Paddleboarder starts plastic pollution mission along England's canals

A leisurely tour of Britain’s extensive canal system is the perfect summertime activity, providing an excellent opportunity to spot local wildlife and watch the world go by.
However, it's not always blissful viewing, as a great deal of plastic can be found in Britain's beloved canals – as adventurer and Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion, Lizzie Carr, is hoping to highlight, as she sets out to become the first person to paddleboard the length of England using only its connected waterways.

Published: May 11th, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Carr, who describes herself as an environmentalist, wants to use the challenge to map out and scale the issue of plastic pollution, highlighting hotspots that require attention along the way.


Carr said: “Paddle-boarding the length of the country is a great way to show its natural beauty from an altogether different perspective – the water.

“Our canals are iconic pieces of history that provide a presence of calm and tranquility in urban settings. They are easily accessible all over the country they are currently under threat from plastic pollution and debris that, if we don’t address soon, will compromise the beauty and quality of our experiences along the canals.”

Setting off today, from the most southern point of the connected network, the River Wey, Carr will travel north through Oxford towards Coventry before entering the Stoke on Trent canal and onwards towards River Douglas before reaching the River Ribble where she’ll navigate the Ribble Link.

“This challenge is a way to reclaim our waterways in the hope that people care, fall back in love, and take action against the problems we’re facing with plastic pollution”, said Carr.

"Studies have shown that each year, wildlife dies, becomes injured or is in danger from the tide of plastic in the waterways."

Nick Giles, Managing Director for Ordnance Survey Leisure, said: “Plastic in our water is a serious issue currently under government review. It’s also an issue Ordnance Survey’s recent Geovation Challenge highlighted. Lizzie is an OS Champion for a good reason, and what she is doing demonstrates how we have a beautiful country to be enjoyed, but it also stresses how much it and the creatures that live in it need protecting. We wish her the best of luck on this adventure and encourage people to #GetOutside and support her.”

In addition, 'unseen' plastic known as 'microbeads' in cosmetics, such as face washs and scrubs, is also a growing problem - with campaign groups calling on government to ban the use in products, after research has found the tiny beads of plastic end up in our river systems and oceans, where they are swallowed by fish and birds.

Carrying 30kg of equipment on her paddleboard, including a tent for camping as well as supplies, Carr will paddle for three weeks to complete the 400-mile journey – negotiating 193 locks and travelling along more than 8km of tunnels and aqueducts standing over 25ft above the ground.

Carr added: “You don’t need to travel to far-flung destinations to have an adventure – we have some incredibly challenging and beautiful terrain right here in the UK and it’s important that we take the time to explore it.”


The challenge will be tracked on Lizzie’s website ( as well as on Ordnance Survey’s website ( Lizzie will also post daily on social media ( and ( using #SuperSUPEngland


Carys MatthewsGroup Digital Editor

Carys is the Group Digital Editor of and Carys can often be found trail running, bike-packing, wild swimming or hiking in the British countryside.


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