Boaters' Update 23 October 2020

This latest edition features our Annual Report, how we want your views on the best way to manage London's busy waterways and some great news about Stainton Aqueduct and 100 miles-worth of Green Flag Awards!

Autumn on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal Autumn on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Welcome to the latest edition. Since the last one it would have been hard to miss news of the coronavirus. Wales is now on a ‘firebreak’ and other parts of the country are experiencing the additional burden of ‘Tier Three’ measures to help control the virus.

We are keeping our guidance up to date on the website and, as I’m sure you plan to, it’s always a good idea to check the latest restrictions for where you are and, if you’re planning on visiting it, where your boat is. Note that the rules for Wales are different and non-essential travel, visiting your boat for example, is not permitted for two weeks (from 6pm on 23 October).

If you are still able to visit your boat, or go on a cruise, this weekend why not put your feet up for five minutes and read this Boaters’ Update beforehand? It’s packed full – and includes both our Annual Report and an update on how you can contribute to our consultation on the challenges boaters face on London’s increasingly busy waterways.  There’s also great news about Stainton Aqueduct, some helpful updates on booking passages online and news of more Green Flag Awards for our beautiful canals and rivers.

As always, the routine roundup of news and this weekend’s stoppages can also be found below.

If there’s something you’d like to see featured in a future edition, please get in touch.

Happy boating,


In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 12 October – We announced that, broadly in line with inflation forecasts, headline private and business boat licence fees will rise by 2% from 1 April 2021.
  • 13 October – Our Annual Report & Accounts were published alongside details of how to view and take part in our Annual Public Meeting being held online on 28 October. More on this below.
  • 14 October – A further 100 miles of waterways across England and Wales have been awarded prestigious Green Flag status by Keep Britain Tidy. More on this below.


2019/20 Annual Report & Accounts published

The Annual Report & Accounts chart a year when income, volunteering, and spend on our charitable activities grew to record levels and a period that also saw extreme weather events contribute to widespread infrastructure damage, including the emergency at Toddbrook Reservoir, and the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Our income increased by £6.1 million in 2019/20 to £216.1 million and spend on charitable activities increased by £10.9 million, with underlying expenditure on core maintenance, repairs and infrastructure works continuing to grow.

Implications of coronavirus

Picture of autumn leaves falling on towpathThe implications of the coronavirus pandemic, including the furloughing of staff, impact on community activities, volunteering and day-to-day operations, as well as the important role the waterways played during lockdown when the towpaths demonstrated their value in providing accessible green and blue space for local people, are examined in the Report.

The Report acknowledges that, whilst our income and investments will be affected by the pandemic, the full economic impact of the crisis is not yet fully known. As we prioritise spend on winter works in the months ahead, with a full maintenance and repair programme, we have indicated a likely loss of income in the current year of around 10%.

Whilst boating was put on hold for most during the initial stages of lockdown, the Report does highlight a small growth in boat numbers and income from boating and moorings remaining at just under 20% of income in 2019/20.

Health and wellbeing benefits

Richard Parry, chief executive, comments: “The Trust is now eight years old and a lot has been achieved in that time, including rising income, increased expenditure on our waterways and growing numbers of supporters and volunteers.

“However this year has been a reminder of the scale of the Trust’s core responsibility, with a series of extreme weather events contributing to widespread infrastructure damage and the important role our waterways play within society, both as a network for boating, but also as vital green and blue corridors in our towns and cities offering on-the-doorstep health and wellbeing benefits to millions of people.”

Enjoy an autumn boating holidayAllan Leighton, chair of the Canal & River Trust, comments: “I’d once again like to thank colleagues, partners, funders, volunteers and friends for their support this year. Whilst coronavirus control measures continue in 2020/21 and there is uncertainty around the future, we know that the foundation we have laid gives us a strong platform from which to make progress as we see such a vital part of our nation’s industrial history take on a new purpose, to make lives better by water. Our role as a Trust dedicated to improving the lives of millions of local people, offering a ‘Natural Health Service’ for the huge urban populations with canals on their doorstep, is now widely recognised, as well as connecting people to the beautiful countryside our network runs through. 

