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The charity making life better by water

How to enjoy the winter wonderland safely this year

We are calling on people to enjoy being by water safely this winter and have published ten seasonal tips on how to take extra care on the towpaths.

Sunrise photo with iced up boat and canal

Wintery canal scenes have an enchanting, picture-perfect appeal. However, the reduced daylight and wet and even slippery conditions typical of this time of year can conceal hidden dangers. It is important to take extra care. Check the weather and wrap up warm before heading for a walk or run along a canal towpath.

Staying safe this winter

David Baldacchino, our head of safety and operations support, said: “We've seen more people discovering their local canals and rivers this year due to the pandemic. This is welcome news as research shows that being by water improves wellbeing.

“As the temperature drops, our waterways look beautiful in the frost and snow and many will consider visiting the towpath for a peaceful walk. Where coronavirus restrictions allow, many will head to the towpath as a place to meet up with others in an outdoor setting.

“Icy temperatures and shorter days mean it is extremely important to take extra care to stay safe. Towpaths, bridges and lock-sides can become slippery at this time of year. Snow can conceal boat mooring rings and ropes near the water's edge so it's vital that everyone bears this in mind, especially when stepping aside to pass others in a socially distanced way.

“Whilst frozen canals look stunning, they should be enjoyed from afar. No-one should ever attempt to walk on the ice or allow their dogs to do so.

“Finally, if coronavirus restrictions allow you to meet up with friends for a drink, you should take a route home away from the water's edge to avoid the risk of falling in and getting into trouble.”

Top ten tips to be water safe this winter:

1. Check the weather

Look at the forecast and see what's coming your way

2. Plan your route

Think about where you want to go and how long you want to be out for

3. Wear the right clothing

Waterproofs, sturdy footwear and warm layers help your body cope with the wintry conditions

4. Take a friend

It is safer to walk with others

5. Take your phone (or even a whistle)

If you get into trouble, or see somebody else in trouble, you can call or whistle for help

6. Stay away from the edge

Especially when trying to practice social distancing. Although you may be able to see the edge of the towpath even in the snow, it may be slippery

7. Teach children not to go on the ice

It's important for children not to go on the ice under any circumstances

8. Try to keep to well-lit areas

Time your walks to make the most of the daylight; if you need to walk in the evening only use well-lit areas or take a route away from water

9. Keep dogs on their leads

Keep dogs on their leads when near ice and don't throw sticks or toys onto the ice

10. #DontdrinkandDrown

Avoid walking home near water if coronavirus restrictions allow you to meet up with friends for a drink. Find another route away from the canal

Last Edited: 04 December 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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