News article created on 22 October 2018

New towpath solar lighting make Stoke's canals safer at night

Waterside walkers and cyclists in Stoke-on-Trent will be safer at night this autumn, thanks to an innovative project to install solar lighting along popular stretches of the Trent & Mersey and Caldon canals.

The Trust and Stoke-on-Trent City Council are partners in a major £1.5m project, launched in February to improve 15 miles of the city’s canals with a range of infrastructure and community initiatives.

Completed just as the clocks go back for winter, the towpath lighting project has involved the installation of hundreds of solar lights covering nearly 5 miles of the Caldon Canal, around Hanley Park and Westport Lake, and the Trent & Mersey Canal, from Middleport down to Trentham. Charged by the sun, the lights will automatically switch on when darkness falls.

Other projects within the main scheme include:

  • Opening up the route between Westport Lake and the canal with vegetation clearance, new lit pathways and improving the hedgerows for nesting birds.
  • Work at Etruria Industrial Museum to repair canalside buildings.
  • Repairs to Bedford Street footbridge in Etruria – starting in January 2019.
  • Community volunteer project with Burslem Port Trust and Middleport Matters to deliver improved canal towpath access, with new steps, handrails and pathways.
  • Improved visitor facilities at Harecastle Tunnel entrance, with new picnic benches and boat moorings.
  • New ‘wayfinder’ signage along both canals.
  • Refurbishment of existing black heritage signs.

Trust enterprise manager Simon Papprill said: "The solar lights installed on Stoke’s busiest canal towpaths are going to bring major safety improvements for everyone who uses the waterway routes after dark.

"These type of lights are a first for the Midlands waterways and we would very much like to extend the project to other popular sections of towpath, particularly where the canal forms a safe, off-road commuter route through urban areas."

Cllr Dan Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration, transport and heritage at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: "We’re fortunate in Stoke-on-Trent to have a fantastic canal network and it’s important we protect and preserve it. That is why this council has committed £1m to boost the area’s waterways with a range of exciting improvements and initiatives. We want everyone to enjoy using our fantastic canals, whether they are cycling, jogging or walking. These new lights will make sure the canal remains an attractive option, especially with the nights now drawing in."