How to enjoy the Winter Wonderland on your doorstep safety this year

Waterways and wellbeing charity, Canal & River Trust, is calling on people to enjoy being by water safely this winter and has published ten seasonal tips on how to take extra care on the towpaths.

Wintery canal scenes have an enchanting, picture-perfect appeal. However, the reduced daylight and wet and even slippery conditions typical of this time of year can conceal hidden dangers.

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It is important to take extra care – check the weather and wrap up warm before heading for a walk or run along a canal towpath.

David Baldacchino, head of safety and operations support at the Trust, said: “We’ve seen more people discovering their local canals and rivers this year due to the pandemic. This is welcome news as research shows that being by water improves wellbeing.

“As the temperature drops, our waterways look beautiful in the frost and snow and many will consider visiting the towpath for a peaceful walk.  Where coronavirus restrictions allow, many will head to the towpath as a place to meet up with others in an outdoor setting.

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“Icy temperatures and shorter days mean it is extremely important to take extra care to stay safe. Towpaths, bridges and lock-sides can become slippery at this time of year.

“Snow can conceal boat mooring rings and ropes near the water’s edge so it’s vital that everyone bears this in mind, especially when stepping aside to pass others in a socially distanced way.

“Whilst frozen canals look stunning, they should be enjoyed from afar. No-one should ever attempt to walk on the ice or allow their dogs to do so.

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“Finally, if coronavirus restrictions allow you to meet up with friends for a drink, you should take a route home away from the water’s edge to avoid the risk of falling in and getting into trouble.

Top ten tips to be water safe this winter:

  • Check the weather – look at the forecast and see what’s coming your way
  • Plan your route – think about where you want to go and how long you want to be out for
  • Wear the right clothing – waterproofs, sturdy footwear and warm layers help your body cope with the wintry conditions
  • Take a friend – it is safer to walk with others
    Take your phone (or even a whistle) – if you get into trouble, or see somebody else in trouble, you can call or whistle for help
  • Stay away from the edge – especially when trying to practice social distancing. Although you may be able to see the edge of the towpath even in the snow, it may be slippery
    Teach children not to go on the ice – it’s important for children not to go on the ice under any circumstances
  • Try to keep to well-lit areas – time your walks to make the most of the daylight; if you need to walk in the evening only use well-lit areas or take a route away from water
    Keep dogs on their leads – keep dogs on their leads when near ice and don’t throw sticks or toys onto the ice
  • #DontdrinkandDrown – avoid walking home near water if coronavirus restrictions allow you to meet up with friends for a drink. Find another route away from the canal

    To find out more about staying safe near the water visit: www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/wintersafety

    To find out more about teaching children how to stay safe near water visit: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/explorers/water-safety 

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