Whilst there are some places in the UK that are free to paddle, for much of the inland waters you need a license from British Waterways on the navigable waters (larger rivers and of course the miles of canals).
“Fine” you may say, “We’ll leave those (which may be some of the best paddling spots) and just stick to lakes”. Unfortunately, access to many of the lakes and reservoirs are controlled by the owner or license holder. These will typically require 3rd party insurance to make sure that any damage you cause (or the raising of your vessel) can be covered.
Is this sounding like too much red tape?
Fear not, there is one simple solution: Join British Canoeing.
Membership of the British Canoeing provides you with a license to paddle on British Waterways, including the canal network, and provides you with a generous 3rd party insurance. It is by far the easiest way to get on the water.
Membership also gets you discounts (you have an online and in-store discount at Cotswold Outdoor for example), and regular canoe magazines.
You can also take out family membership, where you can add children to the membership at a reduced rate.
This is what we have. A Family British Canoeing Membership, so we’re insured for mishaps, and everyone has a license to paddle on British Waterways. We can go down the canal in a long line, like a family of ducks 😉
You can also take out insurance cover for your boats. We also took this out as the price was very attractive – especially compared to the cost of replacing our canoes.
Joining British Canoeing
There are also some regional canoeing associations:
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