Boaters' Update 9 April 2020

This edition gives you the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting your boating and your use of the towpath. PLEASE DO NOT VISIT OR MOVE BOATS OVER THE EASTER PERIOD

G&S Canal at Frampton

This edition gives you the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting your boating and your use of the towpath.

There’s more detail below but, for absolute clarity, only move your boat if it’s essential (not for leisure purposes) and minimise your use of the towpath.

If you are not currently occupying your boat the government guidance is that you must not visit it (this means no short trips or breaks on your boat at this time).

With Government expected to extend the lockdown period later today, we are extending our suspension of the normal movement requirement to 18 April.


Please follow the government advice – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.

After reading the coronavirus information you can find some light relief:

Using your boat

If you are currently living on your boat, you should only move it in the following, essential, circumstances:

  • to access water or waste facilities
  • to access essential food and supplies
  • to access urgent medical treatment
  • for emergency mechanical service for your boat
  • for emergency vet treatment for your pet

At this time you should not be making short trips or breaks on your boat for leisure purposes, these are classed as non-essential journeys.

Using the towpath

We are continuing to put out the message that, while our towpaths remain open, use of them should be limited, in support of the government’s ‘stay at home’ campaign.

To this end, thousands of signs have been put up around network, with more to come, and other channels such as our website and targeted social media advertising continue to remind the public that towpath use should be limited and only for those who are local to it.

Our message is also to keep your distance from other people and moored boats, strictly observe social distancing at all times, and follow the latest advice from the Government. Whilst towpaths in some places can be narrow, we are advising that people should not congregate, stand aside to allow others to pass when necessary, and make full use of the towpath width.

Under no circumstances should anyone place obstructions on towpaths.  If people do approach your boat, there should be no risk to you provided you stay on your boat while they pass; please do not put yourself or others at risk by confronting other people.

More detailed information can be found here.

Lockdown extension – No requirement to move every 14 days

Following the announcement from the Prime Minister (8.30pm, 23 March 2020) regarding the UK’s response to the coronavirus crisis, we asked leisure boaters to stop all non-essential travel and not to visit their boats if they do not live aboard permanently. We also suspended the requirement to move every 14 days.

As of midday, 9 April, the Government continues to urge everyone to stay at home unless an essential need prohibits this. An announcement is expected in the coming days but, in the meantime, we are extending the suspension of the need to move every 14 days until 18 April 2020.

The suspension will be kept under review in line with revised Government guidance. During this period, you do not need to contact us to tell us you will be staying in one location for more than 14 days.

Lockdown extension – Boat Safety Certificates extended

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 23 March 2020 regarding the UK’s response to the coronavirus crisis, the joint owners of the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) allowed a temporary extension to safety certificates for those craft requiring an examination before 14 April 2020. This date is now extended until the end of the month, 30 April 2020.

Any future changes will be reviewed in respect of the Government’s most up-to-date advice and we will advise boat owners accordingly. In the meantime, Navigation Authorities and licensing bodies will maintain a record of BSS extensions. Boat owners are advised to check any implications for their boat’s insurance cover linked to the temporary waiver of BSS Certification with their broker or underwriter. For more information visit the Boat Safety Scheme website.

Information for those living on their boat


This is one of the essential reasons you can move your boat. We are continuing to maintain essential boating facilities, your nearest services can be found on our map. Pump-out cards are still available and can be purchased from our online shop.

We aren’t the only provider of boat services and a list of those privately run facilities that we understand are still open can be found on our website.

We have increasing reports of fly-tipping and pollution incidents. Under no circumstances, regardless of your usual disposal route (pump out, Elsan, composting etc.), should sewage be emptied into the waterway. If you spot any fly-tipping or pollution please report it to us as soon as you can.

If you have any difficulties in accessing services please get in touch and we’ll see how we can help.

Please follow government guidelines while using boating services – maintaining the appropriate distance from others, thoroughly washing your hands on a frequent basis and not touching your face.

If you use the bins at Old Ford Lock, Apsley Yard or Hazelmere Marina (London & SE) please note that they are going to be emptied on Saturday and the following Tuesday instead of Friday and Monday (Easter bank holidays).

Self-isolating or shielding on a boat

We are proactively contacting boaters who we know to be in a high-risk group, including those with equality adjustments, those who have told us they are pregnant, and those who have told us they are over 70.

