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David, walking to a happy place

David McEntee, walking the Grand Union Canal

Walking away your worries by water is good for anyone, of any age.

Sadly, government statistics suggest young people still have high anxiety and a low sense of mental wellbeing after the pandemic.

And while many young people have yet to discover the tranquility of their local canal, 23-year-old David McEntee walked a massive 137 miles from London to Birmingham along the Grand Union Canal.

Words by David

Canals really introduced me to hiking and the outdoors. I grew up in Berkhamstead, and as a child I always used them as a safe place to walk into town or meet friends.

My dad always used to tell me they were the first highways of England, long before motorways and railways. And you do see some awesome history on canals from the industrial revolution. Seeing a bridge that was built hundreds of years ago is always amazing to me.

Walking 137 miles

I walked the Grand Union Canal in two chunks. I chilled for a couple of days in between, came back and picked up the trail again.

It just shows you can do it however you like. I chose to do it over seven days, but it can easily be done over a couple of weeks or even several weekends throughout the year, just like the Canal & River Trust's Canalathon.

Time to disconnect and reconnect

I'm a bit of extroverted introvert. I can talk for England, but I also need a bit of time to switch off, tune into myself and not talk.

Walking does that for me. A lot of young people definitely feel disconnected because of social media addiction. But they can find themselves and reconnect with the world around them by going to the canal.

There's an entirely different pace of life out there. You don't have to go at 100 miles an hour. You can go at five miles an hour. And live a really happy, fulfilled, connected life with a great community around you.

On my canal walk, I only met nice people. Everyone smiled, chatted and made me feel welcome.

photo of a location on the canals
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