Kittywake Canal Cruises offers educational cruises to school groups. School Travel Organiser finds out why learning on the water has its benefits.

Based at Wigan Pier on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal, Kittywake Canal Cruises is a family-run business that offers leisure and educational trips on the canal to visitors of all ages.

The cruise company’s educational offerings link to History and Geography studies. Onboard sessions can be catered to Key Stage 1, 2 and 3 pupils, for up to 37 children at a time.

Teachers can choose from a static or moving canal cruise experience for their pupils, and there are a number of interactive activities and learning opportunities available.

Local History and river life

History and Geography are the most popular subjects onboard a Kittywake educational cruise.

Teachers can choose from workshops called The Three C’s (Cotton, Coal & Canal): Events Beyond Living Memory; and the Industrial Revolution. The latter focuses on the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the landscape, villages and cities surrounding the canal.

Meanwhile, an Environmental Studies workshop is available, as is a canal-specific session looking at the development of canals and the utilization of rivers, as well as life on the canal from the 1700s onwards.

Water cycles, urban development, and the basic natural environment of the canals are further topics that can be linked to Geography studies.

Teachers who would like to organise a structured experience can book for a dedicated Kittywake historian to come onboard the canal boat and speak to students about the local heritage, canals and transport.

Alternatively, Kittywake offers informal sessions for students while sailing different parts of the canal. During these sailings, children can enjoy a from-the-water perspective of the local area and learn about Wigan’s local industry, heritage and environment.

Trade goods, employment, artwork and the everyday lives of the people associated with the canals and surrounding industries are also topics that are covered by a Kittywake historian.

The on-board talk can be delivered formally or informally to offer ad-hoc information and answer questions. All information is delivered at an age appropriate level, and there are artefacts and props to see, discuss and handle.

Working the locks

Teachers who’d like their pupils to gain some hands-on experience can opt for an Interactive Lock-Working Experience.

During this session – under the close supervision of fully trained crew – students will get to experience the job of ‘lock-lad or lass’ by operating the historic locks.

There is a maximum of 20 children per lock-working cruise, and this experience comes at an extra charge. Safety equipment is provided.

Kittywake booking information

Kittywake is licenced to hold up to 41 passengers; school groups should be accompanied by a minimum of one adult for every ten children (max capacity 37 children and four adults).

A static Kittywake experience lasts two hours, while cruising sessions can last between 1.5 and 2.5 hours. Catering options such as provided packed lunches are also available for school groups.

For booking information, teachers should call 07850-562043 or visit

Trencherfield Mill

Trip organisers who’d like to extend an educational visit to Wigan Pier Quarter can do so by following a canal session with a visit to Trencherfield Mill Steam Engine.

This steam engine is said to be one of the largest examples of its type. Built over 100 years ago, this metal powerhouse was regarded as a feat of industrial engineering.

Churning out a massive 2,500 horse power to feed the machinery of Trencherfield Mill, it played an instrumental role in Wigan’s industrial development.

Trencherfield Mill learning officers are able to provide a range of learning workshops, craft activities and object handling sessions, and activities can be tailored to meet class requirements.

For further information visit

(Photo credit: VisitEngland, Diana Jarvis and Visit England).