This post is copied with permission from Clare Rutter's post in the British Canoeing Women's Paddling Community Facebook group
This week’s discussion point from me is about the waterways licence, sometimes known as a river licence or navigation licence. Most paddlers have one, some have never heard of needing one and others refuse to get one. So, what is it? Why is it so important? And what happens if you don’t have one?
Having a licence is not like passing your driving test, it is essentially a permit to paddle on privately owned, managed waterways such as rivers and canals overseen by the Environment Agency, Canal & River Trust and other private bodies. Your fee, which covers 4,500km of waterways, gets reinvested back into maintaining these waterways so that you and others can continue to paddle safely, reduce your environmental impact and to make necessary improvements. So where exactly does your licence money go?
✅ Removal of debris from the river such as logs post-flooding
✅ Flood damage repairs
✅ Removal of invasive non-native species, including floating pennywort, which is carried on boats or kit from waterway to waterway and can clog up entire rivers and canals in a matter of days
✅ Installing ‘check, clean, dry’ stations to try and prevent the spread of these invasive non-native species
✅ Maintaining put ins, take outs and towpaths
✅ Managing water quality and levels
✅ Protecting against and repair bank erosion
Give back what you take! If you don’t have or refuse to get a licence then you could potentially be affecting the amount and standard of maintenance work that can be carried out and potentially increase licence fees to those who do invest. With the rise in people hitting the water with more affordable craft, increased maintenance to keep our waters accessible, clean and healthy is likely. If you are caught paddling unlicensed by an Enforcement Officer, you could become liable for prosecution and can be issued with a fine of up to £1000!
So how can you get one? Easily! You can join Canoe Wales (or British Canoeing if you live in England) for £45 a year with reduced rates for couples, families, under-23s and juniors. On joining, you are instantly covered with your waterways licence plus as a member you get a whole heap of other benefits too - such as public liability insurance, legal expenses cover, trespass protection, retail discounts and much more! If you don’t fancy having a membership, you can also buy your licence on a weekly or monthly basis directly from the body managing a particular stretch of water. Even as a regular paddler, buying your licence this way actually works out more expensive than a comprehensive Canoe Wales or British Canoeing membership! Strange but true!
So, what are your thoughts on licensing? Comment below!
British Canoeing #ShePaddles Ambassador for Canoe Wales
ℹ️ Further information & Links
➡️ River Licence
➡️ Prosecution & Penalties
➡️ PaddlePoints – Paddling routes with details of licence requirements
➡️ Environment Agency - Waterways management
➡️ Canal & River Trust
➡️ Inland Waterways Association
➡️ Canoe Wales Membership
➡️ British Canoeing Membership
#ShePaddlesSaturday #ShePaddlesCymru #ShePaddles
📷 Thanks and credit for the photo of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct go to Ty Nant Outdoors