“More than ever, the events of the past year illustrate how resolute the Trust’s commitment to caring for the waterways network has to be, and the scale and range of risks this presents – and our future plans will depend upon sustaining the income we need to ensure that work can be expanded.”

This year the Trust’s Annual Public Meeting will be hosted online with people able to view and submit questions to the Trust’s chief executive and chair. The meeting will start online at 11am on Wednesday 28 October.


‘Unlocking’ the challenge of London’s congested waterways

If you’ve cruised or walked alongside any of London’s waterways recently you can’t help but notice that they’ve never been a more popular choice for those looking for a life afloat. In fact, in the last decade, the number of boats using the London waterways has more than doubled*.

Moored boats on London's waterwaysIt’s against this backdrop of growing boat numbers in the capital, that we’re asking what approach should be taken for managing very congested areas, and how, by taking our survey, you can help.

Boaters and other stakeholders are invited to share their views, using an online survey or in writing, and we’re also holding virtual meetings online to hear ideas and answer questions. This initial engagement will take place between mid-October 2020 and early January 2021.

In 2018 we published the London Mooring Strategy to help manage the London waterways safely and fairly. The strategy acknowledged that if boat numbers continued to rise, which they have, then additional measures to manage boats in the busiest areas would need to be investigated to ensure the waterways are managed safely, provide an enjoyable customer experience, and are available fairly for everyone.

In parts of London, mooring space and boater facilities are already under pressure. We have no legal powers to stop or restrict the number of licensed boats on the water, so creative solutions to help manage growing boat numbers are necessary to address these challenges. With a growing liveaboard boating population, and increased recreational and leisure use, the number of people wanting to use the waterways continues to rise. All boaters and stakeholders need to work together to ensure they are managed sustainably for the future.

Busier today than ever before

Licence Support Officer checks boat licences in LondonRos Daniels, our director for London & the South East, said: “London’s waterways are busier today than at the height of the Industrial Revolution. They provide something for everyone. They bring nature and free access to valuable green and blue space to relax, de-stress, and exercise to many people. They’re a fascinating reminder of our industrial heritage and, of course, they allow the opportunity to boat, and moor up, in the heart of the capital. 

“However, this popularity comes with challenges. The rise in boat numbers in some parts of London is unsustainable and is putting a significant strain on the 200-year old canals, as well as the facilities that were never designed for this type and volume of use. Finding a mooring can be a real issue, and the high number of boats in some areas can lead to unsafe mooring practises and cause a danger to others. There is also increasingly the potential for conflict between all the different interests and ways people interact with the waterways. We need to address this.”

Managing the space

Matthew Symonds, our national boating manager, said: “We need boaters, and other people who are invested in London’s waterways, to help us decide upon a way to manage the space so we can ensure the canals are safe and fairly available to everyone. Please take part in our survey or come to one of our virtual meetings to share your views.”

*National boat count in London all boats 2010: 2101 – 2019: 4274; boats without a permanent mooring 2010: 413 – 2019: 2208


£2.2 million restoration project completed at Stainton Aqueduct

Some welcome good news comes from South Cumbria and while it’s been a long, complex and challenging, road back for Stainton Aqueduct, its restoration is now complete. Just as good news is that you don’t have to wait to see it in all its glory.

Damaged Stainton AqueductTo mark its completion, we’ve launched a virtual tour along the disused Northern Reaches of the Lancaster Canal. The online trip takes viewers on a four mile interactive journey from Hincaster to Crooklands, providing fascinating insights into the canal’s history, wildlife, old working boats and impressive structures like Hincaster Tunnel and Stainton Aqueduct.

The online interactive canal archive, along with the restoration of Stainton Aqueduct, has been made possible thanks to a grant of £1.5 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, delivered in partnership with the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership, and supported by grants from the Rural Payments Agency, South Lakeland District Council, Cumbria County Council and Kendal Town Council.

