A MAJOR £2 million project to improve more than seven miles (12km) of towpath along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal has been officially signed off.

Fully open since July, the work has included the stretch between Anchor Bridge in Gargrave, and Gawflatt swing bridge in Skipton, and also from Bradley Swing Bridge, Bradley, to Warehouse Swing Bridge, Kildwick.

Sean McGinley, of the Canal and River Trust, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that all the work is now finished to a very high standard and the towpath looks fantastic.

“This is an important and particularly attractive part of our network. Research shows that being by water makes people happier and healthier, so we’re delighted the improvements will make it more accessible for people to enjoy the canal.

“We’re grateful for the support of our partners, and to the public for their patience while work was carried out.”

The charity secured funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development to pay for the project, with further support from Craven District Council and the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

A separate project to improve the stretch through Skipton and the canal basin was delivered by Craven District Council and funded by the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership. It was finished in December 2019, meaning the whole stretch from Gargrave to Kildwick has now been improved.

Councillor Simon Myers, the council’s lead member for Enterprising Craven, said: “This has been a hugely important project for the council and for our residents. I’m delighted that it has been completed and the whole towpath between Kildwick and Gargrave has been upgraded.

“This allows people who may not previously have been able to enjoy the waterside and the countryside to do so, which is of great benefit to mental and physical health. The improved towpath also provides an accessible traffic-free route through the district for residents, workers and visitors as they go about their daily lives. I’m sure it will be very popular with residents and tourists.”

David Dickson, chairman of the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership Infrastructure and Joint Assets Board, said: “The LEP believes it’s important for communities to be connected and resilient places, as that promotes good economic growth. These extensive canal towpath improvements are delivering those aims, and we are pleased to have contributed £140,000, secured from the government’s Local Growth Fund, to support the work.”

The project also includes a series of waymarking improvements identified in the Access Development Plan commissioned by Craven District Council and written by Sustrans, to improve accessibility along the towpath.

The towpath has been resurfaced with a naturally occurring limestone material to create a durable and compact surface, chosen to be in keeping with area. The path has also been widened at key hotspots, including Gargrave and Broughton Road, to provide better access to and from Skipton railway station and employment sites in the town.

For a free guide to days out on your local canal and how you can help support it visit: canalrivertrust.org.uk/