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A return to paddling in England

First issued 12 May 2020

Latest update 1 June 2020

The government has announced that from 1 June people can go outside more than once a day for exercise, alone, with members of their household, or with up to, but no more than 5 people from outside of their household as long as they are following social distancing guidelines.

If you are a personal trainer/coach you can work with clients outdoors, providing you are meeting no more than 5 other people from outside of your household, outdoors, and you are staying a minimum of 2 metres apart.

Club activities can also now take place, where any paddling activity within the club  has had due diligence and a risk assessment carried out by the relevant and accountable club representative(s), has been advertised on the club noticeboard/website and is delivered in groups of no more than 6 club members. 

This guidance relates only to England, as policy and guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is subject to the devolved governments and their respective national governing bodies.

Guidance for the public on the phased return of outdoor sport and recreation in England

NEW - Guidance for British Canoeing affiliated clubs 1 June 2020

NEW - Guidance for Paddlesport coaches and leaders 1 June 2020

Updated - Frequently asked questions 1 June 2020


British Canoeing’s response to the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy.

British Canoeing is pleased to issue this new paddling guidance today, following the lifting of some of the restrictions on paddlesport in England from 13 May 2020. Our new guidance is aligned with the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy, which was published on 11 May.

This guidance relates only to paddling in England, as policy and guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is subject to the devolved governments and their respective national governing bodies.

Our priority remains to protect the health of our members, volunteers and staff and help to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

We recommend that members continue to follow the government and public health guidelines and to stay at home as much as possible. We also want to remind members that if you or anyone within your household has coronavirus symptoms, you should continue to self-isolate.

Whilst we understand the temptation to drive to your favourite paddling place, we urge our members and all paddlers to paddle locally, to take extra care and to paddle responsibly (see more detail below).

If you have any questions about the guidance please don’t hesitate to contact us by using this comment form.

British Canoeing guidance for paddling in England from 13 May 2020, including updates from 1 June 2020

In promoting a return to paddling, British Canoeing strongly recommends the following;

To closely follow all advice from the Government and Public Health England in relation to Coronavirus.

NEW - Paddling alone, with household members or up to five other people; From 1 June, you can now paddle alone, with members of your household, or with up to, but no more than 5 other people from outside your household.

Social distancing; Paddlers must practice social distancing at all times and maintain a distance apart of at least 2 metres. People from different households should not travel in the same car. Paddlers should aim to avoid busy areas and take great care to maintain social distancing at access and egress points.

Travel; Whilst travel to exercise is not prohibited, our strong advice is that paddlers should paddle locally if possible. In the interest of respecting the views of our countryside partners and protecting rural locations from the spread of coronavirus, British Canoeing is discouraging travel to remote and rural locations, as well as long journeys to go paddling.

Safety and paddling well within capabilities; Only competent and experienced paddlers should be on the water independently. Paddlers are reminded that they are entirely responsible for their own safety at all times and that currently the resources of the waterways authorities and the emergency services are very limited. Paddlers should take care to make responsible decisions, paddle in familiar locations, and favourable conditions.

Paddling at the coast; At present there are no RNLI lifeguards on beaches and although volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational, it is important that only experienced paddlers should paddle on coastal waters and that when doing so they closely follow RNLI safety advice.

Activity must respect local restrictions; Paddlers are responsible for checking to ensure that if they are planning to paddle on a licensed waterway, that there are no paddling restrictions in place. The Environment Agency, Canal & River Trust, Port of London Authority and Broads Authority have now lifted restrictions but are urging responsible paddling (see below). Paddlers must also only use access points and car parks that are open for use.

Waterways authorities; The authorities have asked British Canoeing to request all paddlers to be particularly mindful of social distancing with other waterway users and especially those who are living aboard their boats and who may be vulnerable or self-isolating. They have also advised that the channels may have not been checked for several weeks, there may be obstructions and that water quality and patrols on the waterways will be varied. They are advising that waterway users must accept responsibility for their own activity.

British Port Association and UK Harbour Masters Association restrictions remain in place for usage of marinas, slipways and pontoons pending further announcements. Paddlers are advised to check ahead.

Sensitivity to the environment; A prolonged cessation in boating activity on all waterways has allowed nature to reclaim habitats. Paddlers must take care to avoid the disturbance of nesting birds and other wildlife that may have returned to the water and are reminded that it is an offence to disturb wild birds when they are nesting.

British Canoeing membership; Paddlers are reminded that a waterways licence is required to paddle on licensed waterways. Members of clubs who are not full members of British Canoeing are only licensed and insured to paddle on waterways when taking part in organised club activity. If paddlers want to ensure they are insured and licensed they can take out full British Canoeing membership here:

Respect other users; Paddlers should be aware and respect that other water users such as anglers may also be returning to the water after a prolonged spell away and should actively demonstrate a willingness to share the space

Green and Clean; It is more critical than ever, for paddlers to thoroughly wash their hands and equipment before and after activity. Paddlers should make every effort to avoid the ingestion of water, so as to minimise the potential for water borne illness from such as Weils Disease and from undetected pollution incidents. This behaviour is also encouraged to help to stop the spread of invasive non-native species.

Further advice for individual paddlers; In this first phase of return to activity, all individual paddlers should restrict their paddlesport activities to environments which are well within their capabilities, alert friends and family to their activity and predicted return times and ensure they have a means to call for help, handy at all times.

NEW - Further advice for led, coached and guided activity; Led, coached, or guided activity may take place with clients outdoors, providing you are meeting no more than 5 other people from outside of your household, outdoors, and you are staying a minimum of 2 metres apart.

You can meet with different clients in a single day as long as it is in gatherings of no more than 6 and you are maintaining social distancing.

Guidance for Paddlesport coaches and leaders

NEW - Further advice for clubs; Club activities can now take place. Club Associate members are now able to take part in (and are covered for third party liability insurance) any paddling activity within their club that has had due diligence/risk assessment carried out by the relevant and accountable club representative(s), is organised and delivered in groups of no more than 6 club members and is promoted on the official club calendar, website, social media or noticeboard.

Guidance for British Canoeing affiliated clubs

Further guidance

Full details can be found on the Government’s coronavirus website

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Sport England

Sport and Recreation Alliance

Updates from Waterways authorities

Environment Agency

Environment Agency Update for Boaters - 19 May 2020

19 May 2020 - We are keen to get people boating as soon as we can. We currently have teams out along our waterways making preparations safely and swiftly. Our priority is health and safety of our customers and staff and because of the nature of the rivers and our structures this work is ongoing.

You can now do all non-powered water sports on EA waterways and some waterways will be ready for leisure cruising as early as this week, with the rest by 1 June, unless hazards in the waterways prevent us from doing so.

Canal and River Trust

The government advice is that all forms of water sports practised on open waterways, including sailing, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, surfing and paddle-boarding are allowed from Wednesday 13 May.

Avon Navigation Trust

Broads Authority

Port of London Authority  

River Wey & Godalming Navigations