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New 'Wainwright of the waterways' appointed to forge Coast to Coast canoe trail

A new ‘Wainwright of the waterways’ has been appointed forge England’s first Coast to Coast canoe trail.

Following in the footsteps of famous author and walker, Alfred Wainwright, Greg Brookes will lead a small team in a five year plan to create a challenging new canoe trail across the Pennines. The route will start in Liverpool on the west coast, follow 127 miles of Britain's longest canal, the Leeds & Liverpool, link into the Aire & Calder Navigation in Yorkshire and finally reach the east coast at Goole.

The 150 mile trail will not be for the faint-hearted and involve carrying canoes around 91 locks, including the 21 lock Wigan flight, Bingley's famous Five Rise and a mile long tunnel at Foulridge.

Major urban centres, such as Liverpool, Wigan, Leeds, Blackburn, Burnley and Skipton, will be connected with some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Encouraging young people (aged 15-25) to become more active and get involved in a new sport will be a key part of a youth engagement programme.

The Desmond Foundation

Funded by a £1.3 million grant from the Desmond Foundation, the aim of the project is to create healthier communities, develop employment opportunities and leave a lasting legacy, the Coast to Coast Canoe Trail, for future generations to enjoy.

Programme manager Greg Brookes, is a former senior youth worker with Warrington Youth Service and an outdoor education development worker in Knowsley. He is an experienced canoeist himself and is joined by Andrew Blackburn, who has recently led Raleigh International expeditions to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Borneo.

Greg said: “Our plan is to engage with up to 10,000 young people and their families through a series of Canoe Action Squads. We are in danger of creating a lost generation of young people trapped in a time bomb of poor health and low self-esteem.

“A recent report identified that only 15% of girls and 28% of boys achieve the recommended level of physical activity and 37% are overweight or obese. Canals are not just for narrowboats. Canoeing is becoming an increasingly popular activity on our waterways. Even in urban areas, canoeing offers the chance to enjoy the great outdoors and have fun at the same time as getting fit and healthy.”

The next generation

Richard Atkinson, a member of the Canal & River Trust North West Waterway Partnership, added: “We are very grateful to the Desmond Foundation for funding this fantastic initiative.

“For both serious canoeists and those just wanting to have fun, the Coast to Coast Canoe Trail is sure to etch its way into the national consciousness in the same way as Wainwright's great Coast to Coast Walk and Pennine Way.

“Thousands of young people are going to have the chance to try out this great sport, become healthier, and who knows, we could inspire the next generation of Olympic champions.”

Richard is also the Head of Waterways and Environment for British Canoeing who carried out the initial scoping for the trail.

In the first year, the programme will concentrate on Liverpool to Burscough; in the second year, Wigan to Blackburn; the third year Burnley to Skipton; year four will be Leeds to Castleford and the final year, Knottingley to Goole.

Anyone wanting to get involved should contact Greg on 07919 691169 or email him: [email protected].

Last Edited: 28 May 2015

photo of a location on the canals
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