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
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
It is unseen (most of the time) and unsung, but puddle clay is the essential waterproof lining material for our historic canals. Without it, there would have been no water in them.
Not long ago, British Waterways still operated a handful of clay pits but they have all now closed. Nevertheless, a certain mystique still surrounds the subject.
James Brindley, whose birthday was 300 years ago this year, is popularly credited with inventing the use of puddle clay, but of course it’s impossible now to be sure. John Farey’s great encyclopaedic article on Canals, published in 1816, is sceptical on that point but does admit that the Bridgewater Canal probably saw the first use of puddle clay in England.
In his article, Farey goes on to describe how a canal was lined with the material and it did not involve the use of herds of cattle or sheep, quaint as those stories are. It was all down to manpower. Basically, barrow-loads of clay or dense loam were dumped into the canal channel, mixed with water, chopped with spades and trampled by labourers wearing, according to Farey, ‘a stout pair of puddling boots, that will keep out water’. The clay was built up in layers, up to three feet thick on the bed of a canal and it was also applied to the towpath and offside banks to prevent leakage.
Nowadays there are newer methods of waterproofing canals, although many still involve clay products. But whether Brindley first thought of it or not, it was a good idea.
As national heritage manager, Nigel’s role is to lead the Canal & River Trust’s team of regional heritage advisers in England and Wales. He has over 25 years’ experience of working in the conservation, archaeology and interpretation of historic buildings and places. He is a member of the editorial board of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation. He has written numerous articles concerning heritage conservation and is the author of several longer published works, including the English Heritage Book of Canals.