23 December 2021

Together we have achieved a lot for the waterways, including progress towards carbon net zero waterways and raising awareness of the importance of waterways heritage. We have raised the profile of the inland waterways at government and local levels. In addition, we helped to reopen stretches of waterway, and restore other sections, operated locks, tidied towpaths, responded to planning applications and much more.

As we come towards the end of the year, here are just some of our highlights.


The Kelpies – Forth & Clyde Canal. Photo by Pauline McGill

Following on from a year where people had appreciated their local waterways in new ways, it was only appropriate to start 2021 by highlighting the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways meeting about the importance of sufficiently funding rivers and canals.

The year also brought four new Silver Propeller Challenge locations, from Coventry Basin up to the Kelpies. We have now had eight crews successfully complete the challenge, despite being hampered by restrictions in 2020 and 2021. This challenge continues to encourage people to visit restoration hot spots, lesser-known gems and places that offer potential for the future.


Regent’s Canal, 1950 – one of IWA’s boat trips so that members could discover new waterways. Photo courtesy Canal & River Trust.

In February, we celebrated both the beginning of IWA and new leadership. We looked back on IWA’s proud, 75-year legacy of campaigning for the waterways. In doing so, we raised vital funds to protect waterways heritage with our 75th Anniversary Auction, hosted by celebrity auctioneer, Charles Hanson.

Looking to the future, our new CEO, Phil Hornsey, joined IWA. Building on IWA’s significant campaigning legacy, we are looking forward to the next phase of the charity’s vision with him at the helm.


After a decade-long IWA campaign, the government announced that red diesel could be continued to be used in boats. Political campaigning continued, with MPs being told of the significant health, social and economic benefits to the post-Covid recovery of the UK in getting more people out on the water.


We worked hard to bring green boating to the forefront in March and into April with the launch of our greener boating guide. We are continuing to push for more charging points, more dredging, tax relief for biofuels and further research into future technologies.

May – volunteers continue to get stuck in

Volunteers on the Hanwell Flight

In May we celebrated IWA Canalway Cavalcade – an event that normally takes place every year in London’s Little Venice – with a digital event encouraging supporters to share their memories of the event. Join us for IWA Canalway Cavalcade 2022.

Work parties continued throughout the year, where restrictions allowed.

June – 7,000 MILEs inland waterways uncovered

Boat cruising at Inverness

In June, our unique waterways directory update revealed 7,000 miles of British waterways. Of these, 5,000 of the miles are navigable today whilst the other 2,000 miles are either derelict or under restoration. This was as a result of further research in Scotland, improved coverage of former routes of river navigations and including more branches of the Grand Union Canal in the London area.

July – restoration gets a boost

Canal Camp volunteers hard at work

July saw our Waterway Recovery Group’s Canal Camps back out digging. Our hard-working volunteers boosted the work of restorations on the Derby Canal, the Rivery Waveney, Shrewsbury & Newport Canal and the Montgomery Canal. Given the additional Covid-safe working practices, it was a particularly impressive achievement this year.

We also saw the fruits of our campaigning labour with the announcement of the reopening of Hammersmith Bridge.

August – iwa festival of water reveals unique heritage of worcester

Boats and people at Festival of Water
IWA Festival of Water 2021 at Perdiswell Park, Worcester

IWA Festival of Water 2021 was held in Worcester at Perdiswell Park. Originally planned for 2020, it was a fitting celebration of the meeting between Rolt and Aickman 75 years ago that started IWA. Not only that, the event celebrated the history of Worcester with a heritage walk, along with the usual festival fun.

September – saving structures and stretches

Save Aberdulais Aqueduct structural survey
A survey to help plan for the future of Aberdulais Aqueduct

September was a busy month for campaigning, with plans to save Aberdulais Aqueduct a step closer. The Grade II* listed aqueduct was at risk of further neglect following damage by flooding. We are hoping that the survey will give a better idea of the scale of the repair work and potential cost implications. Another campaigning win, the Uttoxeter Canal saw off a planning application that would have blocked the restoration.

October – saving waterways heritage

The heritage of the waterways, at risk from underfunding and climate pressures.

In October, we launched our campaign to save waterways heritage. As well as celebrating the rich, living heritage of the waterways, our campaign video highlighted the risk to this. People around Britain shared photos they had found of hidden waterways heritage, celebrating some of the less well-known canal and river heritage such as mile posts and rope marks.

November – Funding announced for the waterways sector

Canal with bridge, people sitting on bench and house in the background
The Montgomery Canal

We were delighted that Bridgwater Docks will receive funding from the Government’s Towns Fund and the Montgomery Canal restoration will receive funding from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund. The local Branches have both campaigned for this funding, and we look forward to the positives that the regenerated waterways will bring to local people.

December – wendover canal

Wendover Arm re-watering
Wendover Arm re-watering

It’s always nice to end the year on a positive note where possible. As such, we were delighted to see a further section of the Wendover Canal back in water. The restoration has had a good amount of technical support from our Restoration Hub, supporting local canal trust volunteers. Therefore, it is a great example of successful restoration partnership working.

Please donate today to stop the loss of waterways heritage

Britain’s canals and rivers tell the story of our industrial past – a unique heritage still in use today.

Yet this once great industrial heritage is at risk – from poor planning protection, extreme weather events, lack of knowledge and ill thought-out building projects.

By making a donation, you will help save waterways heritage for you and the next generation.