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News article created on 11 April 2016

Old fashioned manners reintroduced on nation's canals

In a bid to encourage better behaviour on the most popular stretches of the nation’s towpaths, we're calling for the reintroduction of old-fashioned manners to preserve the peace.

City Road Lock, Regent's Canal City Road Lock, Regent's Canal

Built at the time of the Industrial Revolution for horses to tow boats laden with goods, towpaths are now more popular than ever. Walkers, cyclists, boaters, anglers and runners all share the often narrow waterside paths. 

During 2015, 385 million visits were made to our towpaths prompting us to call on visitors to help protect the special atmosphere which has made these spaces so popular.

Courteous and friendly

We're introducing special zones for people to embrace good old-fashioned manners across the busiest stretches of towpaths as a means to remind people to be courteous and friendly towards one another. 

Within these polite zones, messages have been sprayed onto the towpath to encourage people to ‘smile and say hi as you go by’ and to remember that they are entering ‘a hat tipping zone’, a nod to times past when people tipped their hats or doffed their caps as a sign of respect or merely as a greeting. 

Visitors will also be able to soak up wise words from Canal Laureate Luke Kennard who has penned a poem to help tackle towpath troubles.

Relax and unwind

Dick Vincent, Canal & River Trust’s national towpath ranger, explains: “For many people our towpaths are among their most precious green spaces, antidotes to the pace and stress of the modern world and places to relax and unwind. They are ‘super slow ways’, providing a slice of peace and calm through the centres of our busiest cities. 

“Today they are more popular than ever, with more investment in improvements and better signage, but with that success there are also problems. As we move away from towpaths of old, we also seem to be moving further away from remembering our manners – we want to remind our visitors that old fashioned manners still have a place on our modern towpaths. 

“Whether cycling, running, walking, mooring your boat or fishing, please help by being considerate of others, slowing down and remembering we are all there to enjoy the space. If you’re in a rush, the towpath is not the best place for you so please choose a different route.”

In 2015, we secured more than £10m of funding to improve our towpaths, and we're planning a further £10m investment in the next 12 months.