The Canal & River Trust, the charity which looks after 2,000 miles of canals and rivers across England and Wales, is launching an academic study with the Data Science Lab at Warwick Business School to understand what it is about canals that make them the most attractive spaces in our towns and cities, according to the public.  

Built to be the motorways of their age, today’s canals have gone from dereliction and decline to being reinvented as places for leisure and wellbeing, with University of Warwick and The Alan Turing Institute having already established that canals come out on top as the most highly rated scenic feature, in built up urban areas.

Now, waterways and wellbeing charity, the Canal & River Trust, has teamed-up with its academic partners to understand the features and characteristics which make canals so beautiful – the extent to which it is the scenery of the historic locks and bridges as well as the greenery of the trees and wildlife. The insights will help the Trust understand why the human brain responds so well to these 200-year-old, industrial environments and what elements have the biggest impact on positively contributing to our health and wellbeing.

People up and down the country are being asked to participate in the Science of Scenic Beauty study by rating images of canals and rivers online, to create hard data defining the key elements, or science behind scenic beauty.

GP and best-selling author, Dr Amir Khan, known for his regular appearances on Good Morning Britain and Lorraine, says: “The Canal & River Trust’s canals provide vital blue and green outdoor space, particularly in some of the nation’s most built-up and deprived communities. Spending time in these precious spaces can provide benefits gained from exercise, more sunlight, cleaner air, and the regenerative power that comes from being close to nature.”

Richard Parry, chief executive of Canal & River Trust, continues: “Throughout the pandemic, canals have been an on-the-doorstep lifeline for millions, including many of the one in eight residents in the UK who do not have a garden.

Government methodologies show that the Trust’s canals provide around £1bn in savings to the NHS each year through physical health and wellbeing benefits associated with active visits.

That is why we are asking people to join the Science of Scenic Beauty study, so we can better understand what makes canals so impactful on people’s health and wellbeing.”


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