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Pocklington Canal

Pocklington, Yorkshire

Location Guide

Canals are great places to go wildlife hunting and whether you view them by boat or from the canal path they are a great place to explore, relax and enjoy. The Pocklington Canal flows for nine and half miles through the Vale of York from the foothills of the Yorkshire Wolds to join the River Derwent at East Cottingwith. It has 9 locks not all of which have been restored. Nature watchers can walk the canal's entire length on a grassy towpath.

Pocklington Canal was opened in 1818, catering mainly for agricultural traffic it fell into disuse when the railways arrived - now about half of its ten mile length is open to boats - but the rest is unrestored. And its here that wildlife has really moved in. This canal's eye view gives you a an overview of nature both above and below the water which includes birds, plants, insects and aquatic life. Where it joins the River Derwent it borders Wheldrake Ings, a National Nature Reserve, which floods in the winter time and wildfowl take their winter break there.

Not all of it is navigable only from the River Derwent to Melbourne Arm. It has swing-bridges, hump-backed bridges and 9 locks both restored and unrestored. There are few boats.

Wildlife to See

The canal is part of an area of national scientific interest, it has natural banking which is used by water voles. Reeds along sections of the canal provide a habitat for nesting birds. Swans, moorhen and coot nest along its banks. If you're lucky you may also see a Kingfisher or Grey Heron, or hear the sound of the Curlew nearby.

Brilliant Barn Owls

Like most canals it is bordered by grassland which offers rich pickings for the Barn Owl. The best way to spot the owls is to look at dusk or dawn when you'll see them flying about ten feet off the ground in search of food. Another give-away is the presence of kennel-like structures which are Barn Owl boxes.

Insects and small creatures

And if you look closely and take your time to view you may see such insects as Damselflies resting on the leaves of lilies which they use as a launch pad. Thirteen species of Dragonflies and Damselflies have been seen along the ten mile stretch of the canal including the Emperor, Britain's largest. Characterised by its greeny blue thorax, the Emperor is in great contrast to another canal resident, the brightly coloured Red-eyed Damselfly. The male red-eyed damselfly is recognised by its prominent reddish brown eyes and blue band near the trail and plenty can be seen when the sun shines.

Plant Life

On the canal towpath you'll see grassland plants like ox-eye daisy and betony. In the water you'll see phragmites reeds, water lilies, water forget-me-not, flowering rush, fan leaved water crowfoot, hornworth and lesser water plantain. The yellow water lilly grows prolifically on the navigable section and are at their best in June and July.

Warm days are best - the insects are most active from about 10.30am into the early afternoon.

If possible it is a good idea to gain some height in this flat landscape - use a bridge over the canal as a good vantage point - and don't forget your binoculars, was well as your camera to see the smaller inhabitants of the canal and its environment.

Boat Trips

A local group run short 30 minute Boat trips on most Sundays and Bank Holidays during the season from 12noon to 5pm. The boat is manned by volunteers and can take a maximum of 12 people. They do not charge for 30 minute boat trips because insurance and other formalities do not allow them to so any donation grateful. Contact 01759 318699 for details.  Boat Trips run from the Melbourne Arms at Melbourne.

Further information Grid



Pocklington Canal, Yorkshire

Ceremonial County: Yorkshire

Grid Reference:

SE 799475

Map Link:


Aerial photo:  



Best Times to Visit:

June and July are best for Dragonflies, and the Yellow Water Lilies. Summer is the best time for Barn Owls between May-September at dawn and dusk.




Pocklington Canal Amenity Society

Other useful websites:


Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:  


Planning Grid


Pocklington Canal, Yorkshire

Grid Reference:

SE 799475

Getting there:

Located 10 miles from York on the B1246 half way to Driffield in Humberside. Easiest access is at East Cottinghwith (down Canal Lane) or at the other end at Canal Head near Pocklington off the A1079 opposite the Wellington Oak.


Variable. Some flat tow path areas. At Canal Head there are platforms for disabled visitors in wheelchairs to be able to fish


Two car parks nearby at Canal Head near Pocklington and Top Lock is just beyond.


Picnic site opposite the Wellington Oak on A1079. Information boards on wildlife and heritage next to PCAS Information Centre.

Information centre usually open Sunday's and Bank Holidays.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Canal walks. Wildlife watching. Boat trips. Pond dipping. Bird spotting ie. Barn Owls.

What to take:

Camera, lens, tripod, and maybe some steps to see over the bridges. Binoculars. Professional or self-made net for Pond dipping

Nature highlights:

Barn Owls, Dragonflies, Damselflies, wildfowl, Kingfisher


Pocklington Canal

East Riding





01977 554351 - British Waterways Castleford
01904 623 338 - Pocklington Canal Amenity Society (boat trips)

Opening times:

The canal paths are open all year round.

Short 30 minute Boat trips operate on most Sundays and Bank Holidays during the season 12noon-5pm. Contact 01759 318699 for details.


Free. No charge for 30 minute boat trips, although donation grateful.

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Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Canal and Waterway Section Key:
Page Ref: pocklington_canal Topic: Canals & Waterways  Last Updated: 05/2009


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