Boaters' Update 31 July 2020

This edition covers the local coronavirus restrictions, BBQs, water safety and water saving along with news on boating in London and the North West and the latest stoppages along with ways for you to get involved.

A boater passing through a canal lock in Sowerby Bridge A boater and canal lock in Sowerby Bridge

If you’ve been on or near a canal or river over the past fortnight, you’ll have seen that their popularity hasn’t been dimmed by the intervening lockdown. While there are still some restrictions on what we all can and can’t do, life on the cut is gradually returning to normal.

As we might have predicted, despite our best efforts, the combined impact of the extensive winter flooding, the long spring dry spell, and the 2-3 months with very few boat movements, and hence almost no regular operation of paddles, locks and move-able bridges, has led to an increased number of asset failures leading to unplanned restrictions on cruising in some places. 

We are doing everything we can to address these failures as quickly as we. We share everyone’s frustration when this disrupts your plans and causes you delays, particularly given all the hard work our teams have put into keeping the network open throughout this pandemic.

Please bear with us; of course with social distancing and other measures that we must take to protect everyone involved, our response is still somewhat restricted but we are doing whatever we can to overcome any interruptions to your service.

Perhaps most helpful for those new to boating, this edition continues on from the last with more handy pointers on good boating, and towpath, etiquette. You’ll also find some important water safety, and water saving, advice along with news of boating in London and an agreement that’ll give boaters greater scope for cruising in the North West.

A roundup of the latest news, stoppages and ways to get involved can also be found below. If there’s something you’d like to see featured in a future edition, please get in touch.

Happy boating,


In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 23 July – Thanks to donations from hundreds of people to our appeal to support small waterway-based charities, we have been able to award £31,500 in grants shared across 43 local charities based on inland waterways in England and Wales.
  • 24 July – The long term future of the historic narrowboat, Gifford, has been secured as we have been able to accept the offer of donation of the vessel from the Waterways Museum Society.
  • 27 July – A historic Grade II* Listed canal warehouse at the head of the Peak Forest Canal in Whaley Bridge has been given a new lease of life with the help of a dedicated band of volunteers.


Local coronavirus restrictions

Finsley Gate, near BurnleyThe Government has announced more areas of the country where local COVID-19 restrictions have come into effect. This means that in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire separate households cannot meet each other at home. This comes after a spike in COVID-19 cases in those regions. These restrictions extend to boats also. So while the waterways remain open, only single household members should be aboard a boat at any time.

These restrictions also apply in Leicester, but with the pubs, cafes and restaurants now permitted to re-open in Leicester, we’re pleased to announce the waterway through Leicester is re-opening for boating.

We’re reminding people that social distancing guidance should continue to be maintained across the Trusts waterway network.


Good boating, and towpath, etiquette

In the last edition there were reminders about functional things such as booking passages and boat licensing. This edition’s list of reminders is, mainly, less functional and more etiquette:

  • Boat Safety Scheme (BSS). The temporary extension to recently expired Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) certification ends today (31 July) so all boats that were covered by this waiver should have a new BSS certification. If you are experiencing any difficulty, please let us know as soon as possible.
  • Flash the dog on boardA perennial subject that raises its furry head on a regular basis in Boaters’ Update. This time round it’s a gentle reminder that if your dog is, shall we say, ‘unsociable’ to others then it should be kept on a lead. Consideration also needs to be given to other wildlife living along the cut – anecdotal reports of swans being hassled makes for sad reading. Obviously this applies to all furry friends on the towpath, not just those afloat. And it goes without saying, if your dog leaves a present on the towpath it is your responsibility to clean it up.
  • Most of the country is forecast to be basking under a hot sun as this edition is published. On days like these our Pavlovian response is to dust off the BBQ and settle in for an alfresco feast. If you’re on your boat there are a few considerations to make but one Golden Rule to always follow for safety reasons – never have a BBQ onboard your boat. It’s always a good idea to refresh your BBQ safety knowledge before contemplating one. If you want to have one ashore pick your mooring spot as BBQs are not suitable on narrow towpaths. When having one, care also needs to be taken that it’s not too close to your boat, never left unattended or causing damage to any vegetation or causing a nuisance (or have the potential to) to others. And, once you’ve had your fill, the BBQ must be fully extinguished (doused with cold water) and the remains disposed of safely.
  • Cruising speed. If you’re a regular on boaty social media platforms you may have seen some chatter around a perceived increase in the speed of boats on the network. This topic has been covered in previous editions but, in summary, your advice has been; don’t create a breaking wash, use spring lines when moored and go just fast enough to retain steerage.
  • This last point isn’t about etiquette but a cautionary tale. Recently, a couple of men, wearing Trust-emblazoned high-vis vests, knocked on a boat at Stoke Bruerne and asked for the boater to pay, in cash, a fee for overstaying. After being asked for ID (which they didn’t have) the men left and never returned. We don’t know if this is an isolated incident, but please note that we will never ask for cash on the towpath for overstaying fees, so please don’t fall for this potential towpath scam.


Summer water safety

While the mercury has been climbing over recent days, some might think it’s a great idea to cool down in open water. However, we strongly advise people stay out of the water. There are too many risks that can't be seen hidden below the surface, and lots of other ways you can cool down with two feet on your deck or the towpath. As a boater you’re more likely to be aware of the dangers but why not spare less than two minutes to remind yourself and perhaps share the knowledge with any young people in your family or friends (it is, unfortunately, often teenagers who venture in for a swim): 


Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

As someone who’s out on, or by, the water more often than most, you’ll know that there are times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. So, below, you’ll find a list of anything that’s happening that may affect you if you’re planning on a cruise this weekend:

Trent & Mersey CanalWhen any restrictions to navigation happen, we get them up on to our website as soon as we can – always best to have a scan before you set off for a cruise. The tech savvy among you may already know that you can set up your smartphone to notify you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. For those that didn’t know, check out this guide to setting it up.

