About us

No other charity brings so much free, open, and accessible blue and green space to the doorstep of so many. With your support, we can continue our work.

We care for a 2,000-mile-long, 200-year-old, network of canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks because we believe that life is better by water.

Our vision is to have living waterways that transform places and enrich lives.

We provide a space where people can feel happier and healthier, nature is recovering and history is alive. A space for boating, angling, cycling, walking, paddling or just watching the world drift by. 

Our research shows that spending time by water, whether it be your lunchbreak, daily commute or just a weekend stroll, really can make us feel happier and healthier.

With ever-increasing rates of obesity, stress and declining mental health in the UK, we are uniquely placed to make a significant contribution to improving the wellbeing of millions of people. Our canals and rivers run through some of the most heavily populated communities in England and Wales, providing accessible green and blue space where it’s needed the most.

That’s why, here at the Trust, we're working with volunteers and communities across England and Wales to transform canals and rivers into spaces where local people want to spend time and feel better. We know this will bring wellbeing opportunities to millions.

Our work involves not only looking after our waterways, particularly in the face of climate change, but promoting them widely to the nine million people who have waterways on their doorstep so that many more people benefit from our free, accessible and local source of wellbeing.

Waterways and wellbeing

What we do

  • We create new routes to work, places to enjoy and spaces where you want to be
  • We build stronger communities by giving people the chance to protect and improve the places that matter to them
  • We help thousands of people young and old develop their confidence and learn new skills
  • We champion the many benefits that our waterways offer and encourage more people to use and enjoy them
  • We care for a 2000-mile long ‘green-blue ribbon’ that connects hundreds of wildlife habitats, helping you to get closer to nature wherever you live
  • We protect our precious heritage so your children, and their children too, can connect with our rich history
  • We make sure that 2,980 bridges, 1,580 locks and 335 aqueducts are open and ready for use all day, every day

Discover your local waterway

The formation of the Canal & River Trust

Canals and rivers are more than a place for a stroll. For hundreds of years they've helped us to thrive. In the past they transported vital goods and busy people around a booming Britain. Today, they inspire us in a different way.

Our story as a charity is rooted in the history of the waterways themselves. The Trust was launched in 2012, taking over the guardianship of British Waterways’ canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks in England and Wales - and heralding the next chapter in the renaissance of the waterways.

Canals were built at the height of the industrial revolution, the life-blood of cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. When freight declined, the canals too fell into disrepair. Thankfully, our waterways today have risen, phoenix-like, to become treasured local gems - places where people can relax, re-connect, experience 200 years of history and spot the wildlife that calls them home.

We safeguard the waterways now and for the future, and in so doing we help make life better for millions of people across England and Wales.