The Ripon Canal may only be 2.3 miles in length, but its construction held an important purpose. The River Ure (which turns into the River Ouse further on) becomes difficult to navigate as it approaches Ripon, so a canal was completed in 1773 to allow cargo such as coal to be brought into the city. The waterway was abandoned in 1956, but the full length was finally reopened in 1996, allowing a new generation the chance to amble along its length on a sunny afternoon, surrounded by wildflowers, insects and birds.
Before you start the walk, wander around the tiny city of Ripon, which is packed with twisting lanes and historic buildings. Look out for the stunning 7th-century cathedral, famed for its distinctive gothic architecture. Aim for the canal head, where you can admire the restored buildings and warehouses surrounding the basin before stopping at The Forge for picnic supplies. As well as a wide range of delicious sandwiches, this award-winning farm shop and deli also sells delicious pies and sausage rolls, as well as a dizzying array of cakes.
As you amble past the first lock and emerge at the edge of the city, you’ll find yourself surrounded by wildflowers and ducks paddling along the canal. After another half a mile, you’ll pass several bird hides overlooking the neighbouring wetland bird reserve, where you might be able to spot waterfowl such as goosander and teal in the flooded gravel pits.
As you continue along the next mile and a half to the junction with the River Ure, the landscape softens and trees give way to reeds. Keep an eye out for the old lock-keepers cottages and simple red brick bridges. After pausing to admire the view at the junction, return to Ox Close lock at the end of the canal, spread out your picnic blanket and embark on a leisurely lunch, surrounded by the buzzing of mayflies.
Read more about the Ripon Canal on the Canal & River Trust website.