Thames & other waterways reopen to recreational paddling, subject to strict coronavirus limits

by Ian Tokelove
A view of Tower Bridge from a kayak on the Thames at dusk

Coronavirus update 13th May 2020

The Port of London Authority has advised that a limited return to recreational paddling on the River Thames is permissible.

The PLA states that we must maintain social distancing of two metres and that we should restrict group activity to family members or people living in the same household. However, Government coronavirus advice, repeated by Canoe England, is that it is okay to meet with one other person from outside of the household, while respecting the two metre rule.

With regard to travel, Canoe England’s advice is: “Whilst travel to exercise is not prohibited, our strong advice is that paddlers should paddle locally if possible. In the interest of respecting the views of our countryside partners and protecting rural locations from the spread of coronavirus, British Canoeing is discouraging travel to remote and rural locations, as well as long journeys to go paddling”.

The Canal and River Trust say: “The government advice is that all forms of water sports practised on open waterways, including sailing, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, surfing, and paddle-boarding are allowed from Wednesday 13 May. All of these activities must be done alone or with members of your household, and you must always follow social distancing guidelines when encountering others.”

The Government’s current coronavirus advice is that you can exercise outside as often as you wish and you can also sit and rest outside. Exercise or recreation can be alone, with members of your household, or with one other person from outside your household, while keeping two metres apart at all times.

You may also drive to outdoor publicly accessible open spaces irrespective of distance but should follow social distancing guidance whilst you are there.

Coronavirus and recreational paddling – in a nutshell

So, in a nutshell, it is okay to paddle again, on a recreational basis, providing you only paddle with members of your own family or household. Meeting with a non-household friend seems permissible, based on Government advice, as long as you follow the two metre distancing rules.

While travel to paddle is allowed, it makes sense to stick to local waterways for now. You are unlikely to receive a warm welcome if travelling to visit remote locations. Social distancing is also impossible in a car.

Clubs and paddlesport companies

While a partial return to recreational paddling is allowed, all clubs and paddlesport companies remain in lockdown. These are difficult times, but we should remain positive. Kayaking, canoeing and Stand Up Paddleboarding are largely outdoor sports where social distancing can safely be maintained.

We may have to adapt, but we will return to the water.

More information

Port of London Authority advice:

British Canoeing advice:

Canal and River Trust advice:

Latest Government advice:

A view of Tower Bridge from a kayak on the Thames at dusk

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