for those who love the outdoors

24 October, 2022

Paddlers’ Code to help people enjoy our waterways responsibly

Following the huge growth in paddle sports and with millions of people taking to the water every year, British Canoeing has developed The Paddlers’ Code to share guidance on how to enjoy our beautiful waterways responsibly.

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The Paddlers’ Code is an exciting new guide for canoeists, kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders.

The Code has been developed with Natural England and reflects their work with the Countryside Code. It has also been written in partnership with paddlers and a wide range of stakeholders who it is hoped will adopt the code themselves.

Ben Seal, the head of access and environment at British Canoeing, said:
Following the growth in new people taking to paddling, we felt this was a great opportunity to set out the sorts of things we as paddlers do to protect our environment, respect other users and safely enjoy being on the water.

“It’s a super simple set of good practice guidelines that we hope people will share and use every time they go out paddling. It is not about giving people a set of rules to abide by. It is more about describing the good things we do as a community to paddle responsibly, and respect, protect and enjoy our waterways .”

Like the Countryside Code, the Paddlers’ Code shows how paddlers can best protect wildlife and spot pollution with other pieces of advice.


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The code includes advice for paddlers to keep group sizes small and discreet, avoid damaging fences and walls when lifting crafts over them and generally being respectful to those you meet along the water.

To protect nature, paddlers are asked to avoid dragging boats on river banks and to avoid gravel beds, which can be important spawning grounds for fish. Also, the guide reminds paddlers to check, clean and dry their kit after each trip. This is key to helping stop the spread of invasive, non-native species. The code also includes safety advice, including wearing a buoyancy aid and having the appropriate leash for the environment if paddling SUP.

Amanda Craig, Natural England’s Director of People and Nature said:

“It’s great for people of all ages and backgrounds to spend time enjoying themselves outdoors.
“The first ever Paddlers’ Code compliments the Countryside Code and will really help guide people who kayak, canoe or paddle board, to explore our natural landscapes in ways that will also support and nurture our precious natural environment and create special wildlife moments.
“From not dragging boats on river banks to protecting fish habitats, to keeping kit clean and dry to help stopping the spread of invasive species, to helping spot and report issues - everyone can do their bit to respect, protect and enjoy our waterways responsibly.”

Jo Scully, National Navigation Manager at the Environment Agency said:

“The Paddlers’ Code is a fantastic initiative. We have seen a recent and exciting growth in ‘paddle power’ on all the rivers where we manage navigation, so this is perfectly timed.
“It will help all newcomers to these waterways get the most out of their experience and enjoy themselves, whilst reducing their impact on the environment and other river users.”

Ellie Woodward, the National Trust’s Paddlesport Consultant said:

“We’re really excited for the launch of the Paddlers’ Code as it will help our teams communicate some extremely helpful advice with visitors at National Trust places.
“We’re also pleased to be part of a collective to share the code widely through various channels to raise awareness of respecting, enjoying and protecting our inland and coastal waterways, something we strive for with our conservation work.
“We hope the code will benefit all water users and ultimately the environment we love paddling in.”

Miranda Krestovnikoff, President of the RSPB said:

“As a keen paddler and lover of wildlife, I welcome the introduction of the Paddlers' Code.

“It will help to inspire people to explore our beautiful waterways but to do so responsibly and with consideration to others and the wildlife and help raise awareness of the beauty and fragility of some of our natural rivers, canals and coasts.”

The code can be found at its new website www.paddlerscode.info

British Canoeing membership is the gateway to the waterways.

Having a waterway licence supports the maintenance and protection of the waterways, ensuring they are kept clean and safe.


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