A National Asset

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Every year more then ten million of us visit Britain’s waterways to fish, walk the towpath, observe wildlife or go boating and enjoy the sheer splendour of our canals and navigable rivers.

It may seem hard to believe that just a few years ago these exceptional places of peace and relaxation were nearly lost for ever.  But that’s how it was.

In the 1940s, Britain's waterways were perceived as derelict, dirty ditches.  An ever-decreasing number of working boats struggled in dreadful conditions to maintain the carrying trade - and anyone who navigated canals for pleasure was considered quite eccentric.

That changed with the formation of The Inland Waterways Association in 1946. Certainly not overnight - it took many, many, years of campaigning to convince government, local authorities and the public that canals had any sort of future; 'fill 'em in' was the usual response.

Today, waterways are seen as a valuable part of Britain's landscape.  They are appreciated for their industrial heritage, for their contribution to urban landscapes, and for their atmosphere of peace in a busy world.  Their leisure value is accepted and there is increasing interest in the potential of some waterways for the development of water borne freight carrying.

The Inland Waterways Association has achieved all this - and more. Through its Waterway Recovery Group, IWA has enabled hundreds of miles of disused canals to be restored for use by boaters, walkers and anglers.  Restoration of many more derelict canals is underway, thanks to IWA's members, waterway societies and trusts, sympathetic local authorities and others who support the work of waterways campaigners throughout the country.

Waterways are alive today, but still remain an endangered species.  IWA's campaign will continue, to ensure that Britain's navigable rivers and canals stay alive for all to enjoy.

Download a map of navigable waterways in England and Wales: This inland waterways route map, reproduced by kind permission of Waterways World, gives you a useful overview of the inland waterways system. Canals and Rivers in England and Wales Map (PDF 7MB)