It’s not easy being green – unless that is, you live on a boat. Part IV.

| 8th October 2013
In her fourth and final blog Clare Kendall recommends trying a boat holiday - which tend to have serious green credentials........

If you've been inspired by the thought of canal boat living (see my previous blogs) why not try a narrow boat holiday. It's one of the greenest holiday options you can take.

In the UK you're never far from a canal. In fact, if you live in the Potteries area of the Midlands you'll know you can't drive for five minutes without crossing one.

This means you'll be travelling a shorter distance to get to your holiday destination and almost certainly not flying. If you took a train to the marina, even better.

Once there, even if you've driven, you will leave your car behind, so there will be no further mileage until you go home. You will, of course, need diesel to power your canal boat engine, but as outlined in my previous blog, the engine will also provide all your electricity though-out your holiday and because canal boat engines tend to be fairly low in horse power (20-50hp) they are usually quite fuel efficient.

You will consume less energy, water usage will be minimal and you'll be self-catering.

The average hotel stay results in carbon emissions of nearly 30kg, flying to a resort like Alicante, the same. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the travel and tourism sector accounts for 5% of global CO2 emissions with accommodation comprising 20% of this figure.

Karen and Richard Holt have run Leeds and Liverpool based hire company Canal Boat Escapes for the last six years. They have taken things one step further and actively encourage their customers to be as environmentally aware as possible. For the last two years they have gained silver in the Green Tourism Business Scheme and a number of other regional awards.

"We provide each boat with a recycling box" explains Karen. "And we have facilities here at the marina. We even have an extra recycling bin at our house so that if the marina one fills up we can bring it home.

"We promote local food shops and the farmers' market at Skipton which is on every Sunday and we encourage people to bring bicycles so they can explore and shop locally.


"We make a big effort to educate people about good boating practise, such as motoring slowly, especially when passing reed beds, so that wildlife isn't disrupted and banks eroded. We also provide eco toiletries so that all the detergents used on the boats are biodegradable.

"I think the whole experience makes people much more aware of the impact we have on our environment. It also makes people realise just how much energy and water they use when they're at home. I believe boating instils a greater sense of responsibility."

Now it is true that maintaining the inland waterways carries its own carbon footprint but this is negligible in comparison to that of maintaining the road network.

Furthermore, unlike the road network, when you travel on the waterways you are indirectly helping to preserve a historic monument and Britain's largest nature reserve.

If you have your own boat you will pay a license fee to the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT), formerly British Waterways, a little like community tax. If you rent a boat for your holiday the hire company will pay this. The money raised from licenses helps to maintain the canal system.

It is ironic that an infrastructure built to serve the needs of trade and industry is today a vital resource for wildlife and plant ecology at a time when natural habitats are fast disappearing.
Dr Mark Robinson, one of 13 ecologists employed by the CRT explains:

"One of the problems with modern development since WWII is that it has fragmented wildlife habitats," he says."What the inland waterways provide is a series of ‘green corridors' enabling wildlife catchment areas to connect to each other.

"Something like the M25 is an impenetrable barrier for wildlife. The canals provide places where they can cross safely. This is particularly true for a number of species such as kingfishers, bats and otters. Otters were in quite serious trouble a few years ago, now most canals have otter populations."

The canals are one of the few places where populations of water voles are thriving and a number of other threatened species.

"The wonderful thing about the waterways is that they provide such a range of habitats," says Dr Robinson."You have open water which is great for fish, ducks and various plants, then there's the riparian fringe (the zone on the edge of the canal before the bank) which is often lush with plants and provides an ideal environment for dragonflies, small reptiles and nesting birds whilst below the water level, it provides areas for fish to hide. Then there's the bank which is rich with grasses and wild flowers, then often you have a hedgerow and there may be some small areas of woodland too."

On top of this many of the structures built for the canals during the industrial revolution, such as tunnels and aquaducts, provide habitats for rare lichens and ferns and are, of course, ideal for nesting bats and swallows.

"I don't want to sound too nauseating," says Dr Robinson."But there is something of a ‘Narnia' moment about getting onto a canal towpath.

"You can be in the middle of some heavily industrial area and you go down a set of steps and suddenly you're in a different world. A much nicer one."

Clare Kendall is a multi award-winning photojournalist based in Wiltshire. Her work focuses heavily on ecotourism, environmental and social justice issues. For more visit:

Image courtesy of

 Add to StumbleUpon

It’s not easy being green – unless that is, you live on a boat
In the first of a series of four blogs Clare Kendall examines the interactions between the boat dweller and the substance that keeps them afloat.....
It's not easy being green - unless that is, you live on a boat. Part II.
In the second of a series of four blogs Clare Kendall discovers that fuel consumption by boat-dwellers is comparatively low and that energy is often more accessible than it is for those of us who live in buildings.......
It’s not easy being green – unless that is, you live on a boat. Part III.
In the third of a series of four blogs Clare Kendall discovers how living on a boat can make you less of a consumer......

More from this author


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate here