Winding Hole Survey

IWA is carrying out a joint survey with the Historic Narrow Boat Club (HNBC) to gather information about winding holes on the inland waterways.

Winding holes, otherwise known as 'swinging areas' on rivers and commercial navigations, are purpose built widenings in a waterway to allow boats to turn in order to change direction of travel along the waterway.  

In the original canal era, winding holes evolved at places where working boats needed to turn (other than at canal junctions and arm entrances), usually in the vicinity of factories or wharves. Now, in the 'leisure' canal era, traffic flows - in both pattern and total volume - bear little or no resemblance to the more predictable flows for which the original winding holes were created and located.

The project asked boaters to report, via a survey, on winding holes in the areas they know, or have boated recently, in order to identify where winding holes have been lost (or the size of boat that can use them has been reduced) as a result of siltation, overhanging vegetation, prohibiting notices or chains, or permanently moored boats. It also asked for suggestions for new winding hole locations.  

The joint initiative came about because both organisations had started to look at issues relating to winding holes around the same time. IWA’s initial concern was centred around a number of locations where winding had previously been allowed, but where signs or chains had been put up preventing boats from turning. HNBC’s concern was loss of traditional winding holes following instances of them being given over to long term moorings.  

The information gathered through the results of this survey allowed a greater understanding of the geographical spread of any problems relating to winding holes, and has enabled both organisations to lobby navigation authorities about these issues.


A specification for winding holes has been put together which describes suggested basic minimum requirements when considering future provision.

Download winding holes specification (1.3MB PDF)

Ongoing Campaigns

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