Canoe project aims to help tackle obesity

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Young people encouraged to get involved in project. Pic ©Canal & River Trust

Young people encouraged to get involved in project. Pic © Canal & River Trust

A new canoe trail along the Liverpool and Leeds Canal will be opened in a bid to improve poor health and employment prospects among young people.

The multi-million pound project developed by Canal and River Trust will form the longest trail in the UK, stretching 150 miles from Merseyside to Humberside, due to be developed over the next five years.

Liverpool is the first location where the trail is to be developed and will recruit ‘canoe action squads’ consisting of more than 10,000 young people and their families as part of the scheme.

Richard Atkinson, Head of Waterways and Environment for British Canoeing, is enthusiastic about the venture. He told JMU Journalism: “This unique project will provide fantastic opportunities for young people and adults to enjoy the benefits of canoeing along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Canoeing is both a sport and leisure activity that anyone can participate in and we will continue to promote and develop this with the Trust.”

Campaign manager Simon Henry hopes the initiative will help tackle social mobility and increase youngster’s self-esteem.

He JMU Journalism: “It’s been proven that spending time outdoors can improve a person’s mental health and wellbeing. Creating the canoe trail will get the youngsters active and provide them with new life skills, helping them gain employment in the future.”

Tony Hales, Chairman of the Canal & River Trust, said: “We want communities to use canals to enrich their lives as part of a healthy and fun lifestyle. Canoeing is a great sport, growing in popularity, for the young and the older. We want to make it accessible and enjoyed by many more families and individuals, whatever their physical ability.”

The route will create England’s first ever coast to coast canoe trail, funded by a £1.3 million donation from the Desmond Foundation, which will connect deprived communities where youth unemployment and child obesity is above the national average.

With help from organisation Canoe England, those recruited will work with existing clubs, local schools and universities to design the trails, including clearing the route and identifying safe areas and storage facilities along the way.

About Imogen Sweeney, JMU Journalism