A canal holiday is a very green holiday!

On a canal holiday you cen enjoy nature outside your window when you wake up, a different view everyday and canals can even take the countryside into the cities!

  • A canal holiday is environmentally green, much lower impact than flying or touring.
  • Canals are nature friendly fingers of green between intensive farming and urban sprawl.
  • Canals cut through many landscapes, bringing greenery and encouraging life.
  • Water quality in canals is fairly good, supporting lots of creatures, but take precautions.

What Is The Environmental Impact Of Taking A Canal Holiday?

Canal boat hire is one of the greenest options you can take, estimated to be around 20-30 times less damaging than taking a two hour flight across Europe. You’ll need to get to and from the boat, but once you’re on it, there’s only really the diesel engine to account for. When you are on your holiday you can eat locally sourced food and specialities while you enjoy all our wonderful countryside. You can make sure the detergents and cleaners you use onboard are environmentally friendly.

Respecting your holiday environment will keep it pleasant and enjoyable for everyone else and help protect the wildlife. So, if you leave your boat and go for a wander follow the usual countryside code: close gates behind you, keep to the marked footpaths, don’t light fires, take litter away with you, respect the wildlife. Canal and River Trust have a specialist Environmental Team, see their website.

What Wildlife Can We Expect To See?

Canal towpaths and surrounding areas support a large variety of wildlife, some easier to see than others. Summer days bring out butterflies and dragonflies, evenings you may hear frogs and toads croaking in the rushes, foxes barking or badgers howling in the woods. You may see bats flitting through the dark, many living in old buildings near canals and some in tunnels such as Barnton and Saltersford Tunnels on the Trent and Mersey Canal which have their own resident populations. (The rare pipistrelle bat in this case.) Watervoles can be seen swimming across the canal, although the voracious mink has taken a heavy toll on their numbers. Grey squirrels are common in most woods, red squirrels less so these days. You may even be lucky enough to see a stoat or weasel out hunting. Herons are fairly common on many parts of the system and you may catch the blue flash of a kingfisher as it skims the canal ahead of your boat. The canals support large numbers of birds which feed off fish or other water creatures or plants. You can see swans, ducks, moorhens, coots, herons and other water birds.

Some canals, such as the Montgomery Canal and Rochdale Canal, actually support rare and endangered plant and wildlife species. Make sure you don’t do anything to disturb or damage plants and creatures which live in or by the canals. It is a very important environment!

What Kind Of Landscapes Do The Canals Pass Through?

The canal network passes through almost every type of natural and urban landscape you can expect from England and Wales, from sweeping agricultural meadows to dense and wild woodlands, wetlands, deep dales, expansive broads, cities, villages and towns. In the days of the Canal Mania, when most of the modern canals were originally designed and built, engineers were notorious for refusing to shy away from any challenge. As a result, the canal network is filled with impressive tunnels, viaducts and bridges and the routes go through some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK.


Will There Be Lots Of Midges Or Mosquitoes?

Canal water is not stagnant so midges and mosquitoes are not usually a real problem.

Is Canal Water Dirty And Dangerous?

Although the water in canals may sometimes look muddy it is actually usually fairly unpolluted. Unlike rivers, canals do not carry industrial waste or drainage away from cities. Canals have their own reservoirs, some also take the purified waste water from treatment plants but this water has to comply with strict cleanliness standards.

Weil’s disease

Weil’s disease is an infection caused by bacteria carried in rat urine, which can contaminate water in and around rivers and canals. It is very uncommon but can be very dangerous if not treated quickly, so wash your hands after getting them wet, and don’t swim in the canal.

What Happens To Waste Water, Refuse And Sewage?

Waste water from the sink or shower goes into the canal. Hire boats have sewage tanks on board which will be pumped out by the hire company when you return the boat. There are refuse collection points at well advertised locations along the canals where you can leave refuse.


All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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