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inland waterway cremation ashes

Canal & River Trust policy on scattering ashes

The Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways), the organisation that operates and maintains over 2000 miles of inland waterways in England and Wales, have told us their position…

The scattering of human ashes on rivers is regulated by the Environment Agency working with British Waterways. Requests to scatter ashes should be made in the first instance to the Environment Agency who will advise on the suitability of many stretches of waterways in England and Wales.

British Waterways and the Environment Agency regularly receive requests from bereaved families who want to scatter ashes on rivers. Faith groups and individuals follow different traditions and practices when a loved one dies and for some this involves spreading their ashes in rivers and streams. British Waterways does not want to unnecessarily obstruct or interfere with these traditions.

Our role is to maintain safe navigable waterways and to protect their environment. We seek to take account of the needs of diverse groups in the way we carry out our work. As long as the environment is not damaged British Waterways has no objection to these practices.

Ashes themselves have little impact on water quality. However, in-line with guidance provided by the Environment Agency, the environment can be damaged by casting tributes and other items in the water that are not biodegradable. Litter is harmful to wildlife. Many tributes such as flowers are in plastic bags or wreaths that contain plastic or metal. Neither are allowed.

British Waterways and the Environment Agency treat all requests individually and with sensitivity, so that we do not cause further stress to the recently bereaved. Requests will only be refused in cases where there is an unacceptable risk to water quality, if we believe that a proposed location is inappropriate or if the site is in regular use and the environmental impact may need to be reviewed.

37 thoughts on “Canal & River Trust policy on scattering ashes

  1. Reply
    Simona - 31st March 2024

    Hi Richard, I would like to scatter a dear friend’s ashes in the water along the Paddington or Regent’s canals in London. I would be looking for a spot as away from people as possible, would be using one of your Journey Water Ashes Urn and would want to scatter a few rose petals with it, too. Would this be acceptable and, if so, do you have any particular recommendations? Many thanks.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 2nd April 2024

      Hi Simona

      That would be possible and what you are suggesting would work. As for quite spots on a stretch of canal in London, I don’t have the knowledge I am afraid to say. Many people use them for commuting so there may be quieter times of the day eg around 11am in the morning.

      I hope all goes well.
      Kind regards

  2. Reply
    Anne Kemp - 27th February 2024

    Can I please scatter my Husband’s ashes on the Norfolk B-roads near Wroxam, it is our speical place for 40 yrs.
    l thank you.

  3. Reply
    Darren Ramhit - 13th February 2023

    Dear Richard,
    Would it be possible for me to scatter my fathers ashes in the Grand Union Canal, Alperton. Nothing non-biodegradable will be used.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 21st February 2023

      Yes Darren

      This is their guidance – Canal & River Trust policy on scattering ashes

  4. Reply
    Shailesh - 10th May 2022

    Our family business is on the banks of river Lea in Enfield and to remember my dad we would like to scatter his ashes in the river next to our building, is that okay

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 19th May 2022

      Yes if you follow the guidance.

  5. Reply
    deeann - 27th October 2021

    is it ok to scatter my nans ashes at sutton stop canal as this was a special place for her in coventry as it meant alot to her and my grandad.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 1st November 2021

      Yes Dee Ann – please observe the rules above

  6. Reply
    Kenneth Brown - 11th August 2021

    Hi I’m thinking of scattering my mum’s ashes into the canal at Horsell, Woking, Surrey. Is that going to be acceptable?

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 11th August 2021

      Yes Kenneth if the above guidance is followed.

  7. Reply
    Lyn Brodie - 18th May 2021

    Is it alright to scatter my Dad’s ashes in the canal between Purton and Sharpness?
    Many thanks.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 19th May 2021

      Yes it is. Please note the above.

  8. Reply
    Clare Davison - 25th April 2021

    I am looking at scattering my mum’s ashes at the canal at Marsworth. Is this OK,? Many thanks.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 26th April 2021

      If the above is complied with – then that should absolutely fine.

  9. Reply
    Carol Hazlewood - 7th September 2020


    I would like to scatter my husbands ashes in a clearing on the tow path on Derby canal and place some wild flower seeds there too is this allowed. Nothing but the ashes and wild flower seeds will be left there and it will be out of reach of walkers.


