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Thread: Waterways where licence not required

  1. #1

    Default Waterways where licence not required

    Hi,

    I'm new to this site (and to canoeing/kayaking) I have purchased two canoes to help get our family (2 adults and 3 children) more involved in outdoor activity.
    After researching as much safety information as possible and buying the suggested flotation devices etc I have just discovered that we also need a licence for virtually all the inland waterways in England. I have read about British Canoeing membership and that that includes the licence etc. However I just don't think I can afford to commit to 95 per year. My question is, are there any waterways in SE England where I can put the boats in without the requirement for a licence ? (apart from the sea!) Thank you in advance.

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    I think you could get away with a two adult family membership @ 65. so long as there's a BC member in each boat, that covers your waterways licenses. I'm not sure what additional benefit you would get from paying the extra for the children unless they're going to get involved in BC-affiliated clubs or something.

    generally, tidal water doesn't require a license, but this probably isn't ideal for novices.

    in reality, you're pretty unlikely to be asked for your BC card unless you're going through a Thames lock or similar.

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    And don't forget the BC membership also gives you public liability insurance in case something goes horribly wrong. Most of the places you don't need a waterways license such as some reservoirs will insist you have that.

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    Officially, you do need a waterways license for a lot of waterways.

    I have never carried mine and never been asked for it.

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    Rivers?

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  6. #6

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    Thank you for the replies. Very useful info indeed. I didn't even consider the 65 for two option, makes perfect sense (even if it is effectively a river tax !) I may take a chance on the rivers for a wee bit without a licence and see how things go.

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    If you post your (general) location, perhaps on a different thread, and ask for local river recommendations you might be surprised how much is around that is paddleable in some sense.

    www.paddlepoints.net is also a great tool for finding local spots.

    I'm not a huge fan of canals (booooooriiiing) so tend to find myself on the smaller 'un-navigable' rivers that I don't believe require a licence.

    I do have a licence (mostly for the insurance) and always carry it, but I have never been asked for it.
    I refuse to let the fact that I haven't got a clue what I'm doing hold me back in any aspect of my life.

  8. #8

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    even if it is effectively a river tax
    No, it's doesn't cover rivers, and you won't find many canoeists who would pay a river tax. The licence included in BC membership covers canals. Rivers are natural features and have had a public right of navigation since the Magna Carta or before (although the evidence is disputed) while canals are artificial - somebody had to buy the land and pay to build them, so payment is legally justified and goes towards their upkeep.

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    It does provide access to certain rivers https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/g...-arrangements/ and of course go on one of the other rivers and you may well find yourself confronted by angry anglers or water bailiffs. Much as I'd like it to be true its a bit disingenuous to say there is a right of navigation on rivers dating back to the Magna Carta or before!

  10. #10

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    It does provide access to certain rivers
    My apologies, it does - mainly rivers which have been controlled and modified, and where there's been an Act of Parliament to give jurisdiction to a particular body.
    its a bit disingenuous to say there is a right of navigation on rivers dating back to the Magna Carta or before
    I don't agree that it's disingenuous; I did say the evidence was disputed but it does exist. There are a lot of people who agree with me; the following quote is from the link I included:
    We believe if you look at this evidence it will lead you to the inescapable conclusion that there is, and always has been, a Public Right of Navigation on all rivers in England & Wales, subject only to the physical constraints of the river and the size/nature of the craft using them.

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    Trouble is that isn't what you find on the water. Try canoeing down the Derwent through Chatsworth Park and see what happens!

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    What you might find is someone who doesn't understand the law. Or maybe you might just have a nice day out.

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    Scaldy,

    Welcome to a difficult and somewhat tetchy topic, that has little/no sign of being resolved.

    On a personal level, I go with the paddle anywhere, politely, sort of approach. I am happy with my assumption that my paddling non-tidal waters is not a criminal offence. That said I am signed up to BC (for insurance and canal usage), and for BC support should anything 'civil trespassy' ever transpire.

    I don't know the specifics in SE England, but I've never been asked to evidence license in the Midlands.

    Just in case its of interest here are a few BC paragraphs and links.