Workers with equipment and scaffolding on a bridgeOriginally constructed in 1816 to carry the Lancaster Canal over Stainton Beck, the aqueduct suffered catastrophic damage in December 2015 when two destructive storms, Desmond and Eva, resulted in flood water washing away the upper towpath and apron, and causing part of the southern portal and wing walls to collapse.

Project manager, Graham Ramsden said: “This has been a challenging repair project, including two unexpected delays caused by high river levels in both the winters of 2018 and 2019. We saved as much of the original stone as possible and stored it on site so we could reuse it, supplemented by a small amount of new stone sourced from a nearby quarry to ensure a close match in colour and texture.

Stainton Aqueduct“Restoration work has included constructing new cast concrete wing walls and apron, plus highly skilled stone mason repairs to the arch barrel ceiling, decorative archway spandrel and voussoirs stones. It has been a real labour of love to ensure we preserved the aqueduct’s unique character while ensuring the structure was repaired to top 21st century civil engineering standards.”

Supporting the restoration of this important heritage structure has been a major community engagement project led by Carrie House, Lancaster Canal Towpath Trail project officer, and Canal & River Trust heritage adviser Bill Froggatt.

Carrie explained: “This restoration project has been about far more than just mending a historic stone structure. With people currently restricted by the coronavirus pandemic, we hope the online virtual tour will make it easy for everyone to explore the newly restored aqueduct and the wider legacy of this wonderful waterway, so rich in heritage and fantastic scenery.”


Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

As someone who’s out on, or by, the water more often than most, you’ll know that there are times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. So, below, you’ll find a list of anything that’s happening that may affect you if you’re planning on a cruise this weekend:

When any restrictions to navigation happen, we get them up on to our website as soon as we can – always best to have a scan before you set off for a cruise. The tech savvy among you may already know that you can set up your smartphone to notify you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. For those that didn’t know, check out this guide to setting it up.

We’ve also improved the stoppages mapping and resolved an issue where the historic notices appeared on the canal maps.  However, the best way to check for stoppages that might affect your cruising plans is via our stoppage notices webpage.

If you have any questions about a specific closure, or spot an error in our system, please just get in touch.


Get involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering (when coronavirus permits),  donating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded litter. In whatever form your volunteering takes place we’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you. Your support helps make life better by water.

As you’re such an integral part of what makes waterways so wonderful, I thought you’d like to know about other ways you can get involved:

  • Our Annual Public Meeting is less than a week away – 11am on 28 October.  This year, due to coronavirus, the event will be hosted online with an opportunity to put your questions at the end to our chief executive Richard Parry and chair Allan Leighton.
  • Don’t forget that we’re running a consultation about boat licence terms and conditions. If you haven’t already, you can have your say by visiting We ask those who may need specific support to complete the consultation or without computer access to contact Customer Servicesto make arrangements to complete the survey. The consultation started on 28 September and runs for 12 weeks.


More opportunities to book passages online

As a boater you’ll know that it’s not possible to rock up at every single canal or river structure and be able to navigate it as and when you want. Some things, such as the Anderton Boat Lift, need booking in advance. Well, we’re making it easier! 

While a few of these staffed structures can already be booked online via the online licensing portal, many others have individual, local booking processes and over the coming months we’ll be adding more of these to the online portal.

From 2 November 2020, you’ll now also be able to book the following passages online: The first three - Braunston Tunnel; Saddington Tunnel and Blisworth Tunnel (need to be booked if you have a wide beam); Thames Lock; Boston Tidal Lock; Newlay & Kirkstall Forge Locks; Bingley Three and Five Rise Locks and Harecastle Tunnel.  They join the likes of the Ribble Canal and Standedge Tunnel which already use the online booking system.

Before booking passage, you’ll also be able to see all the information you need, including any necessary dimensions, and opening days/times.

Jon Horsfall, head of customer service support, said: “We are pleased to be extending our online passage booking offer. We ask boaters to book passage through some of our structures in advance so our colleagues are prepared and boaters have a smooth, uninterrupted journey. We’re committed to offering the best possible level of service to our customers and we believe boaters will appreciate a more modern booking process that’s available 24 hours a day, and a choice of how to interact with us.”

