Places to Paddle and Explore with British Canoeing
The weather is getting warmer and our waterways are alive with wildlife as we enter the summertime, so why not find a new place to paddle?
Some paddlers will have braved colder temperatures and shorter days throughout the winter and early spring, but for many now is a great time to get back on the water.
So, where can we go to get back in the water?
Firstly, despite about two million people paddling each year, less than 4% of rivers across England and Wales have a clear right of access.
The Clear Access, Clear Waters campaign is pushing for that to change because more than ever, we all need access to our natural spaces and places to paddle, for health, fitness and to help protect our environment.
You could help by signing our petition asking the government to review current policy regarding access to blue spaces in England and Wales. You can then share this with your MP.
For now, thankfully, British Canoeing members and volunteers maintain a number of sites across the country to make it easier to go paddling.
Below are some of those places to try out and explore, along with some of the information you need, plus, hopefully, plenty of inspiration.
Halton Rapids is located on the River Lune, about a kilometer upstream of the M6 bridge, north west of Lancaster.
Paddlers have been enjoying the clean water rapids at Halton since the 1970s and competitions have even been held there.
Access has continued at the site thanks to the hard work and dedication of volunteers over the years, like Pat & Norman Green.
“[Halton Rapids] is suitable for all levels of paddlers,” she said.
“The top of the rapids is where the more technical water is and it gets less technical as you move down the river.
“Depending on the water level and ability, paddlers can access the river at different points.
“Some paddlers get on the river at the British Canoeing steps and paddle up the river to a point where they are comfortable.”
British Canoeing members can use the toilets, showers and parking at Halton Mill with permission and via prior arrangement.
All users are encouraged to share the space respectfully and responsibly, as the area is popular with anglers too.
The village of Symonds Yat straddles the River Wye in Herefordshire, near to the Gloucestershire border.
Thousands of paddlers use the rapids, which flow all year round, thanks to the hard work of volunteers at the site.
About 25 years ago, funds were raised to purchase the rapids with a view to put it into a trust for paddlers to use in perpetuity.
Paul Howells, who is part of the management group, said:
“We eventually got planning permission to preserve and protect the island and install 84 (six tonne) boulders to create permanent rapids for all to enjoy.”
Access is via Wyedean Canoe Centre, east of Symonds Yat. Visitors are not to park at the Royal Lodge or Saracen’s Head, as there’s no access on or off the river.
Also situated on the picturesque and popular River Wye, is the Toll Paddock at Hoarwithy, another of British Canoeing’s sites.
In 2016, a piece of land in the village of Hoarwithy was acquired to allow paddlers to land and launch on the river.
There is a limit to how many days that area can be used for parking and camping due to land use restrictions. This year’s dates are available on the British Canoeing website.
It is best to book in advance and by doing so you will get a code for the gate to access the site.
“The bank can get very muddy and slippy,” said volunteer Mike Mitchell of Wyedean Canoe Club.
“At low water there is a beach at the bottom corner of the site.”
He added that there is also a privately owned campsite next door where you can launch your canoe. A booking has to be made with them separately.
British Canoeing prides itself on being a stakeholder on the River Wye and is committed to being a responsible land owner.
Broadway’s Meadow is located next to the River Soar, in Barrow Upon Soar, near Loughborough, Leicestershire.
The land is well situated to give access to sections of the river and ideal for part of a tour, taking in other areas of the county as well as Trent Lock in Nottinghamshire.
The land is leased by British Canoeing and managed by the East Midlands Regional Development Team
Andy Oughton, from Friends of Broadway’s Meadow, said thanks to the commitment of other members they have been able to make improvements to the site.
“The funding that has come in has enabled us to get a water connection on the meadow at a cost of almost £4000,” he said.
It is hoped that composting toilets can be installed and improvements to the meadow’s habitat, highlighted by Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust, can be made in due course.
“We have seen a huge rise in the number of paddle boarders using the launch points.
“We had a very successful family camp last summer. [We] had ukulele bands playing by the campfire.”
For more information about the sites regarding booking and how to get there, please visit the Places to Paddle section of British Canoeing’s website: https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/go-canoeing/access-and-environment/access-to-water/british-canoeing-places-to-paddle
There are also 4,500km (2796 miles) of waterways to explore.
Some of the fee of your membership goes towards supporting the work that waterway authorities carry out to maintain and protect our rivers, canals and sites just like the ones listed above. This will ensure they are kept clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.