A section of historic canal towpath in Market Harborough has reopened after charity, Canal & River Trust, completed the latest phase of improvements which make it easier for people to feel the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time by water.
The Trust, working in partnership with Sustrans and Harborough District Council, has improved a 2km length of the Grand Union Canal in the town. This stretch hosts the National Cycle Network Route 6 which runs from London to the Peak District, as well as supporting local active travel.
To mark the completion of the project Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough, visited the town to walk the new path for himself.
The towpath has been widened and a new all-weather surface laid. This involves laying a bitumen surface and then a stone chip layer to give it a more natural feel sympathetic to the canal surroundings.
The new path will be suitable for use all year round, including those with wheelchairs or buggies and those accessing the water for boating. Due to wet weather, it’s not been possible to finish the final stone chip surface on a section of path between Union Wharf and Peter Callis Way so contractors will return in the Spring to complete the works.
As well as improving the towpath surface, the works have also seen a busy mooring for visiting boats enhanced and water points improved.
Funding for the £1,000,000 project has come from the Department for Transport through Sustrans’ Paths For Everyone programme as well as a Section 106 contribution from the Wellington Place housing development through Harborough District Council.
Neil O’Brien MP said:
“It is great to see this stretch of towpath transformed, making it useable all year round. When I was last there just a few months ago, it was extremely muddy and uneven underfoot. Now it is fully accessible, meaning more people can enjoy the canal. It also provides an attractive pedestrian route from Wellington Place to Union Wharf. It just shows what can be achieved by all working together. I’d like to thank everyone involved in delivering this wonderful scheme.”
Alongside the path works the project also includes a programme of traditional hedgelaying to enhance habitats for a wide variety of wildlife. Hedgelaying involves cutting stems and bending them so that they grow horizontally and intertwine, forming a thick bushy barrier. While the laid hedgerows will look dramatic at first, they quickly flourish and provide wildlife corridors and an important source of food.
Research shows that time spent by water can help people feel happier and healthier and that the Trust’s waterways bring a £1.1 billion cost saving to the NHS as a result of people being active along its waterways and towpaths. With more people looking for a local escape on their doorstep, the works will make it easier and more appealing for people to explore and enjoy the Grand Union Canal.
To find out about the work of the Canal & River Trust and how you can support, either through volunteering or making a donation visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk.