Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Canals - ignored or hot news in the broadsheets?

As I'm doing my unhurried 2,000-mile canal walk across Britain, the question I get asked most is "Who would even want to walk every canal in Britain?" CANALS... shopping trollies and knifings. No, start again. CANALS... the immeasurable slow pleasures of Britain's historic waterways rambling idyllically coast to coast and end to end. Under-valued, under-used and under-funded.

The great British 'staycation' continually bulks the travel section of the national newspapers, so why are my goosebumps rotting in the wait for canals to get proper, enthusiastic coverage? "The canal boat is right up there with the postbox as one of the iconic images of British life." says Tony Hales, British Waterways' chairman His words alone punch the point that canals are a red-hot tourist attraction and Britain's travel media should break its veto.

....But I smell a trend revving up. Even if canals were made for narrowboaters, they are perfect trails for cyclists and walkers too. The Telegraph are covering our coolcanals mission to change the way people see canals (and our guidebooks shot to the no 1 spot with the helpful coverage!) And now, even eclectic outdoor-type Guardian Travel readers who like to climb Himalayan mountains and follow Mauritian rainbows are being asked to send in their tips on the best canal walks

Hoorah! The canal walker's message is getting out there. Canals... priceless, slow adventures. The great British walk. So the next bod who asks me "Who would even want to walk every canal in Britain?", I'll say, "Why would I risk ankle-cracking moors and skin-twisting crags, or getting lost, being eyeballed by a cow, or chased by a farmer - when I could simply follow the water all summer."

PS Maybe, just maybe, hope is on the horizon for the world of canals and the unsung canal volunteer, bastion of a stalwart fight against political indifference and Britain's outrageous neglect of its waterways' heritage

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