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Working in the natural environment

Many clubs and centres share local rivers and waterways with other waterways users and important wildlife.

Some of these places are often the most beautiful and important countryside. So to help maintain and improve these waterways for the good of everyone, your members can suggest any number of useful and beneficial projects. These might include:

  1. Tree trimming and bank maintenance
  2. Litter picking
  3. River clean ups
  4. Installing infrastructure such as landing platforms and steps
  5. Re-profiling river channel (change the shape, width and depth of the channel)
  6. Introduce boulders to create challenging white water
  7. Removing non-native species (never native ones!)
  8. Alteration of weirs or other fixed structures

PLEASE NOTE: Permissions will be needed for many of the projects listed above.

What you need to remember before embarking on a project:
  • Ensure sustainable use of the river – avoid damaging the natural environment through paddling and managing the waterway responsibly
  • Protect native wildlife – paddle and manage the waterway responsibly and be aware of the wildlife around you – particularly during breeding times
  • Working with others – remember we share use of the river with others, so always avoid conflicts
  • Legislation and good practice – comply with legislation that could apply and a advise others to do the same
  • Advice on non-native species – talk to your local Waterways Advisor or contact a member of the Waterways and Environment Team about bio-security

Check List

  1. Have you permission from the landowner? Permission is necessary to access private land and to carry out any works in a river. You cannot assume that a right of navigation grants any rights to conduct works in a river, whether for clearing blockages or conducting a river clean up.
  2. Are there birds breeding? If so you may be breaking the law by disturbing them. See
  3. Have you got Environment Agency permission to carry out the work within eight metres of the river channel? See
  4. Are there fish using the river gravels and vegetation for spawning? Contact your local Environment Agency Fisheries & Biodiversity Technical Specialist for further information.
  5. Are you working in a protected site (e.g. SSSI) or an area where there are protected habitats and species?
  6. Are you removing non-native plant or animal species? These are detrimental to native species and the water you maybe paddling in. It costs £millions each year to maintain our waterways, including the removal of plants which block our waterways. Make sure any equipment used is checked, cleaned and dried to ensure that non-native species aren’t spread elsewhere. See
  7. For further details and useful contacts – Environment Agency, CRT, Wildlife Trusts, Natural England

For details of how to organise environmental volunteering days (e.g. river clean ups) please see our environment section, or contact us at [email protected].

The Waterways & Environment team, along with our Regional and Local Waterways Advisers can come along to your club / river location to give you advice on potential solutions to any environmental issues you are facing. Please do contact us to discuss this further.

The Waterways and Environment Team has further information which could assist in promoting good practice in the natural environment: