Coast to coast canoe trail relay

A FIVE-year youth project by the Canal & River Trust charity to create England’s first Coast to Coast Canoe Trail reached a climax over August Bank Holiday weekend with five public celebration events and the end of a canoe relay over the Pennine hills across the entire 162-mile route.
The trail stretches from Liverpool in the West to Goole on the Humber estuary. Hundreds of people attended youth-led festivals in Burnley on the Friday 23 August, Leeds Dock, Blackburn and Goole on Saturday 24 August, winding up with the finale at Liverpool Waterfront on Sunday 25 August.
Relays set off from Goole on Wednesday 14 August and Liverpool’s Eldonian Village the following day, meeting up near the Canoe Trail’s mid-point in Burnley on Friday 23 August. Special commemorative paddles carried on each leg will be placed into a permanent celebratory artwork on the canal towpath nearby.
Funded by a £1.3million grant from the Desmond Foundation, the trail is known as the Desmond Family Canoe Trail and has provided new training and volunteering opportunities for thousands of young people aged 16-25, on both sides of the Pennines. Community canoe hubs have been created in Sefton, Wigan, Burnley, Castleford, and Goole, with plans for extra hubs in Skipton, Leeds and Blackburn.
Several of the young people have become so engaged in the project they have trained as youth leaders and hope to carry on with the project after it officially winds up next year.
In partnership with British Canoeing, two new detailed trail leaflets have been produced for would-be canoeists, kayakers and paddle boarders, giving top tips on how to negotiate the route, which follows the 127 mile Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Britain’s longest single canal, and 35 miles along the Aire & Calder Navigation through Yorkshire. The first covers the western side – Liverpool’s Eldonian Village to Reedley Marina near Burnley, and the second maps out the eastern side from Burnley to Goole, dividing the route into a series of shorter day trips.
This new grand waterway adventure is not for the faint-hearted. It involves carrying canoes around 91 locks, including the 21 lock Wigan flight and Bingley’s famous Five Rise Staircase, and paddling under the summit of the Pennine hills through a mile-long tunnel at Foulridge.
To help paddlers, a number of canoe access improvements have been made at Liverpool’s Eldonian Village and Wigan, with further work planned for Castleford and Goole. New canoe signage will also help people find their way along the coast to coast waterway route.
The Desmond Family Canoe Trail project was the brainchild of waterways and well-being charity, the Canal & River Trust, which cares for 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales.
Danny Matley, Canoe Trail project manager with the Canal & River Trust, said: “The celebrations over the sunny August Bank Holiday have attracted hundreds of people, who learned more about the trail and enjoyed music, food, and canoe taster sessions. Since the project launched in 2015 we have supported thousands of young people in a range of activities, not only giving them the chance to get out on the water in a canoe but also to learn a range of valuable new skills.
“Thanks to the trail initiative, young people have found new ways to engage with their local communities and grown in confidence as they’ve acquired environmental and waterway skills, working on their neighborhood canal.
“The amazing legacy from this brilliant project is a Coast to Coast Canoe Trail, every bit as challenging and engaging as Alfred Wainwright’s famous Coast to Coast Walking Trail. Of course, paddlers can do just as little or as far as they wish along the 162-mile route, but we are certain this new cross-country waterway trail is set to capture the imagination of every canoeist, kayaker and paddleboarder with a taste for adventure.”
Pick up the Desmond Family Canoe Trail leaflets at venues across the route or to download maps go to

Photos show the new trail leaflets being launched at the Burnley event by canoe trail young leaders (L to R) Erin Lashley, Jordan Burns, and Andrew Whittaker. The eastern and western canoe relay teams meet in Burnley on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal