Volunteer FAQs

What volunteer roles are available?
Where can I volunteer?
How do I become a volunteer?
What skills do I need to volunteer?
How much time do I need to dedicate to volunteering?
Can I claim expenses?
What is my local IWA Branch?
Do I have to join my local Branch if I become an IWA member?
Do I have to be an IWA member to volunteer?
If I take part in an IWA activity am I covered by insurance?

What volunteer roles are available?
We have something to suit everyone. For detailed information about the different opportunities we offer take a look here.  Or search our Volunteer Directory.

Where can I volunteer?
All across the country! There are active Branches and WRG groups across England and Wales so there should be an event near you. See our calendar for what we’ve got planned so far.

How do I become a volunteer?
This depends on the role you’re interested in:

  • IWA canal Cleanups – just turn up on the day, location and who to contact for more information/to advise you’ll be attending can be found under the event pages on our calendar.
  • WRG canal camps – you have to book onto these.
  • Volunteer Roles - we have a huge variety of ongoing volunteer roles. Please search our Volunteer Directory for more information.

What skills do I need to volunteer?
This depends on the role you are interested in. Generally no skills are needed with the exception of some Committee roles. In these cases the required skills will be outlined in the role profile.

How much time do I need to dedicate to volunteering?
As much or as little as you want – there is a role to suit all needs. If you are looking for a long-term volunteering opportunity why not consider a role. If you’d rather volunteer in short but intensive spurts try WRG canal camps.

Can I claim expenses?
IWA have an expenses policy that can be viewed here.

What is my local IWA Branch?
Branch areas are sorted by post code – find out which Branch covers your post code.

Do I have to join my local Branch if I become an IWA member?
No. You will be automatically assigned to your local Branch but if you want to be a member of a different Branch just make a request when you sign up.

Do I have to be an IWA member to volunteer?
Only if you want to be a Branch or National Committee member, for all other volunteer opportunities you do not have to be an IWA member.

If I take part in an IWA activity am I covered by insurance?
Yes, you can view the certificate here.

Still got a question?

Phone IWA's Volunteering Team on 01494 783 453 and ask for Jenny Black.

You can also email:
volunteer@waterways.org.uk regarding any queries about volunteering for IWA or WRG.

Every month we have a new interview with a different IWA volunteer so that you can explore the varied roles available to those interested in participating in the maintenance and promotion of our waterways. You’ll be able to see what our volunteers get up to and how they first became involved with IWA. Will their stories inspire you to begin your volunteering journey with us?


Volunteer of the Month (September) - Dave Hearnden  

Dave Hearnden is a WRGie (WaterwayDave Hearnden Recovery Group volunteer) of almost twenty years. Having started volunteering one Christmas on the Wey & Arun he has since volunteered at IWA festivals, led Canal Camps and is now one of the WRG Directors. Having helped to restore parts of our waterways and been IWA Festival Site Director for the past three years, he now shares these experiences and also explains why WRG need to stop being so modest!

When and why did you first become interested in inland waterways?
I have always enjoyed the water, as a strong swimmer, I had all my badges and was going for the teacher qualifications when I joined the Army, very keen fisherman and always like boats and anything to do with water either fresh or sea.

How did you first become involved with WRG?
Oh so long ago, in 1994 I had been out of the Army for eight years, living in Basingstoke, on my own, with two cats.

I have a thing about Christmas, I don't do it, even now I have issues with Christmas, only cards I send are to the Wife, brother and his wife and my Mother. My Mum was reading the Sunday Mail and it had an advert about a working holiday, she said about it many times, and saying about how I like boats and water and fishing etc. thought it would be good for me and so I would not be on my own over the holiday period, to keep the peace I said I would try it. So I phoned up and booked on the week camp that was on the Wey & Arun (W&A) starting Boxing Day and finishing News Years Day. Mum was happy but coming up to the time I was told the W&A had to be cancelled due to flooding, but I could go to the Wilts and Berks, down near Swindon, so I thought fine further to go, but what the heck.

