For the first time in its history, stand-up paddle boarding has arrived on the Bridgewater Canal as the waterway celebrates 260 years this month.

Before now paddling was limited to canoes and kayaks but after a recent survey highlighted public demand for the activity, Peel L&P’s Bridgewater Canal Company has worked with British Canoeing to make the waterway and approved location for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP).

Anyone wishing to use a SUP on the Bridgewater Canal must be a member of British Canoeing. The Bridgewater Canal Company recommends that paddle boarders wear high visibility clothing as well as a life buoyancy jacket or personal floatation aid.

In December 2020, the Bridgewater Canal Company carried out a survey into the health and wellbeing benefits of the canal during the Covid-19 lockdowns and SUP was a popular request for additional recreational activities on the canal.

Out of 335 people surveyed, 284 people said using the canal had positively impacted their mental health and wellbeing by an average of 84%. More than 40% also said the canal made them feel either ‘relaxed’ or ‘happy’.

The Bridgewater Canal, built by the Duke of Bridgewater, stretches from Runcorn to Leigh and is thought to be England’s first canal. It was used to transport coal to the Duke’s mine at Worsley and today it is a popular leisure attraction and a home for canal boat residents. 

Peter Parkinson, Director of the Bridgewater Canal, part of Peel L&P, said: “Our recent survey showed us how invaluable the canal is to people’s health and wellbeing and we’ve looked after the waterway for many years now to bring continuous investment and improvements including towpath works for cyclists and walkers.

“We’re pleased to be working with British Canoeing to meet public demand for stand-up paddle boarding on the canal and be able to offer another recreational activity on the waterway that we’re sure will be enjoyed by many people.”

Places to Paddle manager, Ben Seal welcomed the inclusion of stand-up paddle boarding on the Bridgewater Canal: He said: “We have seen a huge spike in stand-up paddle boarding activity in the last 12 months. Equipment is now more accessible than ever and more and more people have started to discover the waterways that are on their doorstep through paddle-boarding. I am sure this news will be welcomed by paddlers in the North West and anyone who loves getting out on our historic canal network”.

British Canoeing provides a wealth of information on stand-up paddle boarding through the Go Paddling website.

Join or renew membership with British Canoeing here.