Find out more on the ‘Booking your passage online’ page of the website. Bookings can be made via the online licensing portal, in the ‘Bookings’ section.


Flying the Green Flag for high standards

100 miles of waterways across England and Wales have been awarded prestigious Green Flag status by Keep Britain Tidy. The new stretches join 300 miles which already hold the quality mark.

This year sees urban waterways celebrating a green renaissance. On the doorstep for millions of local people, urban canals offer unparalleled access to green and blue space with significant health and wellbeing benefits. The importance of urban waterways was illustrated during lockdown, when people ‘stayed local’ and discovered their neighbourhood towpaths, providing them with free, accessible space to exercise and take some time to unwind.

A remarkable transformation

A sunny day on Rochdale Canal, ManchesterThe Rochdale Canal in Manchester City Centre received Green Flag status with improvements including creating cobbled gardens and planters, increased volunteer litter picks, removal of graffiti, and the installation of safety equipment. Also, in the North West, the Stanley Lock Flight in Liverpool gained the award, whilst in the West Midlands, the Green Flag status has been given to a 4½ mile stretch of the Main Line Canal from central Birmingham to Smethwick.

This marks a remarkable transformation for the canal, with partnership working turning it into a place where wildlife can thrive. The entire Nottingham & Beeston Canal has also been awarded Green Flag status, after we improved habitats for wildlife along the canal in the city centre by planting wildflower verges alongside the towpath and installing floating reedbeds.

Here is a list of all the new locations that have recieved the Green Flag:

More important than ever to look after our waterways

Boat moored on Selby CanalJulie Sharman, our chief operating officer, commented: “Canals and rivers are special places, cherished by the communities they run through, the boaters who cruise them, and provide wellbeing benefits for those who spend time by, or on, the water. This year we have seen people discover their local waterways as places to exercise, take a breath of fresh air, and find a moment of peace during the pandemic.

"It’s more important than ever to look after them and we are delighted that more and more officially meet the Green Flag standard, especially in urban centres where they provide such valuable green and blue space.

“A Green Flag Award comes after a lot of hard work and I’d like to thank and congratulate everyone who works or volunteers with the Trust, including everyone who does their bit to look after them – from picking up the odd piece of litter on a towpath walk or making a donation towards the work we do.  They play a big part in making our waterways welcoming and attractive, and helping them achieve Green Flag status.”

Keep Britain Tidy

Saul JunctionCommenting on our success, Keep Britain Tidy chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, said: “This year, more than ever, our parks and green spaces have been a lifeline and we know that millions of people have used them to relax, meet friends, exercise or simply escape for a short time.

“It is testament to the incredible dedication and hard work of staff and volunteers that, despite the challenges that went along with record numbers of visitors, the Canal & River Trust has achieved the highest international standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.”

The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for their management across the United Kingdom and around the world. The status recognises that canals and their towpaths meet these criteria and play an important role in the local community, offering great places to relax, exercise, escape for a while, and get close to nature. 


Bits and bobs

  • Please note that on 4 November (if only it was the fifth and then you’d never forget…) that the boat licensing portal will be offline for essential maintenance.
  • Talking of boat licences, did you know that you can benefit from the full 5% prompt online licence fee discount in two ways – either by logging into your account and paying in full for your licence before its start date or by setting up your licence to automatically renew? So, make sure you’re not disappointed by the loss of your prompt payment discount on your next boat licence renewal if you’re set up to automatically renew by remembering to update your insurance and BSC details ahead of the renewal date. If they’re out of date it’ll prevent your autorenewal from processing. For those of you paying by one instalment direct debit that’s around the 12th of the month and for those of you paying by card that’s around the 22nd of the month.  You can do this easily by logging onto your web licence account.

Last date edited: 23 October 2020

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The boaters' update

Think of this blog as your one-stop shop for up-to-date boating news. It's packed full of useful information about boating on canals and rivers, as well as important safety announcements and upcoming events.

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