Britain’s best boat trips: The Pocklington Canal, North East

Damselflies, curlews and ancient humped-back bridges: explore this nature-rich waterway by boat

Photo: Keith Laverack/flickr


The sweet and easily overlooked Pocklington Canal runs for just over nine miles from Pocklington to the River Derwent at East Cottingwith, making it one of the shortest and prettiest canals in the north east region. Keeping a close eye on this jewel are the Pocklington Canal Amenity Society (PCAS), who also run regular boat trips on Sundays and Bank Holidays on their boat, New Horizons, which is moored at the Melbourne Arm, a small basin in the middle of the canal near Thornton Lock. The canal is not completely navigable and trips only last around 30 minutes, so while the boat can transport just 12 passengers at a time, there usually isn’t long to wait before journeys.

The charm of the Pocklington Canal lies in the surrounding countryside. The area has been deemed a Site of Special Scientific Interest and there is an abundance of wildlife, including numerous water plants, damselflies and birds including barn owls, kingfisher and curlew. John Craven of Countryfile recently named it the best canal in the country for its wildlife. Following the boat trip, take a walk along the towpath to get a further flavour of the canal’s charms, which include splendid humped-back bridges and several locks, some of which have been restored by the PCAS. Five miles of the canal, from East Cottingwith to the Melbourne Arm, are currently navigable.

The Pocklington Canal was proposed in 1765 but wasn’t built until 1818. Its main purpose was to link the Derwent with the road to Hull via packet boat, and while it was much used at first, problems came when a nearby railway was constructed. A familiar story of decline set in, before the Pocklington Canal Amenity Society were formed in 1969. They immediately began a programme of restoration that continues to this day.

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