Covid-19 and the inland waterways

Can I still visit the waterways?

During these challenging times we would like to see all waterside paths remain open, but your safety comes first. 

As the Government starts to ease 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 water sports and fishing are now allowed, and the use of privately-owned motorised craft for short journeys is now allowed on some waterways (in line with the guidance issued by the relevant navigation authority).  You can take part in these activities on your own, with your household, or with one other person while adhering to social distancing rules. You may travel to your boat in a private car (please check first if access to your mooring is permitted) but you may not stay on board overnight if it is not your primary residence.

In Scotland and Wales, lockdown has yet to be eased 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 recently 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

In the light of the announcements from the Government in relation to COVID-19, 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 now working from home where possible but we will 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 won't be running until at least the end of June.

Where possible your local branch will move their public and social meetings online. We have also introduced a weekly 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 weekly. 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 summer Waterway Recovery Group Canal Camps have been cancelled, but we are hoping to run the Camps from October onwards.

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 27/05/2020

Online Talks

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