Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
Work for us
We have vacancies across all of our waterways and in the offices, museums and attractions that support them. We're one of the UK's biggest charities and we take pride in everything we do
If you're thinking of getting in touch then please take a moment to look through these pages as we probably have the answer on our website
Planning & design
All you need to know about planning and design on our canals and rivers
Find a winter mooring
Find a cosy section of canal to hunker down in this winter
10 reasons to take up canoeing
It's a great way to get fit and explore our waterways at the same time
Share the Space
Take a look at our common sense guide to sharing the towpath
Find a place to fish
From reservoirs to club-managed canals and river stretches - find your nearest place to fish
Get your free guide
Download your free guide today and start exploring the waterway nature near you
Download your free guides
You've nine free days out guides to choose from - where will you go first?
Find a walk near you
Are you ready to ramble? Find a waterside stroll or a satisfying hike along our beautiful canals and rivers
Take a look at our upcoming events here.
Find your favourite waterway
With over 95 canals, rivers, reservoirs, docks and navigations, find out more about your favourite waterway
Something for everyone
Help us make a difference and have fun along the way. Find your perfect volunteer role today
Join our team
Could you join your local Towpath Taskforce team and help us to keep our canals looking lovely?
Desmond Family Canoe Trail
If you're aged 16-25 and would like to get involved with this exciting project, please get in touch
Could you be a volunteer lock keeper?
Find out what's involved with this popular volunteering opportunity
Why we think canals are better with Friends
Become a Friend of the Canal & River Trust today and you’ll open yourself up to new experiences and endless opportunities.
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
The past is closer than you think. Come down to the towpath and we’ll show you the treasures that time has not forgotten. Explore the hidden world of canal history just waiting on your doorstep.
Many of our canals were built at the height of the industrial revolution. They have seen 200 years of history and, thanks to our specialist teams, stepping foot onto our towpaths is like walking into a living museum where you can touch all of the exhibits.
Here are a few things to look out for.
Back when our canals and rivers were used to transport goods up and down the country, boatmen and canal companies needed thousands of mile markers to help them work out how far each boat had travelled. Many of these mile markers can still be spotted on our network.
In the early days of the waterways horses pulled boats up and down the country with ropes. In fact, the entire infrastructure of our canals and rivers was built for the horsedrawn era, with clear towpaths and smooth curves on bridges and buildings to avoid snagging towlines.
If you look carefully you can still see rope marks on many of our bridges left from years of narrowboats hauling their goods around the country. Read more about horseboating
Our canals and rivers are home to dozens of aqueducts of many different sizes. These ‘canals in the sky’ are testament to the ambitions of our famous canal engineers and they still look just as impressive today as they did 200 years ago.
Did you know… As part of the construction of the renowned Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, ox blood was added to the lime mortar used to bind the masonry together. This followed the ancient superstition that the blood of a strong animal would strengthen a building or structure.
Back in the days when our canals were used to haul goods around the country, many of the families working on the boats aspired to a better life and decorated their boats with paintings of roses and castles. This tradition has endured and you can still spot roses and castles painted on many traditional narrowboats.
Feared and revered in equal measure since the early days of canal boating, our most well known lock flights have now become leisure destinations in their own right - and a valued part of British canal heritage.
Caen Hill Locks
The Kennet & Avon Canal has awesome examples of canal engineering. The 16 locks that form the steepest part of the flight at Caen Hill are not only a scheduled ancient monument, they are an Olympic sized challenge every boater must do
This famous flight of 21 locks has a facinating history. State of the art locks were built at Hatton to fight off stiff competition from the roads and railways
There are flights of locks all over our network – but not like Foxton. Foxton Locks are in fact home to two amazing feats of engineering in the heart of the Leicestershire countryside
In the hey day of the canals, when commercial cargo was a common sight up and down the waterway network, it took a considerable number of workers to keep our trunk routes operating efficiently. All of these people needed somewhere to live, and so the lock keeper’s cottage came about.
Canal architecture is above all functional, and this is evident in the design of the traditional lock cottage. Two up, two down and constructed from local materials, the cottages still exude a rustic charm – perhaps due to their enviable locations. Canal cottages are often strategically sited at the top of lock flights and enjoy picture postcard views.
Take a step back in time
There are thousands of history-rich places to visit along our canals. Find out what's in your area
Last date edited: 10 November 2017