The majority of boaters living on the Kennet and Avon Canal are feeling lonely or isolated, a new survey has found.

It also found that nearly six out of 10 of respondents stated that their boat was in need of repairs.

They are also fed up with "groups of drunk lads on stag dos" damaging their vessels in the summer.

Wiltshire Council's boater survey gathered responses from 218 boaters along the canal, which is around 10 per cent of the estimated population.

The aim was to enable open communication and establish a collaborative relationship between the nomadic boating community and the council.

The results of this survey were presented to the health select committee on Wednesday, June 13.

The committee heard of the challenges faced by the community.

Almost 40 per cent of respondents said that clean drinking water is difficult to access and 29.4 per cent of boaters said they had gone hungry and not eaten because they couldn't afford or get access to food.

The report notes: “Common concerns included difficulties finding reliable and budget-friendly tradespeople, the constant need for maintenance, and challenges associated with repairs and upgrades.”

The public health specialist presenting the report, Vicki Lofts, said: “There’s often a perception, and I hear it quite frequently mentioned, that boaters are not working, on benefits, heavy drinking, heavy drug users…”

She added that the findings on boaters’ finances went “some way in counteracting those preconceptions.”

Only 18.3 per cent of respondents receive statutory benefits and 61.4 per cent described themselves as employed or self-employed.

But 18.4 per cent rated their financial situation as bad or very bad.

At 60.6 per cent, the number of boaters reporting that they feel lonely or isolated “sometimes or always” is higher than the UK average of 49.6 per cent.

One respondent wrote: "Moving every two weeks is the worst thing, and very challenging to manage with a child living on board."

The main concerns felt by boaters about their personal safety related to theft and anti-social behaviour.

Ms Lofts said: “There are some parish councils who are less than welcoming of the boater community and there are often frictions between them.”

Cllr Johnny Kidney also noted that there was a “summertime issue with leisure tourism on the canal - around Bath and the Bradford on Avon stretch particularly” with “groups of drunk lads on stag weekends in their boats who have crashed into boaters’ boats and caused quite significant damage.”

Ms Lofts agreed that this was a problem for the community, concluding: “Boaters' perception is that even if they did report it, nothing would happen, based on their previous experiences, so we’ve got an opportunity to change that, I think.”