British Waterways have announced a record number of boats on the country’s canals. A programme of regeneration and restoration has transformed the canal network to such an extent that more than 31,000 boats travelled on the waterways last year.
Some 200 miles of new or restored waterway have opened in the past decade and tens of millions of pounds are committed to future canal building and restoration. John Fletcher, chair of the Inland Waterways Association, said: “Urban canals are a green lung for a city, they are pleasant to see and become a linear park in a regeneration area.
The popularity of canals now is a far cry from the 1960s when, struggling to compete with the opening of motor-ways, local authorities started filling them in. Narrowboat enthusiasts had to wait until the 1980s for crucial redevelopments in Birmingham and London’s Docklands and the beginning of a shift in attitudes towards waterways. A key turning point was the realisation in the 1990s that properties next to well maintained canals and rivers attracted a premium.
Last year Tesco began to move bulk tanks of wine from Liverpool docks to a bottling plant near Manchester along a 40-mile stretch of the nearby Manchester Ship Canal, becoming the first major retailer in England to transport goods by canal.