    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 7th September 2020

      Dear Carol
      You would need to speak to the Canal and Rivers Trust directly to see whether they would allow this.
      Kind regards

      1. Reply
        Sarah Dolman - 29th May 2021

        Hi Richard. I would like to scatter my parents ashes in Beddgelert river in North Wales, is this allowed.

        1. Reply
          Richard Martin - 2nd June 2021

          Yes it is – please follow the guidance on the page.

  10. Reply
    Elizabeth - 5th September 2020

    What are the rules about scattering ashes at the lock side rather than in the lock? Is near lock side cafes allowed? How do you find out who the landowner is? Thanks.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 7th September 2020

      Dear Elizabeth
      The landowner is likely to be the Canals and Rivers Trust. They might not like ashes scattered on the towpath area or near cafes due to other users of the area.
      Kind regards

  11. Reply
    Gail - 1st September 2020

    High Richard we are going on the Norfolk broads I have my parents ashes they always went on the broads would it be okay to let there ashes go there please many thanks gail

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 3rd September 2020

      Dear Gail, yes that is absolutely fine.

  12. Reply
    Claire Clayton - 10th June 2020


    Please can you advise if it is ok to scatter ashes either in the water or in the hedgerow by the towpath at the top flight of Foxton Locks in Leicestershire? There will be no other container or anything non-biodegradable used. Can we scatter a couple of her favourite flowers in the water at the same time?

    Also, do you know who we would need to contact about the possibility of having maybe a bench installed at the top lock?

    Kindest regards.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 10th June 2020

      Dear Clare if you follow advice on this page that will be fine. As for the bench, you would need to speak directly to the Cabal and Rivers Trust directly.
      Kind regards

  13. Reply
    Sara - 1st August 2019

    Can I scatter my Nans ashes to the side of a canal. The canal waterway has a path and then an overgrown bramble, the ashes will go at the base of the overgrown brambles so the ashes are not in or near the waterway. Thank you

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 5th August 2019

      Dear Sara
      Technically you would need permission if you wished to scatter them on the towpath. However you do not need permission to scatter in the canal itself.
      Kind regards

  14. Reply
    Claire - 2nd June 2019

    After reading these messages and the site details o should like to scatter my fathers ashes as requested in Walton. If we ensure there are no further items entering the water that could pollute or cause harm is this ok?
    Many thanks

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 6th June 2019

      Yes that is fine Claire, as you say making sure that nothing polluting enters the watercourse. If scattering from a bank make sure you are safe whilst scattering.
      Kind regards

  15. Reply
    Aimee Jones - 14th May 2019

    Hi. My mother in law requested to be scattered on the canal as this is where she was born and raised. It will be at Galgate and only the ashes and nothing will be scattered over the water.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 20th May 2019

      Dear Aimee
      That should be fine providing you follow the guidance mentioned.
      Kind regards

  16. Reply
    Debbie Yates - 21st April 2019

    Good afternoon wonder if you can help please, my father passed away this morning and I am trying to get my organised hat on to keep busy. He always wanted his ashes to be scattered in a river, estuary, lake etc (some body of water) as he was mad about the water.
    Could you please let me know if I have your permission to do this when the time comes

    Many thanks

    Mrs Debbie Yates

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 23rd April 2019

      Dear Debbie
      You don’t need any specific permission. There are a few rules, this is our main page on the subject – Scattering on Water:

      I hope this helps

  17. Reply
    Gillian Phillips - 5th November 2018

    Is it ok to scatter my mum & dad’s ashes in the Brecon canal as they had a long boat for many years in golden and loved spending every weekend on their narrow boat.

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 6th November 2018

      Dear Gillian
      The answer is yes, providing the above guidance is adhered to.

  18. Reply
    Vance Turnbull - 24th August 2018

    Is it okay to scatter my Dad’s ashes over a canal this will be all that’s distributed over the water nothing else

    1. Reply
      Richard Martin - 3rd September 2018

      Yes it is fine, please do not place anything non-biodegradable in the water. Thank you

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