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Rowing on the Lee Navigation

The Lee Navigation between Old Ford Lock and Tottenham Lock is the only stretch of our waterways in London still used regularly by rowers. Rowing clubs have been active here since the 1880s.


"I determined to go in for rowing proper and joined one of the Lea boating clubs. Being out in a boat on the river Lea, especially on Saturday afternoons, soon makes you smart at handling craft, and spry at escaping being run down by roughs or swamped by barges; and it also affords plenty of opportunity for acquiring the most prompt and graceful method of lying down flat at the bottom of the boat so as to avoid being chucked out into the river by passing tow-lines."

Jerome K. Jerome's classic novel of 1889, "Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)", was set on and around the Thames. However, from the quote above we learn that the hero's first boating experiences were on the River Lee.

Rowing on the Lee remains popular today. Both amateurs and professionals from the Lea Rowing Club regularly take to the water between Old Ford Lock and Tottenham Lock. The club has an impressive history and hosts two regattas every year. If you're keen to take up rowing or learn more about the club, please visit their website.

There are fewer tow-lines on today's Lee Navigation, but there remain challenges. It's a popular spot with powered craft and we're keen to make sure everyone makes room for each other. To avoid rowers "being swamped by barges", skippers of powered craft need to look out and remember:

  • rowed and sculled boats will be much wider (with the blades) than powered craft
  • they may be moving much faster
  • there will not always be a cox. Even where there is, their vision may be restricted
  • rowed boats are much more fragile
  • particular care should be taken on bends and when it is dark

The Lea Rowing Club has put together some useful advice on their website.

Last Edited: 01 March 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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