Half the population lives within five miles of one of our canals
and rivers and an incredible 13 million people use them every year
as part of their everyday life. Whether you live close to a river
or along the banks of a canal, doing a tidy up can make a big
difference to the look and feel of an area.
Of course if you're near water, there are extra risks you
need to think about before you get going. As well as safety, there
are other issues you'll need to consider such as biodiversity
and heritage. That's why the first thing you
should do is get in touch with an organisation that knows
about the waterside.
British Waterways cares for 2,200 miles of the country's
canals and rivers. Their annual
Towpath Tidy initiative brings environmental benefits to
the nation's canals and rivers and supports their year-round
work. You can also get involved in their regular
volunteering parties across the country. These meet meet once
a month to undertake a variety of tasks, from litter picking and
vegetation management to painting lock gates and habitat
The regular work parties are a great opportunity for local
people to get involved and make a real difference to the canal or
river on their doorstep and provide an easy way to get involved in
The British Waterways website also contains useful information
about organising events by the waterside.
Assess the risks
Before you think about organising a tidy up near water, you need
to do a full risk assessment of the area. But that's not all. Here
are some other things you'll need to think about:
* The canal system is a 200-year-old transport network and
something that looks like a bit of metal sticking out of the ground
could be an important piece of industrial archaeology.
* Take care that you don't damage any historic structures.
* The waterways network is home to a massive range of
wildlife that will benefit hugely from your help. Remember to
consider the wildlife in these areas - depending on the time of
year they may be nesting or hibernating. Some animals are
protected, so disturbing or harming them could mean that you're
breaking the law.
* It's possible to collect litter on the water from a
boat or from under water using grappling hooks. However, there are
higher and often hidden risks with this, so the involvement of the
waterways owner is essential.
* The water is, on the whole, very clean. However,
it's not clean enough to drink and contact with it should be kept
to a minimum. This should all be considered in your risk
Most of the navigable canal waterways in England are
managed by British Waterways, with others managed by the
Environment Agency, local authorities and local charitable
If you're planning an event by a canal, please
to find out who manages your local waterway. They will want
to know about your event and will give you as much support as
possible. They may even have events already planned that you could
join in with.
For more information about organising events by
water, and to find out about Keep Britain Tidy's waterside-related