London Boating Bulletin: September

This month we're brushing up on tunnel rules, inviting you to our autumn Forum, asking for ideas for offside treeworks and getting ready for the winter stoppages.

Open Weekend at Camden

Tunnels: a reminder on the rules and regulations

We have the Maida Hill and Islington tunnels on the London Waterways. Both of these are for one-way traffic and there is no overtaking; narrowboats and cruisers must not attempt to pass each other inside the tunnel.

As you approach the tunnel, slow down to make sure no boat is inside before you enter. If you have to wait your turn, stay well clear of the entrance.

Before entering:

  • Switch on your headlight and some interior lights. Some stern lighting will help a following boat to see you, but if it’s a single bright spot or rear navigation light, it might be confused with a headlight by the skipper of a following boat
  • Put on warm clothes and waterproofs
  • Have a waterproof torch to hand.

Inside the tunnel:

  • As you go in, sound one long blast on your horn
  • Steer by looking at one side of the tunnel only
  • Keep your speed down
  • Move the tiller or wheel as little as possible – it’s a common illusion to feel the boat’s being pulled to the side. You might find it helps to shine your torch on the tunnel wall
  • Keep at least two minutes (at normal cruising speed) or about 500ft (160m) away from any boat in front of you.


  • Keep your crew and passengers inside the boat
  • Make sure you have enough fuel to get you through
  • If you break down in a tunnel, switch off the engine
  • Don’t smoke or use cookers and heaters. Turn off the gas except pilot lights
  • Make sure the air controls are set to prevent a solid fuel stove over-firing
  • Don’t allow inside lights to shine into the steerer’s eyes
  • If someone falls in, there is a grab chain and fender positioned just above the waterline.

Unpowered craft are not allowed to use Islington tunnel. But it does happen and so everyone should watch out for canoes or other small unpowered boats.

By arrangement with the Trust, groups of unpowered craft may be approved to use Maida Hill Tunnel. This applies to groups of canoes, kayaks, bell boats, stand-up paddleboards (recognised by British Canoeing for paddle sport), and small conventional rowing boats/dinghies under oars and correctly crewed. Rafts and other types of inflatable are not permitted.

Approved unpowered craft must:

  • only enter the tunnel if the transit is clear of oncoming craft
  • have a bright white forward facing light of not less than 80 Lumens (i.e. a head torch)
  • wear buoyancy aids
  • have staff trained to manage an emergency
  • be courteous and patient with other tunnel users.

Approved unpowered craft must not:

  • pass other craft in the tunnel
  • be alone.

Any accidents, near misses or incidents in the tunnels should be reported to

London Waterway Forum: Wednesday 19 October at the London Canal Museum

We’d like to invite you to our Autumn Forum. This will be from 7pm to 9pm on Wednesday 19 October at the London Canal Museum, 12/13, New Wharf Road, London, N1 9RT. Places are limited, so please email to reserve your spot.

This forum will include:

  • Jeannette Brooks, the London Waterway’s Development & Engagement Manager, updating on the last meeting’s discussions about the forum and its purpose
  • An update on HS2 (the planned high-speed railway)
  • The latest on the Quietways project.

In addition, there will be an update on the London Mooring Strategy and Simon Cadek will be giving us the latest from the enforcement team. Looking forward to seeing you there!

East London Waterways Festival: 2017

As part of celebrations for the restoration of Carpenters Road Lock in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a cavalcade cruising opportunity will be available over bank holiday weekend 26 – 28 May, 2017. Be one of the first boaters to pass under the only double radial lock gate in the country and join a wider celebration of East London Waterways and regeneration of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Waterways. Weather permitting there will also be an opportunity for a tidal extension incorporating Bow Creek and the tidal Thames. To express interest in the cruise send your boat name and index number to

Don’t forget that from the comfort of your own boat, you can see the full restoration of Carpenters Road Lock with two cameras installed on site, giving you a close up view of the works. Recent developments include men in high-vis and a ladder!

Better Towpaths for Everyone - Transforming the Grand Union Canal from Paddington to West Drayton

London towpaths are more popular and being enjoyed more than ever before. We are transforming over 16 miles of towpath between Paddington and West Drayton with work beginning at the end of 2016. 

Supported by Transport for London’s Quietways programme, and building on previous improvements between Paddington and West Drayton, we will be providing:

  • better quality surfaces
  • wider paths
  • improved access points
  • new signs

bringing huge benefits to everyone visiting and enjoying West London canals.

Join us for drop-in events on the towpath!

Our widebeam, Jena, will be travelling along the canal this October half-term – come along to learn more about the proposed improvements, give us your feedback and find out how to get involved! Here's the plan:

For more details please visit our Quietways webpage with updates coming from the middle of October, where you will also be able to give us your comments and feedback.

Who’s on London’s boats?

