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Recreational paddling in England permitted under new measures

Issued 5 November 2020, last updated 26 November

Updated 26 November 2020

The government has announced that all areas of England will return to a tiered system of coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions on Wednesday 2 December.

New guidance issued will be aligned with the government’s Covid-19 winter plan and the return to the three tier system in England.

The Covid-19 winter plan includes:

  • Organised/structured outdoor exercise and sports can resume
  • The rule of 6 will apply outdoors - for meeting with friends and family
  • Gyms, swimming pools and the wider leisure sector can reopen

There will be restrictions in place, in line with the three tier system.

Full details are available on the government's website.

COVID-19 Winter Plan - updated 23 November 2020

Full list of local restriction tiers by area - published 26 November 2020

We will update our guidance to reflect what this will mean for paddlesport activity, clubs, centres, providers, coaching and leading once we have received further clarity from DCMS, Sport England and other key stakeholders.

The information below, issued on 5 November, remains an accurate reflection what is and isn’t currently allowed up until 2 December.

Issued 5 November 2020

Following the recent Coronavirus (Covid-19) government announcement regarding new lockdown measures, British Canoeing has today received confirmation that recreational paddling and exercise on the waterways in England is permitted.

British Canoeing has been in conversations with Sport England, Sport & Recreation Alliance and the waterways authorities over the past few days to present our views and seek clarity for our members and the paddlesport community.

Guidance issued by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Sport England confirms that recreational paddling is permitted within the government measures so long as you are:

  • on your own
  • with the people you live with (your household)
  • your support bubble
  • on your own and with one person from another household – this could be a coach for 1:1 coaching

Children under the age of five, as well as disabled people dependent on care, are not counted towards the limit on two people meeting outside.

Outdoor exercise limits - There is no limit on the amount of time spent exercising outdoors, or the amount of times per day you can exercise outdoors.

Travel - You can still travel to exercise outdoors, but where possible we would strongly advise paddlers to paddle locally.

Coaching - 1:1 coaching/personal training sessions can take place in a public outdoor space, so long as social distancing is maintained.

A thorough risk assessment for all activity and appropriate safety frameworks should be in place. Any coaching of under 18s and adults at risk on a 1:1 basis should be avoided. Coaches are reminded of the principles of British Canoeing’s safeguarding policy.

Elite training - Elite training has been identified as an exemption and is defined by Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to include professional sport and lottery funded athletes within Olympic and Paralympic sports. 

This does allow for the lottery funded athletes in the sprint, slalom and paracanoe World Class Programmes to continue to train, subject to full compliance with a number of detailed Covid-19 requirements laid out in the new government measures. 

We are grateful to the National Water Sports Centre, Lee Valley White Water Centre and Dorney Lake, who have worked in partnership with us in order to facilitate these arrangements.

Safety - We fully advocate staying safe on the water as we head into winter conditions and 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.

A guide to staying safe during winter paddling is available on the Go Paddling website.

Waterways licence - Paddlers are reminded that a waterways licence is required to paddle on licensed waterways. Full details on membership is available on the British Canoeing website.

Clubs and centres/paddling events and competitions

Following the approval of the Bill in Parliament on 4 November there is a requirement to suspend all paddling events and competitions and to close paddling clubs and water sports centres/facilities.

British Canoeing does have a guidance document to help event organisers plan and understand how government guidelines may apply to them when delivering events in the future. 

The new measures will be underpinned by law, which was approved by MPs on 4 November.

The new national restrictions come into force from 5 November to 2 December and apply to England only.

We recognise that decisions that apply to activities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be taken by the devolved administrations. For further information and current advice contact:

Scottish Canoe Association 

Canoe Wales 

Canoe Association of Northern Ireland


Useful links

Government - Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Government - New National Restrictions from 5 November

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

Sport England

Canal and River Trust - Coronavirus and paddle sports

British Canoeing guidance - Competitions and Events