    In England and Wales there are differing opinions regarding Public Rights of Navigation (PRN) along non-tidal waters. The bed and banks of all rivers and canals are privately owned, and many believe this gives the landowner the right to control navigation. British Canoeing believes recent legal research has cast significant doubt upon this interpretation of the law. Some waterways do have a widely recognised Public Right of Navigation, such as the Upper Severn and the Wye. Many other waterways find their status disputed despite clear evidence of both Statutory and Common Law rights of navigation.
    Source: https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/g...s-and-the-law/

    Same page also states:

    More recently, a series of access studies, legal and historical research, along with statements from bodies such as DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly Government, have also shown the issue of access to and along water in England and Wales is legally unclear.
    BC also provide this Trespass Briefing Note


    Anyway, hope you get out to do some really enjoyable hassle free paddling - the way it is supposed to be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scaldy View Post
    I have just discovered that we also need a licence for virtually all the inland waterways in England
    Virtually every vaguely interesting stretch of waterway in Britain lies outside of any licensing scheme... and where licenses do exist, canoeing is generally an afterthought - you're looking at Navigable Waterways where you're arguably better off in a different craft.

    The places in the SE which most of us find more interesting are almost all listed on the Uk Rivers Guidebook. A few examples:


    Title
    River Avon - Avon Tyrell to Christchurch Harbour (Avon Tyrell to Christchurch) - one of the UK's most beautiful rivers.
    River Medway - Tonbridge to Allington (Tonbridge to Allington) - Kent's most famous river.
    River Stour - Sudbury to Bures (Sudbury to Bures) - flowing along the Essex/ Suffolk border.
    River Wey - Goldalming to Weybridge (Godalming to Weybridge) - Surrey touring.
    Beyond that... from the SE it's arguably easier to use the tunnel to access great rivers like the Canche than it is to get to most of the finer British waterways... because most of the latter are north (in most cases well north) of the Tees-Exe line!

    With all that said... I'd recommend BC membership simply for the insurance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregandGinaS View Post
    Virtually every vaguely interesting stretch of waterway in Britain lies outside of any licensing scheme... and where licenses do exist, canoeing is generally an afterthought - you're looking at Navigable Waterways where you're arguably better off in a different craft.

    The places in the SE which most of us find more interesting are almost all listed on the Uk Rivers Guidebook. A few examples:


    Title
    River Avon - Avon Tyrell to Christchurch Harbour (Avon Tyrell to Christchurch) - one of the UK's most beautiful rivers.
    River Medway - Tonbridge to Allington (Tonbridge to Allington) - Kent's most famous river.
    River Stour - Sudbury to Bures (Sudbury to Bures) - flowing along the Essex/ Suffolk border.
    River Wey - Goldalming to Weybridge (Godalming to Weybridge) - Surrey touring.
    the Medway is licensed by the EA & the Wey by the NT, both of which are included in the BC license. I'm not familiar with the other two.

  16. #16

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    The rivers license is of great benefit to BC members in the SE region.

    The following waterways are covered, River Thames, River Medway (Tonbridge to Allington), The Basingstoke Canal, Wey Navigation and the Wey and Arun canal. Tidal Rivers do not require a license. There are two other rivers you can paddle without requiring a license where there is a public right of navigation. The East Rother (launch at Bodiam Castle, NT) and the Sussex Ouse, launching at Barcombe Mills.

    A Rivers license is not a tax. You only have to look at the River Medway to see the investment in canoe shoots and portage points to see how the income has been used for the benefit of paddlers.

    Noel Humphrey
    RWA South East Region

  17. #17

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    You only have to look at the River Medway to see the investment in canoe shoots and portage points to see how the income has been used for the benefit of paddlers
    But if the Medway was in its natural condition, canoe shoots and portage points wouldn't be necessary. Weirs interfere with the right of navigation (assuming there is one, see above!) and, arguably, their owners should provide a means of passage in the same way that stiles have to be provided where there's a fence across a footpath. There is, I believe, a legal precedent for this concept. I realise not everybody will agree with me, and that's fine, but there are valid legal arguments for taking a different view to the one foisted on us for the last century or two, and if we don't accept that we will never convince anyone else of it.

    I'm NOT saying that we actually can paddle any river without meeting objection, just that we ought to be able to.

    It's also worth noting that eve if there is a public right of navigation there is no legal right to cross private land to reach a river. If we can gain access across public land or via existing rights of way, so much the better but, where necessary, access across private land to reach the river is something that we should be prepared to pay for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_B View Post
    But if the Medway was in its natural condition, canoe shoots and portage points wouldn't be necessary. Weirs interfere with the right of navigation
    weirs are generally there to make a river navigable in the first place

  19. #19

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    weirs are generally there to make a river navigable in the first place
    True, if they are making it navigable for larger vessels like barges, but it would be navigable for small boats (& canoes) without weirs. Being a Northerner, I'm had in my mind weirs that were built to impound water to power mills.