We’ve launched a survey to help establish a better understanding of what boaters want and need, especially in terms of moorings. The findings will be used as a basis for proposals that will benefit boaters in London and will help to inform the development of the London Mooring Strategy, which aims to address the unique challenges and opportunities of boating in the capital. The survey results will also be shared with partners, such as local authorities, so boaters’ needs can be built into their plans for housing provision and local services.

The survey is aimed at people boating and living on boats in the Trust’s London Waterway area. The Trust has sent invitations by email and letter to boaters who have a registered mooring or have been sighted cruising in the London region.

The online survey will be open between Monday 19 September and Friday 21 October.

We need your suggestions for offside tree works

Is there a particular tree whose branches impede your navigation? Perhaps it intrudes upon sightlines or it’s so low that it knocks the flowerpots off your roof.

We know that many boaters have ideas of where they’d like to see a cutback or branches removed on the offside and so we’re inviting you to get in touch with your suggestions.

At present we are focusing on the following waterways: Grand Union Canal (south of Rickmansworth), the Slough Arm, the Paddington Arm, the Regent’s and the Hertford Union.

We won’t necessarily be able to satisfy everyone and there will often be a number of factors to consider, but we’re very keen to hear ideas.

London’s oldest canal ‘adopted’ by local organisations

We’re very pleased to announce that the entire length of the Limehouse Cut is being adopted by a group of local organisations. Led by Poplar HARCA, a significant local housing provider, the group are informally called the Super Adoption Stakeholders (Sass) and will be the largest of the 100-plus canal adoptions nationwide. They will also look after a record length of waterway, with the stretch from the Limehouse Basin, near Narrow Street, all the way to Three Mills in Bow (therefore incorporating a small section of the River Lee as well) totalling over three miles.

Babu Bhattacherjee, Poplar HARCA’s Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods, said: "It is very forward thinking of Canal & River Trust to encourage interested groups to drive the regeneration of Limehouse Cut forward in partnership. The group has four key themes; education, environment, sport and commercial development. We will have tremendous volunteering opportunities for local residents and especially young people. We are working to develop paddle sports on the canal and already have linkages so young people can progress their sport to the highest level. Poplar HARCA is incredibly excited about the potential of this initiative for our local community."

…Talking of the Limehouse Cut

Joe Coggins, our press officer, happened to be on the scene when two fire crews arrived to aid a stray black dog that was struggling in the Cut near Bartlett Park.

“The animal was stuck on the offside of the canal where there’s no towpath, whining quite loudly,” Joe told the East London Advertiser. “It must have fallen in and swam over to the bush to get out of the water, but got stuck.”

An inflatable motor-dingy was launched and the firemen managed to reach the stressed animal and deliver it to Tower Hamlets’ dog warden service.

Remains of Word War 2 pillbox discovered in Cowley

Remains of a World War Two pillbox have been unearthed close to the Grand Union Canal in Cowley. The discovery was made as we excavated an entrance to a bin compound for boaters opposite the Malt Shovel pub on Iver Lane.

In the early years of World War Two, in response to the threat of invasion by German armed forces, lines of pillboxes were built to help the Home Guard hold up an enemy advance. Around 18,000 were constructed across Britain. Waterways provided ready-made defensive lines for towns and cities, with the fortifications along this part of the Grand Union Canal forming a section of the “Outer London Defence Ring”.

The hexagonal foundations of the pillbox, built in 1940, will now be protected by the Trust's heritage team before the work is completed.

Winter stoppages

Everybody needs to start thinking about this winter’s stoppages. Make sure you’re the right side of the following:

There are others. Please check online and also make sure you’re subscribed to receive emails.

A boat moored in the snow on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Winter stay times on London’s visitor moorings

While stay times on many of the Trust’s visitor moorings nationwide will be relaxed to 14 days during the winter, in line with the recommendations in the national Short Term Moorings Framework, we don’t propose to relax stay times on the most popular visitor moorings in London.

The Framework’s recommendation is designed to relax rules where there is little demand for short stay moorings over the winter. In London there is a consistently high demand for mooring space, especially at visitor moorings. Many of them are already designated as 14 day, and there is also lots of other mooring space along our towpaths, not just at visitor moorings.

We’ll therefore not be relaxing stay times at visitor moorings in central London, nor at other very short stay moorings in the other parts of the London Waterway region.

The visitor moorings where we won’t be relaxing stay times this winter are:

  • All those on the Regent’s Canal
  • Paddington Basin and Little Venice
  • All 4hr/24hr/48hr moorings

These will have signs indicating that the stay time applies all year. Stay times on all other visitor moorings will be relaxed to 14 days.

Winter moorings: sales open on 3 October

This year winter moorings will be available at fixed locations between 1 November 2016 and 31 March 2017. Winter mooring permits will be available to purchase for 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 months. They will go on sale online very soon – 3 October (6 am). 