If you have any questions about a specific closure then just get in touch.


Boating in London

At the start of July we told you about the work National Grid is doing to remove old cables laid beneath the towpath. As a result of this work boaters will get a newly upgraded towpath surface. The project team are working to ensure that mooring space is unaffected by the upgraded towpath.

Working with Hillingdon, Ealing and Brent councils and Transport for London we are transforming over 16 miles of towpath, between Paddington and West Drayton, to provide a range of benefits such as better quality and wider towpaths, improved access points, tidier vegetation and renewed promotion of our Share the Space campaigns to promote our Towpath Code. More information on this project, named ‘Quietways’, can be found on our website.

photo of thames lock brentfordElsewhere in London we have extended our August opening times at Thames Lock. The lock will now be open from 7am until 7pm seven days a week. Please bear in mind that this is a tidal lock, so passage is only available at certain times of the day. Details of how to book can be found online.

While we’re on the subject of rivers and tidal locks, it’s been a while since we’ve featured boater-created river cruising tips in Boaters’ Update. So, if you’re an old hand when it comes to river cruising then do please get in touch with your tips – be especially great to hear your routine for traversing a tidal lock!


Saving water

It’s not often we think it but we’ve been lucky during the early part of summer – it’s rained a lot (especially in the North West where it was most needed)!

The exceptionally dry spring, however, means that we can’t take the recent wet weather as a signal to be carefree with water when out on a cruise. As ever, we’re urging all boaters to do whatever they can to use as little as they can:

  • Two in a Lock? - Share locks where possible – always follow Government guidance on social distancing.
  • Help keep it in – Make sure gates and paddles are shut
  • Report any leaks – tell us
  • Invite oncoming boats through – Don’t empty or fill locks if someone else can make use of the water
  • Find another favourite – Explore less busy parts of the network
  • Think ahead – Plan cruises to minimise use of locks

The above list fits into the handy ‘THRIFT’ mnemonic but it might be worth making it ‘THRIFTY’ with the ‘Y’ being – You’re not in a rush so why not wait to see if another boat comes along and you can share the lock? Ok, maybe a bit too wordy but the principle is sound!

Of course, it’s not just what you do with the water in the cut. There are ways you can reduce the frequency of your visits to the water tap:

  • Making sure shower heads and taps are the water saving aerator type
  • Always using a plug in a sink or basin, not leaving the water running when washing yourself or washing up
  • Making sure washing machines are the most resource efficient ones available
  • Making sure you’ve got no leaks in your water system. Check regularly
  • Only using the amount of water you need when making hot drinks or cooking
  • Recycle grey water for plant watering (if you’re a green fingered boater)

Drop me a line with any other water-saving tips! Thanks!


Agreement with Bridgewater Canal Company (BCC) brings benefits for boaters

An agreement has been reached between Bridgewater Canal Company and the Canal & River Trust, effective from 1 September 2020, that gives licence holders for each organisation permission to cruise between Trust waterways and the Bridgewater Canal.

3 Sep 2020 - Please note that there is a delay in implementing this change. Once active, it'll be announced in a future Boaters' Update.

Boaters are required to book online but can now spend up to seven days, travelling as far as they want, cruising away from their home navigation free of charge. If, during this time, you’ve ventured from those navigation authority’s waters, you’ll get a further three days to make the return journey to your home navigation.

Liverpool Waterfront Courtesy of Culture LiverpoolFor example, if you’re a Trust boat licence holder, and book to cruise on the Bridgewater, you can take a gentle seven day cruise to Liverpool and on to Trust waters and have an extended break there (observing mooring stay times of course!). Then you have three days to make your return journey to home waters, making sure you’re back no more than 28 days after you first cruised on to the Bridgewater.

You can revisit the other authority’s water again after a 28-day period.

Holiday hire boats, whichever waterway they are based on, will have unlimited access across both navigations.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Trust, comments: “I am pleased that this reciprocal agreement with the Bridgewater Canal Company will give boaters easier, and more, access to the canals of the North West – regardless of which navigation authority they are licensed with. We look forward to welcoming boaters from the Bridgewater Canal on to our network.”

The booking of passage between the Trust waterways and Bridgewater Canal will allow both organisations to plan works and day-to-day repairs.

Look out for more details in the next couple editions of Boaters’ Update.


Get involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering (when coronavirus permits),  donating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded litter. In whatever form your volunteering takes place we’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you. Your support helps make life better by water.

As you’re such an integral part of what makes waterways so wonderful, and life better by water, I thought you’d like to know about other ways you can get involved:

  • We’re now in the second stage of consultation for our winter stoppage programme. You now have just over a week, until 9 Aug, to have a look at our proposals and give us your thoughts.
  • Almost a year to the day ago, we told you about a government consultation on the implementation of new red diesel regulations. This follow-up article explained our position. A year on and we’re talking red diesel consultations again. At Budget 2020, the Government announced that it will remove the entitlement to use red diesel from April 2022, except in agriculture (as well as forestry, horticulture and pisciculture), rail and for non-commercial heating (including domestic heating). This new consultation seeks views on whether the Government has overlooked any exceptional reasons why other sectors should be allowed to continue to use red diesel beyond April 2022. Sections 5.30 to 5.45 of this document set out the context for private pleasure craft and lists the associated questions being asked. The direction given is that the best way to respond to this consultation is to download and complete the consultation response form and email it to:


Last date edited: 3 September 2020

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The boaters' update

Think of this blog as your one-stop shop for up-to-date boating news. It's packed full of useful information about boating on canals and rivers, as well as important safety announcements and upcoming events.

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