  20. #20

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    If you live are living in the South East of England and new to paddling, then the guide book "Pub Paddles" is probably what you need. Please see the reviews.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noel Humphrey View Post
    There are two other rivers you can paddle without requiring a license where there is a public right of navigation.

    I think you will find there are loads of rivers in the south with a right of navigation which can be paddled without a licence.

  22. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    I think you will find there are loads of rivers in the south with a right of navigation which can be paddled without a licence.
    Whilst there are other rivers in the South East (Kent, Surrey and Sussex) including the Stour, Arun, West Rother and Mole you are likely to be challenged. The original post was from a family who are new to the sport. It would not be appropriate to advise them to paddle any river.

    The other waterway I did not mention is the Royal Military Canal. The EA controlled section no longer requires a licence.

    Noel Humphrey
    RWA South East Region

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    I can understand the particular circumstances but I am wary of letting people believe that all other rivers are unavailable to them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noel Humphrey View Post
    Whilst there are other rivers in the South East (Kent, Surrey and Sussex) including the Stour, Arun, West Rother and Mole you are likely to be challenged. The original post was from a family who are new to the sport. It would not be appropriate to advise them to paddle any river.

    The other waterway I did not mention is the Royal Military Canal. The EA controlled section no longer requires a licence.

    Noel Humphrey
    RWA South East Region

    Pardon my ignorance of acronyms.

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    RWA = Regional Waterways Advisor, a British Canoeing volunteer role.

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    For what it's worth Gordon, I am an LRA, also a BC volunteer not averse to the odd TLA.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_B View Post
    RWA = Regional Waterways Advisor, a British Canoeing volunteer role.
    Good to know. I thought it might have been some sort of anglers association.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    For what it's worth Gordon, I am an LRA, also a BC volunteer not averse to the odd TLA.
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  29. #29

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    I wondered about 'chancing it' and not getting a license, but the canal and river trust are pretty on top round by me with an office that i paddle past and a heavy presence at the anderton boat lift, which is also worth a visit. I got one for two reasons, one is peace of mind if anyone does question you, and the other is, well, it's only right really to contribute. Saying that, at the anderton boat lift, there were quite a few C&RT people knocking about and no one said anything - I think if you 'look like you know what you're doing and look safe' they don't bother with you. I assume it's like you don't see a police car pulling over every car that drives past - just the dodgy ones.

  30. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    I can understand the particular circumstances but I am wary of letting people believe that all other rivers are unavailable to them.
    I agree Adrian, but there are more ways for rivers to be unavailable than by absence of rights to navigate. Many people are kept away from rivers by confrontation and threats, fear of confrontation, or illegal/unjustified signage. That doesn't make paddling unlawful, but it can make those rivers 'unavailable' to many.

  31. #31

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    Wow it really is a tetchy and complex issue ! Apologies for stirring a bit of a hornets nest there . We've decided to head to the Thames at Lechlade first week in October for a couple of days. It's fairly close to our place in West London (well, 70 miles !) Hopefully nobody will take any notice of us in our little boats. I'm just itching to get on the water as I enjoyed it so much as a teenager on the lakes of Kerry in old wooden rowing boats :-) I'm guessing the Thames is a definite licence area ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scaldy View Post
    Wow it really is a tetchy and complex issue ! Apologies for stirring a bit of a hornets nest there . We've decided to head to the Thames at Lechlade first week in October for a couple of days. It's fairly close to our place in West London (well, 70 miles !) Hopefully nobody will take any notice of us in our little boats. I'm just itching to get on the water as I enjoyed it so much as a teenager on the lakes of Kerry in old wooden rowing boats :-) I'm guessing the Thames is a definite licence area ?
    Yep, the Thames is a definite licence area, and one of the few where it is even remotely possible that you'll be checked. This would be when going through a lock, though many of them will be unmanned up there, and even if manned, most don't ask.
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    Unfortunately starting at Lechlade the first lock you come to is one of those where you are most likely to be asked to show your licence. I think I have been asked three times, that was one.

  34. #34

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    Thanks again for all the info. Just a follow up. We decided to go last week instead of leaving it later. The first outing was excellent, Lechlade is a great spot to begin the adventure of canoeing/kayaking. We didn't get asked for a licence by anyone (bought the family BC membership) Mind you we did take the boats out of the water and walked around the locks. That said, it looked as though the locks were not staffed in any case ! Can't wait to get on the water again

  35. #35

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    Our local canal the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation (a canalised natural river) is not included in the BC licence.

    I'm not sure but that may include all the waterways controlled by the IWA, I'm sure somebody will correct me if I've got this bit wrong

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