As well as contacting those we know are in high-risk groups, we’re asking anyone who lives permanently on their boat and falls into one of the extremely vulnerable categories listed to get in touch with us and let us know so we can work with others to ensure support. If you are in this category and haven’t done so already, you can register for coronavirus support as a clinically extremely vulnerable person via the government’s website. We would also encourage boaters to establish contact with friends and family where possible.

Please take the time to read the Government’s guidance on shielding and protecting extremely vulnerable people.

There is also a Facebook group compiling a list of the help available, such as with food shopping, to boaters around the network. Government advice, on how to help others safely, should be followed at all time.

Other support

There is a range of support from government available for those who are experiencing financial hardship due to coronavirus. There are a range of other non-governmental agencies and charities that can offer free help and advice on a wide range of topics:

If you live on your boat and the advice you need isn’t covered above or on our coronavirus page or FAQs, please drop me a line.

Historic working boat called into action for emergency inspection of Blisworth Tunnel

An 85 year-old canal boat which played a key role in fighting fires in London during WWII has once more come to the rescue to help with an emergency inspection of Blisworth Tunnel

Sculptor, which is ordinarily moored outside the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne, was called into action by us after a suspected sinkhole was reported near one of the tunnel’s construction shafts.

Our engineers needed a boat to inspect the tunnel from the inside and Sculptor, moored just along the towpath, seemed an ideal option for a quick response. Being part of our museum collection and on the historic ships register special permission was granted to use her.

The inspection

Blisworth Tunnel inspection The inspection, which was carried out in accordance with social distancing guidelines, found a small amount of displacement in the tunnel’s concrete lining but nothing to cause our specialist engineers immediate concern or require a closure of the tunnel. Further investigations will take place once the coronavirus restrictions ease but the inspection allowed us to ensure that the tunnel is safe.


Sculptor Built in 1935, Sculptor is one of a small number of working boats that still lives on the canal. Originally owned by the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company, she was used to carry a variety of cargo such as cotton and coal from London to the Midlands. During WWII Sculptor was called into action to help with firefighting duties in London, helping to pump water from the city’s canals to extinguish fires caused by bombing.

After the war she was used as a canal maintenance boat at Northwich before being taken out of service in 1985. Today Sculptor is an important exhibit at the museum and is lovingly cared for, on behalf of the Trust, by volunteers, including a number from the Friends of the Canal Museum.

Hidden gems – your top recommendations

As you’ll know, all non-essential boat travel is suspended and, as a result, and to help those who live-aboard (along with those who would need to travel to their boat in order to move it) we are suspending the requirement to move every 14 days. 

At some point in the future, though, we will once again be able to enjoy the full majesty of our waterway network. So, what better way to while away a few hours of ‘lockdown’ than to start compiling your top boating destinations?

In the last edition I asked for you to send in your hidden gems - those little, lesser known, stretches of waterway, or events, or locations, that have created marvellous memories for generations of boaters.

Thanks to those that have been in touch – I hope to be able to publicise all of your gems at some point. We’ll start with one boater who actually sent in two gems. Both are covered below with the first being our Chesterfield Canal and the second, Wicken Fen, on the Fenland waterways just north of Cambridge.

Chesterfield Canal

Gringley courtesy of Simon Judge“The whole of the Chesterfield is a hidden gem – and needs (and deserves) many more visitors. A very quiet canal, with lovely views as you gently climb through the counties of Nottingham and Derby. With a bit of careful planning, the approach via the Tidal Trent to West Stockwith is straightforward (don’t try to go to East Stockwith…), and a fine basin and village welcomes you to the canal. Sadly, I didn’t have time to get all the way to the end of the canal, but I found isolated moorings at Osberton (walk to the fabulous estate village) and Gringley (an excellent panoramic view from the top of the hill – go while you can still see the cooling towers).”

More photos can be found here.

Wicken Fen

Wicken Fen courtesy of Simon Judge “I would also nominate Wicken Fen, on the Fenland waterways just north of Cambridge. You get there via an ancient and narrow man-made waterway – called a Lode in these parts. There is a glorious mooring at the end of the Lode (courtesy of the Great Ouse Boating Association and the National Trust). You are surrounded by a great variety of wildlife (some 9,000 species) in the centre of the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve. It’s a gentle half hour walk to the village pub, passing a traditional windmill. Then you have the reserve to yourself overnight. Fabulous sunsets, and plan to get up early to see the deer.”

More photos can be found here (including the deer!)

Last date edited: 9 April 2020

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