Google Maps heads off road

Canal towpath

Google has been capturing off road routes in Britain using a rucksack-mounted camera called Google Trekker as it expands the places accessible via its Street View technology, which aims to offer a 360-degree view on the world.

The Trekker is designed to visit places the Street View Car, Street View Trike and even Street View Snowmobile can’t access, and has so far captured images of the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu and the view from the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

As part of its on-going Trekker loan programme, Google has now teamed up with the Canal & River Trust to cover 100 miles of waterways in Britain, with volunteers carrying the 4ft, 40lb rucksack along towpaths and bridges.

Taking 360-degree pictures every 2.5 seconds, the Trekker camera will be used to produce views of the entire Regent’s Canal in London as well as Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and many other waterway delights.

“It’s fantastic that our 200-year old network is being given a different lease of life thanks to cutting edge, 21st-century technology,” said Wendy Hawk, corporate partnerships manager at the Canal & River Trust. “The footage we get will allow millions of people from all over the world to see our canals, rivers and towpaths.”

Following the Canal & River Trust’s project, which launched in August, the South West Coast Path Team (SWCPT) has also expressed an interest in using the Trekker to capture the 630-mile National Trail on camera with the help of long-distance walkers.

"People tend to walk the whole path after a lifestyle change or early retirement,” Mark Owen, national trails officer for the SWCPT, told the Western Morning News. “It could be the ideal retirement project and the ultimate way to record your trip."

"They would certainly get a good deal of exercise – though you could do it in relays” added Mark. “We were the first in the UK to appear on Google maps so it would be great to get on Street View as well."

If you’re inspired to walk along Britain’s waterways you can choose from over 500 routes along rivers, streams and canals in our online library of downloadable walking routes.