Welcome to Willow Wren Training

Nelson's Wharf

Covid-19 Statement: Despite the Government's relaxation of the need to wear masks, for the safety of our customers and our staff we will continue to ask you to wear masks and maintain a distance when inside our facilities. See COVID page for more information.

All courses are subject to whatever Government measures are in place on the date of the course. We will not be carrying out boat handling training on customer's own boat for the foreseeable future.

Our training turns the Fear Factor into the Fun Factor.

Willow 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 25 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

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).

We have two self-catering guestrooms available for overnight stays at the Wharf in the accommodation building opposite the training centre. Each room has secure coded access, king size bed, shower room and kitchenette. The kichenette comprises fridge, microwave, twin 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. Please enquire about availability. Nelson's Wharf Accommodation. Willow Wren Training customers receive discounted rates for nights surrounding the date(s) of their course.

Dogs. To date we have always welcomed well behaved dogs but sadly we have had to review that situation. Unfortunately, reportedly "well-behaved" dogs have turned out to be anything but well-behaved in the company of strangers and we love our pets so much that we naturally give them lots of attention. This detracts from the learning experience and you are not getting the full attention that you have paid for. We also have to think about other guests who may prefer not to have the company of animals or are perhaps medically intolerant.

We do however have an outside, covered, dog pen that your pet can stay in. It has a comfy bed and you can check on it regularly if you are on a classroom course or we can check on it for you if your are out all day boat handling. We are dog owners too. Pets must still be pre-booked.

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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, dedicated training narrowboats along with modern training aids and equipment.

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.

We do come to you if you prefer to train on your own boat but most Training is carried out from Nelson's Wharf on the Grand Union Canal on one of our high specification, cruiser stern training narrowboats.

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


Peggy InteriorPeggy 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 Interior


The 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.


Maggie our 68ft narrowboat is used for Boatmaster coaching although we much prefer to train Boatmasters on the boat that they will be tested on.

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 and his "jolly" nature will put even the most nervous delegate at ease.

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, First Aid Instructor and VHF SRC Instructor/AssessorDavid

David joined us in 2016 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, an RYA First Aid Instructor and a VHF/SRC Instructor/Assessor.

Willow Wren Training supports:

IWA LogoConsiderate Boater LogoFriends of President Logo

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