The charity making life better by water

Annual Report and Accounts 2021/22

Our 2021/22 Annual Report & Accounts document a continued rise in use of the towpath with nearly 800 million individual visits across the year and a record summer for boating once the waterways were able to re-open in May 2021 for unrestricted navigation. It is also the second year to be severely affected by Covid-19.

Accounting for variances relating to the pandemic, income for the year remained broadly stable, and the Trust was able to increase the amount spent on core maintenance and repair works to keep the network open, safe and navigable.

In a year that saw both drought and further winter storm damage, once again bringing additional unplanned and costly works, the Report highlights the increasing impacts of climate change and how, with continued support and funding, the Trust's 250-year-old network is helping to address the national crises in public health, biodiversity and the climate emergency.

Over 160 large-scale works were completed across the year, including repairing masonry and brickwork, fixing leaks, updating and installing hydraulics and electrics, and fitting 132 lock gate leaves handcrafted at the Trust's specialist workshops.

However, the Trust's largest spend on infrastructure in 2021/22 was again on its high-risk reservoirs, the oldest in the country, continuing a programme of additional works over the decade to minimise any threat to public safety and to safeguard the vital canal water supply that the reservoirs provide.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, comments: "In a year severely affected by the pandemic, the Trust has demonstrated its resilience to the challenges faced and continued to provide opportunities for the nine million people who have waterways on their doorstep, to experience the wellbeing benefits they offer.

"With the threat of climate change, we must continue to focus funding and resources on increasing the resilience of the canal network and our core purpose of keeping the waterways safe, attractive, accessible and available, for boating and the wide range of other users.

"In doing so, we can help Britain mitigate the effects of a changing climate, from helping to cool cities in summer, to providing low-carbon energy to heat homes in winter and as sustainable transport traffic-free routes through our towns and cities."

The Report also looks ahead to the review of the government grant, due to complete in 2022/23, for the period beyond 2027 when the current Grant Agreement comes to an end.

Richard Parry continues: "Our waterways provide accessible and attractive space for millions of people, often in some of the most deprived communities, supporting government policy to enhance health, wellbeing and prosperity.

"No other UK charity brings so much free blue and green space to the doorsteps of so many. As the cost of looking after our ageing network continues to rise, the sustainable long-term future of our waterways depends on building broad support and maintaining our partnership with government, to secure the funding that is essential to address their long-term resilience and avert their decline.

"With our grant declining significantly in real terms over the next few years, the current government review of our future funding provides the opportunity to demonstrate the substantial benefits that waterways bring, as well as the wider public risks associated with our ageing and vulnerable network."

Volunteering, an integral part of the Trust's resource which was largely curtailed during the pandemic, recovered well following the easing of government lockdown restrictions and this continues. The work of volunteers and partner organisations is central to the Trust's community engagement initiatives, biodiversity improvements and the further attainment of Green Flag Awards, which now cover over a quarter of the network.

Richard concludes: "As the charity that believes in making life better by water, we work with communities to transform their local waterways. The ongoing support we've received has enabled us to increase this work and to encourage participation in our activities. We appreciate all the effort and dedication through the past year, without which we could not have delivered on the scale that has been achieved."

Last Edited: 25 September 2023

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