Words on the Waterway

If you've got a love of canals and a way with words, why not enter our writing competition and share your canal memories with us?

Poet Ian McMillan standing at a canal lock Poet Ian McMillan at a canal lock

Calling wordsmiths, poetic souls and ardent scribblers. If you’ve got a way with words and a soft spot for waterways, this is your chance to share your canal chronicles with a national audience.

We want to hear your tales of time spent on or by our canals and rivers. Write us a story in 300 words or less about your most memorable visit to the waterways. You could tell us about your water-based holidays, time spent volunteering or an unforgettable walk.  What did you see? Who were you with? How did it make you feel?

Our competition winners will be selected by acclaimed poet and author, Ian McMillan, and we’ve got some very special prizes courtesy of canal fan Stephen Fry.

Recalling memories of great times by water

You could recall a peaceful stroll, reminisce about spotting wildlife on a boating holiday or spin a yarn about a fishing trip with an unexpected twist. The subject matter is endless – the only condition is that the piece must be inspired by a visit to river or canal cared for by the Trust.

No professional writing experience is necessary, we want to hear your own personal story told in your unique voice.

About Ian McMillan

Ian McMillan by a canal lock

The winning pieces will be selected by Ian McMillan, presenter of BBC Radio Three’s popular word cabaret, The Verb. One of the best-known contemporary poets in the UK, his string of published works spans poetry and prose. Renowned for his ability to bring places to life through sharing memories with a fond voice, Ian's sharing his expertise to help us find the most inspiring waterway story.


The winning entries will be published on the Canal & River Trust website and receive personally signed copies of books by Emmy award-winning actor and writer Stephen Fry - The Ode, Paperweight and Mythos.

On a recent visit to Birmingham, Stephen Fry was taken aback by the peace and tranquillity of the canal.

Stephen Fry head shot

Right in the middle of a modern bustling jangling city, then in moments you're walking for miles along a green fringed canal watching herons catching breakfast.

Stephen Fry

Prize winners

Winners will be contacted by email by 15 September 2020, and announced online on 18 September 2020. Prize-winning entries will be published on the Canal & River Trust website and email publications.

For full details about how your work may be used, please see our full terms and conditions.


What is the closing date?
Please send all entries by 8pm, 31 August 2020. Entries received after this time won't be accepted.

Who can enter?
We welcome entries from all UK residents over the age of 16.

How many times can I enter?
One entry per person.

How will the entries be judged?
All entries will be judged anonymously. Do not include your name, address or any identifying mark on the story document, other than the title at the top of the first page. The judge's decision is final.

Can I have feedback on my story?
No feedback will be offered, and the judge is unable to comment on individual entries. Amendments cannot be made to entries after they have been submitted.

Submission of entry implies acceptance of all the writing competition terms and conditions.

Last date edited: 29 June 2020