A SECTION of historic canal towpath in Market Harborough has reopened after the Canal & River Trust completed the latest phase of improvements.
These will make it easier for people to access the health and well-being benefits of spending time at the Grand Union Canal.
The trust, working in partnership with Sustrans and Harborough District Council, has improved a 2km length of the canal towpath in the town. This stretch will support active local travel and forms part of the National Cycle Network Route 6, which runs from London to the Peak District.
To mark the completion of the project Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough, visited the town to see the improved canal path.
He said: “It is great to see this stretch of towpath transformed, making it usable 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.”
The towpath has been widened and is now puddle-free. It will be finished with a stone chip layer to give it a natural feel sympathetic to the canal surroundings. Works have also seen a busy mooring for visiting boats enhanced and water points improved.
The new path will be suitable for use all year round, including for those with wheelchairs or buggies and those accessing the water for boating.
Funding for the £1 million 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. The final stone chip surface will be laid on the section of path between Union Wharf and Peter Callis Way in the spring once the weather improves.
Alongside the path works the project also Includes a programme of traditional hedge- laying to enhance habitats for a wide variety of wildlife. The hedge-laying will quickly form a thick bushy barrier that will provide an important wildlife corridor and source of food for birds, dormice and other small mammals.
Alan Leather, CRT partnerships and funding manager, said: “As a charity we work with the community and raise the funds needed to keep our historic canals alive. This project is a fantastic example of making the canal welcoming and attractive, so that it is here for boaters, for visitors and local people, and to provide vital habitats for some of our best-loved species.”
Clare Maltby, Sustrans’ England director Midlands and East, added: “As custodians of the National Cycle Network, Sustrans owns just a small portion of the land it sits on, so we are working closely in partnership with organisations like the Canal & River Trust. Schemes like this one in Market Harborough demonstrate the many benefits that investment in active travel can bring, and it’s vital that it continues.”