Welcome to Willow Wren Training

Nelson's Wharf

For the 5th year running, we have frozen our Boat Handling Training prices and yet the high standard of training remains unrivalled.

Training RoomWillow Wren Training is the leading canal based RYA and MCA approved training centre based at Nelson's Wharf on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire providing a range of waterways related training courses as we have for 23 years. Our customers include organisations such as Canal & River Trust, Environment Agency, and many thousands of individuals.RYA and MCA Logo



We run:
Boat Handling Training
Diesel Engine Maintenance
First Aid
VHF Radio
Fire Safety
Water Safety
Boatmaster Coaching

and the renowned Steam Experience Day.

Our training facilities are second to none. Our boats are modern, clean, tidy and fit for purpose. The training centre was purpose built just a few years ago, it is big enough for any course we do and the chairs so comfortable you could fall asleep, (but you won't).

From May 2018 we will have two twin bedrooms available for overnight stays at the Wharf in the new building opposite the training centre. Each room has secure coded access, twin beds, shower room and kitchenette. The kichenette comprises fridge, microwave, two hob cooker, sink and in the room will also be a tea/coffee maker with complimentary tea, coffee, milk and sugar. Both rooms also have free Wi-Fi and television with all Freeview Digital TV and radio channels. Price to be confirmed. Please enquire about availability.

Need to know more about Willow Wren Training? Just expand the menus below.

The business was formed in 1994 and has introduced many thousands of people to more skilful, safer and considerate boating. We have a modern, eco-friendly training centre built in the last three years, three training narrowboats, Millie 28ft, Peggy 50ft and Maggie 68ft along with modern training aids and equipment. The boats are not hire boats or liveaboards and are used specifically for training.

We hold approvals from the Royal Yachting Association, (RYA) and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, (MCA).

RYA and MCA Logo

The RYA is the national body for all forms of boating including inland waterways and the MCA is the body who implements the government's maritime safety policy in the UK and works to prevent loss of life on the coast and at sea.

These approvals include annual reassessment and assures the customer of consistent quality training using appropriately qualified instructors, sound instructional techniques and in the best learning environment.

Canal Training is carried out from Nelson's Wharf on the Grand Union Canal on one of our high specification, cruiser stern training narrowboats. All our boats are used specially for training, they are not liveaboard boats or hire boats.

PeggyPeggy is our 50ft narrowboat which was launched in 2011 and was named after a favourite aunt.

Peggy was purpose built for training with a convenient reverse layout and a nine-foot rear deck which gives us plenty of room to accommodate the RYA maximum of three delegates. Peggy is normally used on all RYA and Experience courses.

Peggy InteriorThe interior is clutter free with an open plan kitchen and dining area but there is a quiet saloon at the front if you need to get away from the rest of the crew and just watch the world go past.Peggy Interior

Peggy is also available to use by groups on a Group Experience day where we have three boat handling delegates and up to five guests.

Our second training boat is Maggie. She is a 68ft narrowboat and is very user friendly. With her longer length and bow thruster she is suitable for advanced training and Boatmaster preparation training.

All our boats are turned out to a very high standard.Astra

Millie, (was Astra) is used for specialist training and when customers need training on a short boat. At 28ft she can turn just about anywhere on the Grand Union so is very flexible in terms of training area. Millie will also be available for Day Hire during the warmer months. However, you will need a photo card RYA Helmsman Certificate or have successfully attended a WWT Boat Handling Experience Course in the last year. If you can't satisfy either of these requirements we will lend you a qualified Helmsman/Instructor FREE OF CHARGE.

We also conduct training on your own boat. This can be combined with helping you to move your new boat to your mooring and extended to any number of days.

Willow Wren Training is owned by a family who have been boating for many years so you can be assured of an understanding ear and a friendly welcome when you contact us about your training needs.

Izzie runs the business and places customer service very high on our priority list. Excellent customer feedback supports this claim.

Our instructors are amongst the best in the business. All of them are RYA qualified Instructors, two are Tier 2 Boatmasters and all have professional Instructor qualifications in boating and other disciplines. They also have unrivalled practical experience.Izzie

Izzie Vaughan - Centre Manager

Izzie will normally be your first point of contact when you call or email and she is responsible for looking after your booking right from the initial phone call through to the course delivery day.

Steve Vaughan - Centre Principal and Chief Instructor

Steve is a Tier 2 Boatmaster, RYA Helmsman Instructor, VHF SRC Instructor and Steve Assessor, Diesel Engine Maintenance Instructor, RYA First Aid Instructor, and has combined his many years experience on the waterways with a long history of professional instructing. In 2016, Steve stood down from his role as an RYA Training Centre Inspector and RYA Inland Waterways Instructor Trainer so he could concentrate on managing Willow Wren Training.

Steve is authorised by the MCA to conduct Fire Safety and Personal Survival, (Water Safety), training as part of the Boatmaster licence.

He is also the founder and author of Considerate Boater, (www.considerateboater.com), which is a guide to boating etiquette on the inland waterways. Considerate boating is a key element of the training at Willow Wren.

Chris Stubbings - Helmsman InstructorChris

Chris worked for British Waterways for over 20 years and during that time fulfilled various roles including a long stint as lockeeper on the Grand Union Canal. He was also a BW assessor for Helmsman and Deckhand staff which went on to training and assessing historic boat volunteers. Chris also had responsibility for training and assessing contractor staff with dredgers, hoppers and tugs. Chris' knowledge of the canal system and most of the boats which ply the waterways is unrivalled.

Chris is a Tier 2 Boatmaster and in his spare time he is one of the driver/steerers of the steam narrowboat Adamant which he built.

David Perryman - Helmsman Instructor and VHF SRC Instructor/AssessorDavid

David joined us for the 2016 season and has proven to be a great instructor and very popular with our customers. He has extensive boating experience and is another of our RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman Instructors and a VHF/SRC Instructor/Assessor.


Andy was the founder of Willow Wren Training, has been boating since 1969 and has been involved in training for many years. He has seen many hundreds of people passing through the Willow Wren Training doors and has travelled the entire IW system.

Andy was involved in setting up the RYA Inland Waterway Helmsman's course in the mid-90's. He wrote the official RYA Inland Waterways Handbook for the RYA and wrote the update published in spring 2010. Andy


We bring in other instructors with specialist qualifications and experience when required. All are fully qualified to RYA and/or MCA standards.

Willow Wren Training supports:

IWA LogoConsiderate Boater LogoFriends of President Logo

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