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Inland Waterways

Tips and advice on staying safe on inland waterways.

Follow the SAFE message - Stay Away From the Edge - to protect yourself and to have the most fun at waterways.


Rivers have swift currents and very deep areas. Check it’s safe before you enter the water. Ask an adult who knows the area: a lifeguard, a shopkeeper, caravan park owner or someone who lives nearby. They are most likely to know the dangers and direct you to a safe spot.

  • Check where ring buoys are placed. See they are undamaged. Report anyone you see tampering with them
  • Never wade into a river to get a ball back
  • Do not jump off bridges- even if you see friends do it
  • Never push a friend into the water “ for a laugh”
  • Be careful of slippery grass by the edge
  • Always keep your eyes open and pay attention to avoid tripping over things
  • Never swim in fast-flowing water. If you feel that it is dangerous then do not swim, even if your friends say that it’s okay. Check first by throwing in a twig to see how fast the current is travelling. Remember the current can be faster under the water and river currents are often stronger than they appear
  • If you are caught in a current, float on your back and travel downstream feet first to protect your head
  • Beware of submerged objects - they can be dangerous. Keep watch for trees, branches, rocks and rubbish. Always enter the water feet first
  • Do not play near the edge of overhanging riverbanks at the water’s edge. It can crumble away suddenly


  • Canals are man made and have very steep sides
  • If you fall in it can be very difficult to climb out
  • Locks are dangerous places – the water is very deep
  • Keep away from the sides. Once you fall in it is almost impossible to get out
  • Ring buoys can often be found on the canal bank. If they are tampered with they will be of little use to a drowning person. Do not remove them unless you have to. They could save a life. It may be yours or your friend’s life
  • Do not go on ice-covered canals. If someone falls in remember to reach first with a rope or stick or piece of clothing
  • If you are hot and thirsty, never drink the water even if looks clean


  • These are deep and cold, with sudden changes in depth
  • Never go to a reservoir alone - you may fall in and have no assistance to get out
  • Never play near reservoirs

Gravel pits

  • These are sometimes used as bird sanctuaries after closure
  • Do not enter even if the water looks inviting - they are very cold, can be very deep, and weeds often grow thickly beneath the surface
  • Gravel sliding down steep sides makes it very difficult to climb out
  • Even good swimmers have drowned in gravel pits


  • Be very careful walking along piers that you do not trip or are blown into the water
  • When fishing make sure that an adult is always with you
  • Never reach out after tangled fishing lines in case you fall into the water


  • Remember, even if ice is a foot thick in one area on a lake, it can be less than one inch thick just a few meters away
  • Do not walk on a frozen river or canal – use a bridge instead