London Boaters, what have we done for you?

Here’s an update on what we’ve been doing to improve boaters’ facilities in London.

Camden, Regent's Canal Camden, Regent's Canal

There’s a famous scene in the Monty Python film 'The Life of Brian' where the characters ponder what the occupying Roman force have ever done for them. After some grumbling it is conceded that things like roads, sanitation, aqueducts, education, and public order are actually good things rather than bad. You might have heard grumbles and moans about facilities in London, but things may be better than you think. Here’s the story so far.

Making London’s waterways better for boating and boaters

Boating in London is more popular than ever, making London’s waterways a vibrant and colourful place to visit, work on, or make home. However, we often hear that boaters are put off from visiting the capital’s waterways because they think ‘London’s full’, or because it can be challenging sometimes to access boater facilities. Well, over the past five years we’ve been making efforts to improve the boating experience for all types of boaters, leading to the publication in July 2018 of our new London Mooring Strategy.

Increased boat numbers

If you’ve visited or lived on London’s waterways over the last few years, you will have noticed how rapidly boat numbers have grown. On the 100 miles of waterways in the Trust’s former London Waterway region, there were just over 2,000 boats in 2010. This has grown to almost 5,000 in 2018, generating high demand for mooring space and facilities, and making fair sharing of the waterspace and the boaters’ facilities a challenge, after all you can’t get a quart into a pint pot!

Overflowing boaters rubbish facilities in London

Overflowing bins on the River Lee

Priorities for change

So, over the last five years, the Trust has been listening to boaters and making improvements to moorings and facilities. In 2012 a consultative group called ‘The Better Relationships on the Waterways of London’ (or BRG for short) was created to bring together different boating groups, fishing groups, cyclists, and local residents, to understand each other’s needs and put forward priorities for the Trust to address. As the group was focussed on boating issues, membership consolidated around the boating groups and after, a series of four workshops, the following priorities were identified in 2013:

  • Capacity
  • Behaviour
  • Enforcement
  • Communication
  • Moorings

Recent improvements

The Trust has been making steady progress on these priorities so, five years on, it’s worth reflecting on what’s been achieved so far.

  • 4,275 metres of new mooring rings to facilitate casual towpath mooring
  • 5 new  water points
  • 2 new Elsans
  • 3 new pump-outs
  • 5 new rubbish disposal points
  • Changes to licensing communications and a more flexible approach
  • Two London Mooring Rangers recruited to improve communications and manage moorings
  • More communications with boaters through a regular Bulletin, blogs, and social media
  • Over 100 new long-term moorings, mostly on off-side land

Recycling bins for boaters use in Little Venice, London

More improvements in progress

After two years of further consultations with a wide range of boating groups and other waterway users, we’ve now published our London Mooring Strategy. This aims to improve everyone’s enjoyment of the waterways, from leisure boaters and liveaboards, to rowers and anglers. The driving principle is promoting fair sharing of the waterspace.

In 2018/19, we’re going to deliver:

  • New mooring rings on the Limehouse Cut, Paddington Arm and Grand Union
  • 4 new water taps (Harlesden, Shoreditch, Bow Locks and Alperton)
  • 2 new waste disposal compounds (Harlesden, Feildes Weir)
  • 1 new Elsan on the Regents Canal
  • A replacement pump-out machine at St. Pancras Cruising Club for all boaters to use
  • Improved waste facilities at Stonebridge Lock, Tottenham
  • Waste oil collection facilities
  • A light works boatyard and BSS examination centre
  • Shorter stay times at some visitor moorings
  • Parts of other visitor moorings returned to general towpath mooring
  • Pre-bookable moorings on off-side land at Kings Cross and the Olympic Park and on new towpath mooring rings on the Lee Navigation
  • Safety improvements, including on the Lee Navigation, to support safer rowing
  • Working with Islington council to implement a new ‘eco-mooring zone’ with electricity charging points and rule to reduce emissions that affect air quality (boaters are most badly affected by boat emissions)

Future plans

The London Mooring Strategy sets out further phased improvement plans for future years, subject to funding.

London’s waterways are home to many communities, from those making boats their homes or living alongside them, to those using them for work, leisure, or sport. As our 200-year old waterways become busier, it is more important than ever that we share them fairly.

Next time you’re out boating, keep an eye out for these improvements you may have missed!

Find your local greater London area boating facilities here

Instructions on how to use an Elsan facility


Last date edited: 12 October 2018

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Our boating team bring you news of their work across our network, as well as the stories of boaters they meet

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