Boaters' Update 3 April 2020

This edition gives you the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting your boating. Please follow the government advice – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.

Limit your use of canal towpaths Limit your use of canal towpaths

This edition gives you the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting your boating.

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

In it you’ll find the latest on boating and coronavirus:

As well as some light relief:

Using the towpath

This is the message we have put out across a wide variety of channels to reach the public today as we support the Government ‘stay at home’ campaign:

With good weather forecast this weekend the Trust is reminding people that whilst our towpaths remain open, use of them should be limited in line with Government advice, and strictly local only

Public health officials have stressed the importance of people staying at home. As Prof Jonathan Van Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, commented: “Whatever the weather, we all have a shared responsibility to protect those around us, and the single most important action we can all take in fighting coronavirus is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.”

For our canal towpaths, this means that we are asking people to limit their use, avoid stretches where multiple boats are moored where possible as people aboard may be self-isolating, and always apply social distancing measures.  As towpaths in some places can be narrow, when you pass someone, please make sure you use the full width of the towpath, keep moving, stand aside to allow others to pass, in single file, when necessary. If you can’t avoid passing a moored boat please keep as far away from it as possible and pass quickly by.

Our plea to everyone thinking of using the towpath is to be mindful of others and act always with consideration and with respect. If we all continue to observe government guidance, follow advice to limit towpath use, and strictly observe social distancing, together we can combat this pandemic – and be able to enjoy getting back out on or by our waterways when we’ve beaten it.

I use my local towpath – how can I do it responsibly?

Wherever you are, everyone should strictly follow the government guidance to observe social distancing at all times. There are particular issues with using towpaths and we’re advising people to limit use of them during the crisis. We urge people to avoid sections with multiple moored boats if at all possible and, when you pass someone else, please make sure you use the full width of the towpath, keep moving, stand aside to allow others to pass and/or make sure you’re single file if you are with someone else. If you need to pass a moored boat please keep as far away from it as possible.

What can I do if there are places where the towpath narrows?

Where a towpath narrows, take particular care to look ahead to see if someone is approaching, as you would do when passing through any other narrow place elsewhere. Where there is a blind corner – passing under a canal bridge for example – you might even want to call ahead to alert someone coming the other way.

What do I do when people pass my boat when I’m moored on the towpath and I’m trying to keep a safe distance?

If you remain in your boat when you see people approaching then you should be able to socially distance from anyone passing on the towpath. If you find it intolerably busy where you are moored then it may be better for you to try mooring further along. Please under no circumstances confront others.

I can’t avoid stretches of towpaths where multiple boats are moored, what should I do?

We strongly suggest that they should be avoided. Please do try to find an alternative route to divert around the busiest sections where possible. Where it really is unavoidable, such trips should be minimised. When having to pass any moored boats, please keep as far away from the boat as possible and pass as quickly as you can.

I have been subject to confrontation on the towpaths, what should I do?

This is an anxious time, but everyone using our towpaths (members of the public, boaters, or employees carrying out essential tasks) should be treating one another considerately and calmly, keeping a safe distance and moving swiftly past. Any physical encounter, verbal aggression or inappropriate language is not acceptable in any circumstances by anyone. If you find yourself subject to a confrontation on the towpath, this is a police matter and we ask you to contact your local police force about the incident. Wherever we can, we will assist the police in addressing inappropriate behaviour, by anyone - whether a boater or a towpath user. 

I have found obstructions placed along the towpath, how do I report this?

Under no circumstances should anyone place obstructions on towpaths. If your passage along the towpath is blocked then please report this to the Trust via or by calling 0303 040 4040 (Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm). Please remember that, while towpaths are not closed, we are asking people to limit their use, stay local, avoid stretches where multiple boats are moored where possible, and always respect social distancing measures.

Using privately operated facilities

We are working to ensure that Canal & River Trust boater facilities are maintained during the current coronavirus crisis. We have asked boaters to inform us of privately provided facilities they are reliant on. We are contacting the operators of these and will keep a list of private facilities that are open as up to date as possible. Please contact individual providers for further information. If facilities that you are dependent on are not listed, please use our online webform to let us know.

Can I cruise at night to avoid other boaters?

No, please don’t cruise after dark. It can cause a danger to others, as well as disturbing moored boats you might pass. We’ve also had reports of night-time cruisers leaving lock gates open and paddles up, which results in the loss of water and potential problems for any boats moored in the area.

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?

Of course, many of us are aware of the ‘big’ wonders of the waterways such as Anderton Boat Lift and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct but what about those little, lesser known, stretches of waterway that have created marvellous memories for generations of boaters.

Over the coming weeks we’d love to hear of the waterway places, cruises, events and communities that have left fond, lasting, memories for you. You can use as many, or as few, words as you choose and, although not essential, a picture would be great too. Just drop me a line and I’ll start compiling a list and share a roundup of your hidden gems each week.

To offer some inspiration I asked colleague and boater, Debbi Figueiredo, for hers:

Summat special at Summit

The Rochdale Canal climbs steeply over the Pennines from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester with 91 locks.

Rochdale Canal from the air at TodmordenCruising the Rochdale can be a challenge when water is short, as it was the October in 2015, when we attempted one of our bucket list cruises. Lack of water meant to going no further than the summit. We ascended the final lock at East Summit, winded and reversed all the way to West Summit.

The scenery along the summit was stunning, and even better when we reached the end we discovered that the Summit Inn had recently reopened. It being a Friday late afternoon it would have been churlish not to pay a visit.

As afternoon turned to evening the pub filled up with friendly locals and we found ourselves swept up into a pub game of “Play your cards right” with a chance to win some meat or the jackpot money.

So when you are slogging your way over the Rochdale summit, just remember there’s summat special at the Summit!

Last date edited: 3 April 2020

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