The heart of London might not often be associated with the great outdoors, but it is home to a huge network of rivers and canals which are just waiting to be explored. If you want to see the sights of the capital without jumping aboard an open top bus, or you want to escape the city for a day, a kayaking tour may be just what you’re looking for.
Seeing London by kayak offers a new take on the typical London guided tour, letting you escape from the traffic and crowded streets. It’s also completely free of carbon emissions, meaning you can enjoy a far greener and more peaceful visit to the heart of the capital.
Where can I kayak in London?
While the canals of London once played a large role in the city’s industrial boom, the urban waterways are now, for the most part, tranquil areas where plants and wildlife can flourish. Many others, in the heart of the city, take you right past iconic landmarks such as Windsor, Hampton Court Palace or Regent’s Park. This makes the city’s waterways an enjoyable way to see the sights and soak up the atmosphere that the city has to offer.
How can I take to the water?
If you have some experience in canoeing or kayaking, you may wish to head out on your own, or with friends, to explore the canals and rivers of London. To do this, you will need a British Waterways permit. This can be obtained online easily, and can also be obtained through joining the British Canoe Union, which is currently £37 a year.
For complete beginners, there are a number of straightforward ways that you can start kayaking or canoeing around London. Many kayaking and canoe clubs cater for the inexperienced, and will hold a licence which allows members using club facilities to access the water. A number of kayaking and canoe clubs can be found in the London region, offering guided kayaking tours of the area as well as the chance to increase experience on the water. These are led by fully qualified instructors who will make sure you are safe whilst showing you the unmissable sights of London and its waterways. Some kayaking tour companies will even cater to special occasions and include a bottle of champagne with your trip!
Individual clubs often hire equipment to those who are able to kayak or canoe unsupervised, and are usually happy to share maps and other resources to provide information on the local area.
Safety on the Thames
Kayaking and canoeing are safe activities although they do require a certain amount of caution. The lower Thames, stretching from Putney bridge, down towards the estuary, is notoriously tidal and conditions are often likened to that of sea kayaking. Inexperienced canoeists or kayakers are encouraged to introduce themselves to the activity in the more benign waters upstream from Putney bridge. It is recommended to join a group, guided by a qualified instructor if you wish to explore the lower, more tidal end of the Thames.
Image sourced: Paul Appleyardtagscity breakkayakingstaycation