Covid-19 and the inland waterways

Can I visit the waterways?

As the Government eases the lockdown measures we would ask everyone to continue to observe social distancing rules by keeping their distance from other people and moored boats.  

As many lengths of towpaths are less than 2 metres wide it can be difficult to keep to the Government's safe distance guidelines, particularly where boats are moored, and so we ask you to act responsibly when using the towpath, to keep moving and to take extra care on narrow sections.

In England, all forms of boating, water sports and fishing are now allowed.  Many waterway businesses, including hire boat companies, have been able to start operating again and we would encourage people to support them where they can.  

In Scotland and Wales, lockdown measures are being relaxed in different ways, so please follow local guidance. 

Our campaign to support waterway businesses

The image of a narrowboat cruising along the canal is a quintessentially British scene, but sadly many trip boat companies, hire boat providers and other waterways businesses are under serious threat as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. IWA ran a survey in partnership with Waterways World magazine to better understand the situation being faced. Almost 1500 waterway businesses were contacted and the responses paint a very bleak picture, with the majority of businesses reporting that they are at significant risk of collapse and some already closing. 

Find out more about the actions we have taken to support businesses across the waterways.

Our work campaigning to protect and restore the waterways

We have made a number of changes to the way we work whilst we face the challenge of the present situation. These changes in the ways volunteers and staff are working might affect you when you contact IWA or volunteer to help us.

Our staff team is still working from home where possible and we continue to lobby for and raise awareness of the needs of the waterways from our virtual desks. Our active, campaigning volunteers all have access to cloud and digital meeting software to ensure the important meetings they are holding can continue online.

Events and work parties organised by your local branch

In line with government advice, our waterside walks and other outdoor activities such as work parties haven't been running although we are seeing some easing in this area.

Where possible your local branch have been moving their public and social meetings online. We have also introduced a programme of speakers that all members will be able to access - there are some very good speakers and topics you might be interested in.

Please check our website for details about our waterway webinars.

Guidance for running work parties

Guidance* is available for waterway restoration groups and IWA branches restarting work parties. This guidance will be reviewed regularly. Read our guidance on running work parties.

Our national events

IWA Canalway Cavalcade, the National Trailboat Festival on the Wey & Arun Canal and IWA Festival of Water in Perdiswell Park, Worcester, are all now postponed until 2021.

Our Waterway Recovery Group Canal Camps have been cancelled until the end of the year.

How can I stay in touch with IWA?

IWA members will continue to receive Waterways magazine and exclusive member discounts. You can also read back issues of Waterways magazine online.

We are working on extra benefits to offer members that find themselves at home a lot more than usual - such as waterways talks and socials. Joining online meetings is really straightforward; all you'll need is the website link we forward to you and access to a tablet, smartphone, laptop or desktop.

Your support continues to help protect and restore the country's precious waterway network of canals and rivers.

As a waterways-loving community, I'm sure you will reach out to support each other in new ways as we all adjust in these uncertain times.

*Last reviewed 08/07/2020

Online Talks

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We are bringing the waterways to you. Find out more about our waterway webinars.