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Aquatic Leisures Coronaviris Update

A return to Paddling in England

British Canoeing’s response to the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy


British Canoeing is pleased to issue this new paddling guidance today, following the lifting of some of the restrictions on paddlesport in England from 13 May 2020. Our new guidance is aligned with the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy, which was published on 11 May.

This guidance relates only to paddling in England, as policy and guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is subject to the devolved governments and their respective national governing bodies.

Our priority remains to protect the health of our members, volunteers and staff and help to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

We recommend that members continue to follow the government and public health guidelines and to stay at home as much as possible. We also want to remind members that if you or anyone within your household has coronavirus symptoms, you should continue to self-isolate.

Whilst we understand the temptation to drive to your favourite paddling place, we urge our members and all paddlers to paddle locally, to take extra care and to paddle responsibly (see more detail below).

If you have any questions about the guidance please don’t hesitate to contact us by using this comment form.

British Canoeing guidance for paddling in England from 13 May 2020

In promoting a return to paddling, British Canoeing strongly recommends the following;

To closely follow all advice from the Government and Public Health England in relation to Coronavirus.

Paddling only with household members or up to one other person; Paddling can take place alone, or with others from the same household, or with no more than one other person from outside of the household.

Social distancing; Paddlers must practice social distancing at all times and maintain a distance apart of at least 2 metres. People from different households should not travel in the same car. Paddlers should aim to avoid busy areas and take great care to maintain social distancing at access and egress points.

Travel; Whilst travel to exercise is not prohibited, our strong advice is that paddlers should paddle locally if possible. In the interest of respecting the views of our countryside partners and protecting rural locations from the spread of coronavirus, British Canoeing is discouraging travel to remote and rural locations, as well as long journeys to go paddling.

Safety and paddling well within capabilities; Only competent and experienced paddlers should be on the water independently. Paddlers are reminded that they are entirely responsible for their own safety at all times and that currently the resources of the waterways authorities and the emergency services are very limited. Paddlers should take care to make responsible decisions, paddle in familiar locations, and favourable conditions.

Paddling at the coast; At present there are no RNLI lifeguards on beaches and although volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational, it is important that only experienced paddlers should paddle on coastal waters and that when doing so they closely follow RNLI safety advice.

Activity must respect local restrictions; Paddlers are responsible for checking to ensure that if they are planning to paddle on a licensed waterway, that there are no paddling restrictions in place. We are aware that as of today, the Port of London Authority still has restrictions in place for recreational boaters, whilst the Environment Agency , Canal & River Trust and Broads Authority have now lifted restrictions but are urging responsible paddling (see below). Paddlers must also only use access points and car parks that are open for use.

Waterways authorities; The authorities have asked British Canoeing to request all paddlers to be particularly mindful of social distancing with other waterway users and especially those who are living aboard their boats and who may be vulnerable or self-isolating. They have also advised that the channels may have not been checked for several weeks, there may be obstructions and that water quality and patrols on the waterways will be varied. They are advising that waterway users must accept responsibility for their own activity.

Sensitivity to the environment; A prolonged cessation in boating activity on all waterways has allowed nature to reclaim habitats. Paddlers must take care to avoid the disturbance of nesting birds and other wildlife that may have returned to the water and are reminded that it is an offence to disturb wild birds when they are nesting.

British Canoeing membership; Paddlers are reminded that a waterways licence is required to paddle on licensed waterways. Members of clubs who are not full members of British Canoeing are only licensed and insured to paddle on waterways when taking part in organised club activity.

At this stage no organised club activity is allowed to take place. If paddlers want to ensure they are insured and licensed they can take out full British Canoeing membership here:

Respect other users; Paddlers should be aware and respect that other water users such as anglers may also be returning to the water after a prolonged spell away and should actively demonstrate a willingness to share the space

Green and Clean; It is more critical than ever, for paddlers to thoroughly wash their hands and equipment before and after activity. Paddlers should make every effort to avoid the ingestion of water, so as to minimise the potential for water borne illness from such as Weils Disease and from undetected pollution incidents. This behaviour is also encouraged to help to stop the spread of invasive non-native species.

Further advice for individual paddlers; In this first phase of return to activity, all individual paddlers should restrict their paddlesport activities to environments which are well within their capabilities, alert friends and family to their activity and predicted return times and ensure they have a means to call for help, handy at all times.

Further advice for led, coached and guided activity; Led, coached, or guided activity may now take place on a 1:1 basis with social distancing. Anyone leading a 1:1 activity should ensure appropriate safety frameworks are in place, that delivery is in safe and familiar environments and that the paddler is self-sufficient and no equipment is shared.

Further advice for clubs and all club activity; This stage of return to paddling only allows households to paddle together or for up to 2 paddlers who are not from the same household to paddle together. Clubs facilities should remain closed and there should be no group paddling or club activity at this time. More information about the re-opening of clubs and centres will be shared as it becomes available.


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