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The charity making life better by water

A stress-free path to relaxation

We’re celebrating Stress Awareness Month with five ways for you to find peace and relaxation by our canals this spring.

Couple walking by canal in spring

Research has found that time by water can make you feel happier, healthier, and give you the confidence to deal with daily challenges.

Connecting with others. Getting active. Taking notice of the natural world around you. Learning about ecology and history. Giving something back. These are five proven ways to improve your wellbeing.

It’s something that the millions of us who use our canals experience. And we want as many of you as possible to feel the difference. Here are some of the ways we’re helping the nation to stress, less.

Two ladies in colourful coats walk by the canal

1. Connect

Canals are a wonderful place to meet your loved ones and chat to friendly passers by. That’s why we encourage people to spend some social time by water. It’s amazing how much better you can feel after walking the dog, getting active with friends, or simply spending time afloat with people you know and love.

For people who are looking to make new friends, we also run a number of activities as part of our waterways wellbeing programme. For instance, our Chats with Chaps group is just getting underway on the Nottingham & Beeston Canal. It’s a chance for men to get together to chat and enjoy narrowboat trips, walks, canoeing, birdbox making as well as fixing, and tidying things, in like-minded company.

Led by our wonderful volunteers, these activities can even be socially prescribed by GP’s, community and faith groups, or simply signed up to by anyone who feels they would benefit from spending more time out and about with others.

Group of people start a guided walk on the canal

2. Get active

Whatever your age there’s evidence that being active can improve your mental health, and our canals are the ideal place to enjoy some physical activity.

Our flat towpaths are safe, traffic-free routes through even the busiest town or city, making them the perfect place to go for a walk, pedal your bike or go for a gentle jog. Almost nine million of us live within just a mile of a canal or river, which is why we offer a range of ways to get active, get fit and enjoy better sleep.

Our regular wellbeing walks in London or Cheshire are a hugely popular place to start with similar events regularly available around the country. But you can always find your own way by searching our guide tocanal walks near you.

Or if you fancy spending time on water, our canals are wonderful places to paddle, kayak or canoe. Or simply sit and gently fish among the peace and quiet of nature.

3. Take notice

It could be simply breathing in fresh clean air, hearing the sound of chugging boats or flowing water. Smelling the flowers along the towpath. Or the delight of seeing nature around you. There’s nothing like taking a moment to wake up your senses by the canal. Mindfulness is a great way to slow down, relax the body and improve your mood. And our canals and rivers are wonderful places to escape to, whenever you feel you need a break.

Why not enjoy the meditative, soothing benefits of fishing. Or take inspiration from canal arts. There are so many ways to find your happy place by water.

A man working in a canal workshop
Volunteer boat handler on a sunny day

5. Give something back

Take the time to talk to some of our wonderful canal volunteers, and they’ll often say that helping to keep canals alive helps them too. Many find that simply joining in and spending time by water is an amazing way to make new friends, get fit through a hard day’s work, enjoy being out in the fresh air or learning new skills. And there’s simply a great sense of satisfaction in giving something back. So if you’re looking to make a difference, why not join one of our welcome sessions and see what volunteering by water could do for you.

Last Edited: 27 March 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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