A major milestone in the £2 million project to improve sections of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal towpath from Skipton to Gargrave, and Bradley to Kildwick, has been completed in time for the local community to enjoy waterside walks over Christmas and New Year.
The towpath through Gargrave from Anchor Bridge to Eshton Road has been fully resurfaced, along with a stretch between Bradley Swing Bridge and the war memorial at Hamblethorpe Swing Bridge.
The Canal & River Trust, secured funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development with further support from Craven District Council and the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership to improve the access to the canal towpath.
In total 11.7km of the towpath will be improved, as identified in the Access Development Plan commissioned by Craven District Council and written by Sustrans. Work is continuing on other stretches of the towpath and is due to be completed by the end of February 2020.
Luke Edwards, project manager at Canal & River Trust, said: "We’re delighted with how the work is progressing so far and the completed sections have delivered a vastly improved surface.
"As a charity we want people to enjoy our canals, they are great places to relax and take time out and are perfect for a post-Christmas dinner stroll. To minimise disruption, all stretches apart from between Bridge 172 and 172a near Gargrave will be re-open between Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, January 5.
"People can also check our website for up-to-date details on towpath closures."
The towpath improvements in Craven extend along an 8.2km stretch between Anchor Bridge (Gargrave) to Gawflat Swing Bridge (Skipton), and a further 3.5km between Bradley Swing Bridge (Bradley) and Warehouse Swing Bridge (Kildwick). When complete, the 11.7km stretch of towpath will be resurfaced with a natural limestone material which creates a durable and compact surface, chosen to be in keeping with the rural area. The path will also be widened at key hotspots, including Gargrave and Broughton Road, to provide better access to and from Skipton railway station and employment sites in the town.
There will also be new ‘welcome’ and information boards about key points of interest and visitor facilities in and around the canal, and additional waymarking signage to help people find their way onto the waterway. A new canoe portage point in Gargrave, in association with Desmond Family Canoe Trail, will help paddlers get onto the water and enjoy England’s first coast-to-coast canoe trail.
Councillor Simon Myers, Craven District Council’s lead member for Enterprising Craven, said: "I’m really pleased with the progress that has been made so far and I know residents are keen to see this important project completed. When the towpath improvements are finished, this will create a fantastic route through Craven for residents and visitors to enjoy. This improved towpath makes the countryside more accessible to all."
To check which section of towpath will be closed, visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/notices selecting Leeds & Liverpool Canal. All the works are listed as “Craven Towpath Improvement".