The charity making life better by water

Nine unusual things for children to spot by the water this summer

If you’re at a loss for how to entertain your little ones this summer look no further than your nearest canal. Bring them down to the water and get them spotting some of the features that make our canals and rivers unique.


Back when our canals and rivers were used to transport goods up and down the country there were thousands of mile markers to help boatmen and canal companies to work out how far each boat had travelled. Many of these mile markers can still be spotted up and down our network.

Rope marks on bridges

In the early days of our canals and rivers, horses pulled boats up and down the country with ropes. If you look carefully you can still see rope marks on many of our bridges left from years of narrowboats hauling their goods around the country.

Rope marks on a bridge

A kingfisher

That flash of electric blue is one of the most exciting things many of us will see next to the water. Spotting a kingfisher is almost impossible unless they are in flight, when you'll see a streak of blue flash past your eyes. Challenge your kids to sit perfectly still and see if they can spot one.

Kingfisher perched on branch

A yellow boat

Canal boats come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Challenge your little ones to see how many yellow boats they can spot out and about on the water.

Roses and castles

Back in the days when our canals were used to haul goods around the country, many of the families working on the boats aspired to a better life and decorated their boats with paintings of roses and castles. This tradition has endured and you can still spot roses and castles painted on many traditional narrowboats. Get your children to spot some of these paintings and then recreate their own at home.

An aqueduct

Our canals and rivers are home to dozens of aqueducts of many different sizes. These ‘canals in the sky' are testament to the ambitions of our famous canal engineers and they still look just as impressive today as they did 200 years ago.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct view from playing field

Winding holes

Winding holes are like roundabouts for boats. Canal boats are very long and most canals are very narrow so the boats need places to turn around. Get your children to spot large turning circles in the canals and stay to watch as the colourful boats manoeuvre themselves around.

A heron

While kingfishers can be tricky little creatures to spot, herons are abundant and a common sight on canals and rivers. They're usually standing very still looking at the water ready to pluck out any fish who dares to get too close.

Grey Heron by the canal

A canoe

We have all sorts of different boats on the canals and you'll often see people paddling past in a canoe. From Canadian Canoes with a whole family inside to kayaks with just the one occupant, see how many you can spot when you're by the water.

Lunch next to the canal

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Last Edited: 09 August 2019

photo of a location on the canals
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