Bridge 126 to 127 – Stoke Canal Walk

At the weekend I went for a short walk down the canal towpath in Stoke-on-Trent with my dog and camera. It amazes me how little time I’ve spent seeing my own city this way, a way which takes you off the beaten track and past places you couldn’t see from the roads. Having spent a week on a barge this summer, I know now how incredible our waterways are in the UK – they are a work of art and genius. Granted, the heart of Stoke-on-Trent probably isn’t the first place you think of for a nice Sunday wander, but I had a bit of a plan in mind. I wanted to see the types of litter in and around the canal itself and how much there is in a built up area such as Stoke.

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The canals were once used to transport clay to the Potteries

I began at bridge 126 of the Trent & Mersey Canal and walked in the direction of the Steelite factory and Middleport Pottery. Before embarking on this walk, I discovered a young environmentalist called Lizzie who runs a blog at http://www.lizzieoutside.co.uk and she is particularly passionate about tackling the issue of litter and plastic debris. This year she paddle-boarded 400 miles of our canals collecting every plastic bottle along the way. She found that Stoke-on-Trent was one of the worst contenders for plastic rubbish. Although this didn’t shock me, it spurred me on to go and see it for myself.

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Did you know that around 40% of ocean litter has come from our inland waterways e.g canals and rivers? I learnt that fact the other day and I couldn’t quite believe it. Unfortunately since parts of the canal networks are hidden away, they have become a hot spot for fly-tipping and general littering. I saw a variety of things on my walk, yes, even a drowning shopping trolley. Some bottles I could tell had been floating about for months if not years. As part of her clean up project, Lizzie Outside had revisited Stoke in September to collect more rubbish with a little help from volunteers. Otherwise, I think I would’ve seen a lot more. I am proud to be from an area with such a rich history and interesting link to canals, but we really need to keep an eye on litter in these inner city stretches.

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