in all sorts of ways, but for both our featured couples, our beautiful waterways were the place where they vowed to spend the rest of their lives together.

Our first couple, Isaac and Gabe, met in May 2019. Studying Marine Biology and Biological Sciences respectively, the pair soon found they had plenty in common, bonding over their shared love of nature. They moved in together in Lancaster during the pandemic, just a stone's throw from the Lancaster Canal.

Two people standing next to the canal

Over the coming months, the canal would play a huge role in their burgeoning relationship, providing a green, tranquil space where they could relax, unwind and escape the pressures of study.

“We'd walk along the canal every day,” Isaac says. “It was so nice to have an hour dedicated to nature and to each other, where we could just walk and talk.” Gabe agrees: “There's something so special about being by water,” he says, “it soothes the soul.”

Two hands crossed over

It was on these regular excursions, away from the clamour of daily life, that their love began to grow. So, when Isaac plucked up the courage to propose, the venue was in little doubt. On a mild afternoon on Valentine's Day last year, on the banks of the Lancaster Canal, he finally popped the question. Gabe's response, a resounding “yes!”

As a transgender couple, Isaac and Gabe want to apply for a gender recognition certificate before tying the knot, so it could be a few years before they get married. When the big day finally comes, they intend to celebrate in style.

“We want to be surrounded by nature,” Isaac says, “and we definitely want to get married by water; perhaps by a river or a lake.” A fitting ceremony for a couple who found true love on the banks of their local canal.

Spreading love not litter

Our second couple, Emily and Jason, spread a unique message of ‘love not litter' along their local towpath. Originally meeting at Loughborough University, it would be another two decades before friendship turned into something more.

The word 'love' spelled out using natural objects

After graduation, the pair went their separate ways. Emily relocated to London to pursue a career in media and Jason stayed on, achieving his PGCE and becoming a teacher. Twenty years later, following a serious illness, Emily returned to Loughborough to be closer to friends and family.

On a night out, their paths crossed once more. “There was an immediate connection,” Emily recalls, “Jason is as enthusiastic about the environment and sustainability as I am, and we were soon deep in conversation.”

Such was their rapport, they agreed to meet up again for coffee and soon began taking long walks together along the Grand Union Canal. Over the next few months and years, the friendship blossomed into romance.

Eventually they celebrated their love with an ancient handfasting ritual at Latitude Festival, in which the hands are tied together to symbolise the binding of two lives.

Five years on, Emily and Jason are still going strong, bonded by their love for each other and their close affinity with nature. They still take regular walks along their local canal, where they first found love, spreading a unique message as they go.

The word 'love' next to collected litter

Whenever they find litter on the towpath, they clean it up and fashion a message of love. “We'd love it if people would join us in spreading love not litter,” Emily says, “simply pick up some litter while you're out walking and craft the word love using nature finds. Just be careful not to block the towpath.”

There's something truly magical about our canals and rivers and the power they have to connect people and change lives for the better. For our two couples, it was their shared love of being by water that kindled their romance and brought them closer together.

Last Edited: 23 January 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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