The Waterways Licence in detail

Whether your kayaking or paddle boarding, kicking off your paddling career can be confusing. The advice about where you are allowed to paddle can often be difficult to find, or contradict what you have already been told. We've got everything you need to know about where you are allowed to paddle, and to learn more about the waterways licence.

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Where do I need a licence to paddle?


In England and Wales, you will need a waterways licence to paddle on all Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust waterways, plus a few other stretches of water across the country.If you are unsure if the waterway you want to paddle on needs a licence, your best option is to contact the waterways authority for that stretch of water, or alternatively you can contact British Canoeing to check.

You don't need to take a test to get a waterways licence, and there are a few different options available to you.

British Canoeing are the national governing body in the UK for paddlesports, and provide a waterways licence that covers most stretches of water

Where can I get a licence?

British Canoeing, the national governing body for paddlesports in the UK, provide an 'On the Water' membership that costs £45 a year and covers around 5000km of waterways in the UK. This membership is available to anyone living in England. Canoe Wales also offer a similar membership here.

You can also purchase a licence from the Canal and River Trust which costs £51 annually and is available to all residents of the UK.

Why do I have to purchase a waterways licence?

The money collected from the sale of waterways licences is reinvested into the waterways by the authorities. This ensures that the waterways are in tip-top condition for you when your paddling, and makes sure that they can be enjoyed for many more years into the future too! Also, if you don't you risk receiving a fine!

I've purchased my licence, what now?

Then you're all ready to go. Remember to be considerate of other waterway users and also of the environment your paddling in, we all have a responsibility to look after this! Remember to stay safe too.We highly recommend that you wear a buoyancy aid or personal flotation device and carry a mobile phone with you in a watertight pouch so you can call for help if needed.

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