Canals and waterways to play a part in health and wellbeing revolution

It was a pleasure to host and speak at the Canal and River Trust parliamentary reception today and to support the campaign to ensure our waterways play a key role in a much-needed health and wellbeing revolution. The Trust is chaired by the successful businessman and fellow Yorkshireman, Allan Leighton (pictured), who has a track record of getting things done and is leading the drive to develop and regenerate vast stretches of the UK canal network for the benefit of local communities and those who travel through them.

Historically canals have played an important role in the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. Of course, they couldn’t compete with the speed of rail in the 19th century and so they became much less used. However, I believe their day has come again in a new and important role to transform the physical and mental wellbeing of the nation. Enjoying a day out along our canals and waterways gives us quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, helps us to reconnect with the environment and provides physical exercise which is good for our general and mental health. All this and it is free and accessible.

Our canals and rivers provide us with over 2,000 miles of green-blue ribbon waterways which host hundreds of wildlife habitats. The Canal and River Trust does a fantastic job regenerating and developing them on our behalf. The charity looks after 2,980 bridges, 1,580 locks and 335 aqueducts. They manage thousands of employees and volunteers, who provide spaces for quiet enjoyment enjoyed by more than 2 million people every week. It’s a fact that time spent outdoors is a tonic for the immune system, and is likely to reduce stress, fatigue and the effects of depression.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ 25-year Environment Plan sets out its goals for improving the environment, within a generation, and leaving it in a better state than we found it. This ties in directly with the wonderful work done by the Canal and River Trust and I was glad to be able to promote their work to my colleagues in Parliament.