Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
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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
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
With George being a historically horse-drawn short boat, I felt it would be appropriate to share with you a few facts about horse boating in the early days of the canals…
Our Window on the World project will use this traditional means of canal boat traction to tow George along theLeeds & Liverpool Canal. Horses will take a lead role in transforming George into a moving historical attraction for our visitors to experience during the spring and summer seasons…
As historian P.J.G Ransom professed: ‘The principal means of propulsion for canal boats and barges, for over 150 years, was the horse’. Horses were absolutely essential to the Britain’s industrial revolution, and they remained at work on canals until the mid-20th century. Donkeys and mules were sometimes used for the same purpose, though horses were undoubtedly the most popular.
Both long and short boats were originally all-wooden craft, towed by a single heavy horse. Features of the typical horse drawn craft would be a feed box or a 'proven tub' on the after dock and a water barrel, with a five gallon capacity, mounted on a deck still in a sideways position.
Canal horses needed high energy food to aid their long tiresome journeys along the waterways. They mainly lived on corn, crushed oats and chopped hay that had been prepared for them. A hard-worked canal horse had to be very well fed at regular intervals to wade off fatigue. Horse-drawn boats therefore required a huge amount of work to be done by boatmen and their families.
At the end of each working day, horses needed a stall in a stable to get some well-earned rest. As a result, every warehouse, dock or canal side pub had to contain stables. Furthermore, blacksmiths were also in demand in canal side locations to keep the industry running smoothly – boat horses could easily wear out a set of shoes somewhere between four and six weeks.
Maintaining the horse’s wellbeing was a very serious affair for most boat owners. Horses were considered to be their most valuable possession (after the boat of course!) They had to ensure that their horse was in full health and well-fed and rested at all times – or else the business would suffer.
For many boatmen and women, carrying goods along the canal provided their only source of income. Without a horse to haul the boats along the waterways, boatpeople found themselves in hot water, as they had no means to transport goods to earn themselves a living.
Horses were therefore generally very well-treated by the families who owned them. A minimum of two people were required to work a horse drawn boat – one to steer and keep the boat in deep water and the other to drive the horse. It was frequently the man and his wife who occupied these roles. If they had children, they would also help out to set the locks when passing through them.
The National Waterways Museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of artefacts that tell the story of Britain’s canals and navigable rivers over the last 300 years. With sites at Ellesmere Port and Gloucester, the museum holds over 12,000 historic objects and 68 historic boats and is designated by the Arts Council England as of national importance. The National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port is also home to the Waterways Archive including over 100,000 papers, drawings photographs, plans and books relating to the waterways – a vital part of our national cultural heritage.