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Help Protect Our Waterways

British Canoeing membership provides you a gateway to paddle on thousands of kilometres of precious rivers and canals in England. It is also vital in helping British Canoeing champion the case to create more places for you to paddle.

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For many, the right of access on water remains a major challenge on many of our rivers. For others the battle against plastic pollution is a priority. By being a member of British Canoeing you are supporting our organisation to be your voice in securing fair, shared and sustainable open access and clean, healthy waterways. #ClearAccessClearWaters

For around 4,500km of navigations and waterways in England, carrying a licence is a legal requirement. But, regardless of whether you live in the North or South, East or West; whether you live near a navigation or not, the contribution made through waterways licence goes directly back into supporting a much wider network of rivers, canals, streams and lakes all across England. Helping keep them clean, safe and protected for you and future generations of paddlers to enjoy. 

And do you want the best news? Membership isn’t expensive! 

An annual British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ membership, which includes a waterways licence, insurance and many other benefits, can be purchased for £45. That’s less than the price of a single day ticket for Alton Towers!

Everything you need to know about the waterway licence and how to get one is explained below. 


Who needs a waterway licence?

If you’re kayaking, canoeing or Stand Up Paddleboarding in England or Wales a waterway licence is required to paddle on approximately 4,500km of navigations that are managed by the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT), the Environmental Agency, the Broads Authority and a number of other waterway authorities.


Why do you need a licence?

By having a waterway licence you’re paddling responsibly. You are contributing to the sustainability of waterways, protecting not only the wildlife, but also the heritage of many historic navigations that built Britain! From the historic industrial heritage of the Black Country to the wide open expanses of the Broads, these spaces have to be maintained to support a wide range of users. 

The money generated from licences enables the authorities to carry out a wide range of work that often goes unseen. This includes the upkeep of the banks, ensuring put ins and get outs are maintained, the removal of flood debris, the stocking of rivers with fish and aquatic species, inspecting towpaths, community outreach and much, much more.  

Our blue corridors simply wouldn’t be the same without the dazzling array of wildlife we see while out paddling. From the birds, to fish, amphibians to insects. The waterways agencies and many of their dedicated volunteers carry out vital ecological work helping keep rivers healthy and improving those that are struggling.

One of the major roles waterway authorities play is in the removal of invasive non-native species which if left unchecked, can clog up entire waterways in just a few days costing the UK economy billions of pounds each year. This work carried out by the likes of the Environment Agency, CRT and Broads Authority goes well beyond those waters that require a license. 

For many the highlight of being on the water is the tranquility and alongside the beauty of nature, wildlife and views you get to experience.


How do I get a waterway licence?

British Canoeing membership (if you live in England) or the Canoe Wales membership gives paddlers a licence to paddle on a large number of managed waterways and is the most comprehensive waterways licence on the market. Alongside this, membership provides paddlers with civil liability insurance and a range of exclusive benefits, making it the best value option for paddlers.

For a full list of waterways covered by the British Canoeing membership click here or visit our interactive map Paddlepoints. It’s a great resource to help find new trip ideas and local access spots. 

What else does British Canoeing do for paddlers?

Income generated by membership is reinvested back into the organisation to develop and manage projects that support the paddling community and future development of paddlesport as a whole!  

We know our community is massively passionate about securing greater freedoms to paddle on English rivers. Through our Clear Access, Clear Waters campaign we are putting forward our case to Government for changes in the law. Your membership is vital in enabling us to be your voice on river access and environment issues.

We’re a membership organisation that exists because of our paddlers, which we place at the heart of everything we do. We’re continually working hard to widen opportunities and benefits for our members alongside helping to protect the natural environment. To take a look at some of the projects done recently click here