I attended the Camp, Mark Scoble was Leader and in the kitchen was Maureen and Josie. I had a fun time and got the nickname Moose which has stuck ever since.

For a long while I only ever went on digs on the W&A, if any of the travelling team turned up - London WRG, Kent & East Sussex Canal Restoration Group and WRG BITM (bit in the middle), I would turn up and join in, it was my wife-to-be who suggested to try other sites. That is what I did and I have never looked back as they say.

Has WRG and waterway restoration changed since you’ve been involved?
I think the biggest thing to change during my time is Health and Safety. That subject crops up all the time, and even now things are still changing. But saying that look at the work we do, and it does show how important it is for us to be so careful.

What’s your current WRG role, what types of jobs does this get you involved with?
I have been attending the WRG meetings (anyone can attend) for over ten years, missed very few, I was asked to be a Director of WRG, to which I agreed about a year ago. One of the joys is I act as the duty Director for a couple of camps a year, this is to help the Camp Leader and his Team to have someone who is impartial to the site, the camp etc.

I still try and lead a week long camp at least once a year, have led the large weekend digs such as Bonfire Bash, zone leader for the BCN Cleanup, and obviously used to work as a WRGie at the IWA National as well as being WRG leader for the National  three times.

Why is WRG such an important part of IWA?
Why is WRG such an important part of IWA? Such a hard question to answer, if I am honest I think possibly it gives the IWA the justification in what it is trying to do, how many times do we say to people IWA collect the money and WRG go out and spend it on the restoration projects.

I also believe that people see what WRG are doing on the various sites and that makes them look at IWA.

What’s the relationship between WRG and IWA like?
What’s the relationship between WRG and IWA like? Another very difficult question to answer, how many people in IWA know how to go on a dig or a camp?  How many times have I been asked I think I'll join WRG how much does it cost? For information, the minimum donation for Navvies subscription is £3.00 a year, and you phone or go online to book on to a weeks camp, or look for the coordinators for one of the regional groups. These groups organise a weekend once a month, they can work on various sites all over the country, work can be brick laying, pointing, scrub bashing, towpath improvements etc.

What’s the biggest WRG success that you were involved in?
Good question,  this could be one of the many National Boat Festivals I have been either working on as a bod, team leader or as the camp leader. Could be one of the couple of Bonfire bashes I have led, where we had multiple sites  on the Chelmer and Blackwater, or working over the whole length of the Basingstoke Canal with eleven different sites. There was also working with the team that worked on the two Oxford Bridges (79 and 80), or one I always look back at with all its different challenges was demolishing a bridge on the Chelmer and Blackwater. I have great pride in this, all you now see is the replacement bridge that looks splendid in the setting. There are also others that when they are mentioned I still puff out my chest and think “I helped on that”, it could be mixing and delivering  cement to the brickies, puddling clay, or even driving a dumper.  Thinking of the dumper driving, another one was the section of the Hereford and Gloucester, which was reinstated in a week. I was not very well, but I was still on the first camp, driving a dumper or the big roller!    

What have you gained from volunteering with WRG?
WRG is a very social group, you can meet up on a camp or weekend dig, you can be supplying mortar or bricks to Students, Doctors, Chemists, Dustman, Postmen, Accountants, members of the Police - the list is endless. But we all have the same aim in life, to help preserve our waterways and have fun doing it, the normal saying is we work hard but we can also party hard. People enjoy the social side and the camaraderie that comes with it. 

What does the future hold for WRG?
I think it will have a very hard time, I believe that where the Government is putting more emphasis on volunteers, that stock is getting spread out, especially with our friends Canal and River Trust (CRT).

WRG is working with CRT, such as with Lady Capel’s Bridge, the other project was on the Oxford Canal, Bridges  79 and 80.

Something that should help WRG and it needs pushing, is that a WRG camp can be used for the residential part of the Gold Award for Duke of Edinburgh Award,  but  WRG have to do more publicity, we have to sound our own trumpet, which I believe we fail to do.

Thank you to Dave for this interview. If Dave's expereinces have inspired you to get involved take a look at our many volunteer opportunities to find one that suits you.