Press release

Canal & River Trust launches on wave of support

The new charity will give people who visit and love the waterways a greater role in making them cleaner and more beautiful than ever.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

More than 2,000 miles of historic canals and rivers across England and Wales are being handed over to the Canal & River Trust today in a move to get communities more involved in their local waterways.

The new charity, whose Patron is the Prince of Wales, will give the 10 million people who visit and love the waterways a greater role in making them cleaner and more beautiful than ever.

To mark its launch, the Trust has unveiled its first appeal, 50 projects across the nation that will breathe new life into towpaths and riverbanks. By pledging money or time people can get involved in projects such as creating new habitat for rare water voles, planting linear orchards for people and wildlife, and restoring neglected towpaths.

Actor and comedian, Hugh Dennis, who is supporting the Canal & River Trust’s appeal, comments:

“For me, as a Londoner, the Regent’s Canal provided a small slice of rural tranquillity right in the middle of a chaotic and bustling city, and its towpath a route to work, my running track, or just a place to watch the world go by. The Canal & River Trust needs your help to make your towpaths even more special. Volunteering or making a small donation will make a huge difference to the people and nature along your local waterway.”

The Canal & River Trust takes over from British Waterways and The Waterways Trust in England and Wales and represents a completely new approach to caring for the country’s waterways. The move, part of the Public Bodies Reform programme, is the largest single transfer of a public body into the charitable sector.

The Trust aims to build upon the public passion for the nation’s canals which rescued them from dereliction and decline in the last century, through increased fundraising, volunteering and community involvement.

Defra is helping the new charity get off to a great start by committing to a landmark, 15-year grant funding agreement as the bedrock to help the Trust maintain its waterways. In addition, the Trust is funded through commercial income including money from its waterside property dowry, boat licences and moorings. Every penny donated by the public to the Trust will be spent directly on conserving, restoring, and enhancing the waterways.

Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Environment, said:

“This is an exciting period in the history of our canals. By placing our waterways in trust for the nation, we are giving all those who love our rivers and canals an opportunity to get involved in how their local river or canal is run and help to provide a bright future for our historic canals. We have got the new charity off to the best possible start and now it needs the help of all those that use and cherish our waterways.”

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said:

“This Government is determined to deliver public services in different, better ways and that’s just what this new charity will do. The Canal & River Trust will empower the very people who know British canals and waterways the best to get involved in how they are run. This is the Big Society in action - and because it’s also the largest single transfer of a public body into the charitable sector, it’s also a major milestone in our programme to reform quangos.”

Tony Hales, chairman of the Canal & River Trust, comments:

“In the last 50 years our canals and rivers have been transformed from a national disgrace into a national treasure. This in itself has been extraordinary, but it is only the start. The Canal & River Trust opens an exciting new chapter in the waterways’ long history and gives a chance for everyone who cares for them to play a part in their future. By harnessing public goodwill and energy our canals and rivers can breathe much needed new life into our towns, cities and countryside. It’s an amazing opportunity and we can’t wait to get going!”

The Canal & River Trust has already won the support of three major corporate partners. £1m of funding is being pledged to support the Trust’s conservation work thanks to players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. Google is working with the Trust to encourage people to discover and enjoy the wildlife along their local waterway by literally putting towpaths on the map - Google Maps. And The Co-operative Bank will offer those who enjoy or live on the waterways the option of supporting the conservation work of new Trust through everyday banking products.

For details of the Canal & River Trust, including how to visit, volunteer or donate see

To see a list of the appeal projects and how you can get involved visit

Updates to this page

Published 12 July 2012