Kingfisher in winter

Puppet campaign urges public to be #CanalCareful this winter

Scottish Canals is urging the public to be #CanalCareful this winter with a campaign featuring a puppet show inspired by the wildlife that inhabits Scotland’s inland waterways.

The four puppets – a swan, kingfisher, hedgehog and red squirrel – highlight how to enjoy Scotland’s canals safely during the colder weather.

The first episode featuring a fitness-obsessed hedgehog who avoids icy patches on her daily towpath treks, kicks off the campaign.

Jim Fleming, head of health and safety at Scottish Canals, said: ‘Winter has arrived and frost, ice and snow have started making an appearance on our canals.

‘Although this makes our waterways particularly beautiful places to visit at this time, it’s vital that people recognise and respect the risks of the environment. That’s why we’re asking everyone to be Canal Careful this winter.’

Scotland’s canals are enjoyed by walkers, kayakers, boaters and cyclists, attracting more than 22 million visits throughout the year.

However, during colder weather, particularly on icy and frosty days, towpaths, bridges and lock-sides can be particularly slippery and snow can conceal trip hazards such as boat mooring rings close to the water’s edge.

Frozen waterways can also be very dangerous and visitors should never attempt to walk on a frozen canal since the ice can be thin in places with freezing water moving in currents beneath the surface.

Kingfisher in winter - Scottish Canals, Winter Dec 2012 ©Peter Sandground

Children should always be accompanied by an adult when visiting canals and should be made aware of the potential hazards.

Pets should never be followed out onto the ice – animals are more likely to make it back to dry land safely than humans.

The towpaths of Scotland’s canals are busier than ever and play host to a wide variety of users.

With a finite amount of space on the paths, users are encouraged to be considerate of others, manage their speed, stay alert and help avoid any accidents that may result in someone taking a tumble into the water.

Boats, Bikes, Boots and Beyond – a document launched by Scottish Canals in partnership with various stakeholders last year – sets out guidelines and safety tips for everyone from horse riders and anglers to cyclists and walkers.

To date, more than 10,000 copies of the guide have been distributed. A digital version is also available for download from Scottish Canals’ website.