Burnley’s magnificent stretch of the historic Leeds and Liverpool Canal played host to some special visitors as part of a summer roadshow.
The Canals on Tour event, organised by the Canal and River Trust charity, is visiting 11 popular hotspots along waterways in Lancashire, Merseyside and West Yorkshire.
It is aiming to help communities learn more about their local canals and rivers and how they can enjoy them safely over the summer.
And last weekend was Burnley’s turn to show off its iconic stretch of the canal.
Visitors to the roadshow were invited to cool off with free ice creams, and deckchairs to relax – including Mayor of Burnley, Coun. Howard Baker and Mayoress Tracey Rhodes.
The civic duo also met Mel Goodship, whose 17-year-old son James drowned in June 2014 while swimming with friends in Foulridge Reservoir.
Coun. Baker said: “We thoroughly enjoyed spending time on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and getting out on the water with the Desmond Family Canoe team.
“It was great to see the community trying out the fishing tasters too and making the most of the free ice creams.
“I was particularly interested in finding out about the Canal and River Trust’s water safety campaign and to meet Mel Goodship, who is helping the charity to raise awareness of the dangers of swimming in canals, reservoirs and rivers, following the death of her son.”
Tony Entwistle, development and engagement manager for the Canal and River Trust, said the weekend had been a great success and an important way of reinforcing safety messages.
He said: “Visiting your local waterway is a lovely way to spend a summer’s day, but when the weather warms people, especially youngsters, are jumping into the water to cool down and putting their lives at risk.
“An important part of our roadshow is educating people about the dangers of taking a quick dip and showing people how they can keep cool near waterways in other ways.
“We’re asking people to find another way to cool off this summer – have an ice cream, stay in the shade, go for a swim at your local pool. Please don’t get in the water, it’s just not worth it.”
Summer is one of the most popular times for people to visit Britain’s canals and rivers, and in the last year there were more than 41 million visits made by boaters, cyclists, runners, walkers and canoeists to the waterways in the North West.
Of the 400 people who drown in the UK every year, more than half the fatalities happen at inland waters such as canals, rivers, lakes, quarries and reservoirs.
Mel Goodship repeated that message.
She said: “James used to mess around in the water with his friends; he was a strong swimmer so we just thought he’d be fine.
“We had never sat our children down and explained the dangers of the water, I didn’t really know what they were myself.
“The shock of the cold water paralysed his muscles, took his energy and took his life. If you’re thinking about getting into any stretch of water which isn’t supervised, please don’t.”
To find out more about staying safe near waterways, go to: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/about-us/our-campaigns/safety-on-our-waterways/summer-safety.