SO many of us have discovered the benefits of getting closer to nature during the coronavirus pandemic, and now Bradford GP and best-selling author Dr Amir Khan has backed Canal and River Trust’s appeal for communities to support its #ActNowforCanals campaign.

The charity which looks after and brings to life 2,000 miles of canals and rivers, including 316 miles in Yorkshire, such as the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, has created its largest survey to date, ‘Sense in Nature’, as part of the campaign.

People are being asked to collect valuable conservation data by noting the nature they can see, hear, smell and feel, from kingfishers and heron, to otters and fish, as well as some of the rarer wild flowers that might grow alongside canals and rivers.

The insight from the survey will help the trust establish the ecological value of each stretch of canal across the nation as well as the wellbeing benefits to the surrounding communities using them.

The trust will use the data to identify low-scoring sites where it can work with communities to make environmental interventions, for example targeting litter clearance or planting new habitat, bringing nature into the areas that are in most need and, importantly, helping future proof and better protect canals, making them blue, green and better.

Dr Khan said: “Spending time outdoors has huge benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing and there are many studies that repeatedly prove being amongst nature offers numerous health benefits including reducing stress, anxiety, and blood pressure.

“Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve seen a huge spike in conversations around wellbeing and people raising concerns over their mental health. That’s why it’s so important we protect and look after the precious outdoor blue and green spaces, like canals and rivers, particularly in our towns and cities where they are needed most.”

Dr Khan added that over the last year and a half, the outdoors became a saviour for many people.

“For me, my local canal offered the respite and the time in nature I needed to recharge after a busy clinic and influx of patients.

“This is why I’m supporting the Canal and River Trust by asking people to #ActNowForCanals and look after these vital spaces that offer a natural and lasting way to better wellbeing for millions of people across the country.

“All you need to do is one small act, that will positively impact so many people by taking part in their ten-minute Sense in Nature survey today.”

Visits to the canals bring much-needed wellness benefits to Brits, with the Trust’s research revealing that after a visit to a canal 63 per cent noticed a positive improvement in mood, 67 per cent felt calm, 62 per cent said they felt happy and 41 per cent felt more energetic.

Paul Wilkinson, senior ecologist at the Canal and River Trust, added: “The nature deficit in many urban areas has become even more pressing during the pandemic, where access to quality local outdoor space has been vital for helping to improve peoples’ wellbeing.

“Canals are uniquely placed to be the much needed ‘back garden’ for millions of people, and by completing the survey we are asking them to take notice of the flowers, the insects, birds or the mammals and help record where nature is thriving. With the UK on a staycation this summer, enjoy a walk, picnic or boat trip by the canal and take part in the survey whilst you are there.

“We have a unique opportunity to create canals that are cared for and where nature and wildlife is looked after.”

He added: “A legacy of Britain’s industrial past, today’s canals are arteries of green and blue in our towns and cities, but we’ve further work to do in making them cleaner and greener, attracting herons, kingfishers, bats, and even otters into urban areas.

“We want to know where scores are low so there is a real opportunity to work with the community to bring nature back where people need it the most.”

To take part in the trust’s‘Sense in Nature Survey’ head to to upload what nature you can see, hear, smell and feel and share your findings on your social media, using hashtag #ActNowforCanals and help the Trust make more miles of canal blue, green and better – because life is better by the water.

For further information on the Canal & River Trust and details on how you can support, visit: