Anybody who has ever chugged along the canal system will know how quintessentially British a way to spend the weekend it is, waving at fellow boaters and drinking a nice, hot cup of tea as the ducks pootle past. Unfortunately it’s not always just the local fauna that you can find floating on the British waterways – the canals and rivers have a plastic problem.
A recent study found that a significant number of animals in the Thames had plastic in their stomachs and it can costs The Canal and River Trust charity nearly £1m a year to clean up litter from the canals. That’s why adventurer Lizzie Carr is to become the first person to travel the whole way across England’s waterways by entirely human means to highlight the problem.
Armed with just a paddleboard carrying 30kg of supplies, she will map out the scale of plastic pollution with the help of Ordnance Survey, and highlight particular hotspots along the way that demand attention.
“Paddle boarding the length of the country is a great way to show its natural beauty from an altogether different perspective – the water,” says Carr. “Our canals are iconic pieces of history that provide a presence of calm and tranquillity in urban settings.
“They are easily accessible all over the country they are currently under threat from plastic pollution and debris that, if we don’t address soon, will compromise the beauty and quality of our experiences along the canals.”
She starts her journey today from the southernmost point of the connected network on the River Wey and over the course of three weeks will paddle 650km up through Oxford, Coventry and Stoke-on-Trent before finally hitting the Ribble Link. Along the way she will pass 193 locks, navigate 8km of tunnels and traverse aqueducts nearly 8m above the ground, all of which you can follow in this interactive map.
“Plastic in our water is a serious issue currently under government review,” says Nick Giles, Managing Director for Ordnance Survey Leisure. “It’s also an issue Ordnance Survey’s recent Geovation Challenge highlighted. Lizzie is an OS Champion for a good reason, and what she is doing demonstrates how we have a beautiful country to be enjoyed, but it also stresses how much it and the creatures that live in it need protecting.”