If you don’t wish to buy a winter mooring permit this year, remember that you can moor on any winter mooring site temporarily if there is space. You can stay for up to 14 days if there is space, but bear in mind that you will need to move off straight away if a permit holder arrives and needs to moor. Spaces sometimes appear when permit holders go to fill up with water or empty their toilets, so don’t assume it’s there for the taking as you may be faced with the hassle of having to move again quite soon!

London Mooring Strategy progress

Over the summer we’ve been hard at work gathering evidence to help us understand the nature of the issues facing London’s waterways and to start to consider policy responses. Following the engagement workshop held in May, an expanded Better Relationships Group met as a ‘sounding board’ to hear progress and advise us on how to progress survey work and the development of proposals.

We met with the Lee Valley Regional Park, Lee & Stort Cruising Clubs and Leaside Trust to hear about issues on the outer eastern part of our London network, as well as discussing opportunities for improvements to moorings. Dialogue is also continuing with the Environment Agency to share our ideas.

Data gathering and survey work has been progressing, with a survey on demand for bookable moorings concluded in August allowing us to consider plans for extending our trial of bookable moorings. In September we issued a new survey to help establish ‘Who’s on London’s boats?’ (see above).

Mapping and data gathering has continued apace, providing evidence on the distribution of boater facilities, the popularity of each kilometre of waterway for mooring (using annual National Boat Check and weekly sightings data), and the usage and vacancy rates at visitor moorings over the last 12 months. We will shortly be introducing a visitor mooring at Kings Cross (in part of the section between York Way and Caledonian Road), following the consultation undertaken last year.

Winter moorings provision has been reviewed and new sites are being offered this year, with the length of some other sites adjusted to accommodate greater demand (and low demand in some cases) and the need for access for fishing. New price bands have also been set based on the quality of the mooring, access to services and the proximity to public transport.

Over the coming months we will be engaging with local authorities to identify their role in supporting the strategy and how the strategy can assist with plans for their areas. Watch out for further updates at our next Forum!

September’s Festivals

It was a busy month across the London Waterway and we’re grateful to all of you who made one or more of the highlights and came to meet our staff and volunteers and say hello. We had the Camden Open Weekend (with the world’s first ever silent disco to be held at the bottom of a drained lock), the 30th Angel Festival, the Slough Canal Festival, Open House Weekend, and, most recently, the Hayes Canal Festival. Jon Guest, the London Waterway Manager, said, “We took part in several of the festivals and events around the London Waterway this year, and had over 3,500 people visit our events or come aboard Jena to meet us. I particularly enjoyed this year’s Hayes Canal Festival. There were so many different activities, including circus skills and brick laying, and it was great to see all aspects of the local community enjoying their canal.”

Leaside Trust celebrates international success!

Based on the Lee in Hackney, Leaside delivers inspiring and engaging outdoor activities to young people and everyone is incredibly proud of their own Noah Dembele, a kayaker who took bronze with Trevor Thomson at the World Junior Sprint Championships in the under 18 K2M . The pair have been paddling together for only six months but they are already getting used to being on the podium.

There was further success for Leaside when Lithuania’s canoe sprinters Aurimas Lankas and Edvinas Ramanauskas won bronze in the K2-200m event in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The Lithuanian duo completed the distance in 32.382s. Edvinas was a very popular member of Leaside from 2011 until he returned to his home country to train for the Olympics.

Do watch out for canoes, kayaks and rowing boats when cruising between Old Ford, the Filter Beds and Tottenham, and share the space so everyone can use the water safely. In particular, please don’t moor opposite the Leaside Trust and Sea Scouts at Springfield Park, avoid double mooring near the bend, and drop your speed.   

Filming in Little Venice

Filming of a major motion picture will be taking place between 3pm and 1am on 8/9 November and again on 9/10 November 2016 at various locations across the Little Venice pool. The towpaths will be closed and marshals will be on hand to offer diversions. Boats may be prevented from entering the pool and will be asked to wait. Please listen to advice from marshals.

Volunteering opportunities

Join us at Towpath Taskforce: All tools, equipment and instruction will be supplied, please wear old clothes and hard-soled footwear and if the weather forecast is looking wet, don’t forget the waterproofs!

Saturday 1st October - Mile End

Saturday 15th October - Mile End

Tuesday 18th October - Alperton

Thursday 20th October - Docklands 

Saturday 5th November - Little Venice 

Ware Visitor Welcome Station – volunteers needed: We are looking for volunteers to help open up the information point at weekends throughout the summer months.  You’ll be welcoming visitors to the towpath and river, answering questions, providing information on the local area and wider Lee Valley and helping with the general upkeep of the towpath.  If you are able to volunteer two or more days per month at the weekend then this could be perfect for you.

Last date edited: 10 October 2016

About this blog

London & South East Regional Bulletin

Sorwar Ahmed is Boating Manager for the Canal & River Trust's London & South East region. He engages with our customers and communities to improve boating serivces and the experience of the waterways for everyone! In this Bulletin he gives a regular round-up of news and views, essential reading for boaters and anyone with an interest in the waterways of London & the South East.

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