Towpaths to remain open during national restrictions

We are appealing for people to follow government advice and respect social distancing as our network of towpaths will remain available for people to sustain their wellbeing, connect with nature and take local exercise during this month’s national restrictions across England.

Grand Union Canal & Tring Reservoir Grand Union Canal & Tring Reservoir

Whilst government guidelines allow only essential boating travel, towpaths will continue to provide much-needed green space in towns and cities. We are therefore reminding people to be mindful of other users during the four-week lockdown, especially those who may be living on the water. Those on the towpath must take care around other users and keep away from moored boats where possible. Cyclists are urged to go slow and steady to avoid harm.

Why are our towpaths important?

The importance of towpaths as free, accessible places to re-charge or for exercise was highlighted during the first lockdown in the spring, when we saw a surge in usage in many urban communities where the canal provides vital green space, available to millions. Towpath counters around the country showed the biggest increases in visits in Burnley (+261%), Sandwell (+199%) and Blackburn (+187%).

Richard Parry, our chief executive, comments: “Spending time by the water brings benefits for our physical and mental health, and at a time like this it is more important than ever to spend time outdoors, to connect with nature and take care of ourselves. Our 2000-mile network of waterways and towpaths provides vital blue/green space, on-the-doorstep of millions.

“We are asking people to act considerately when they visit – standing aside for others to pass, observing social distancing, keeping away from moored boats where possible, and respecting all the other users.  Our waterways can be a lifeline for people but only if we use them responsibly.”

Canals at home

In support of the government advice to stay at home as much as possible, we have an online hub of canal-related films, images, interactive content and stories for everyone to enjoy safely at home to get their enjoyment of the waterways virtually.

Government advice

In line with government advice, during the lockdown, navigation by boats in England should be limited to essential travel only. As non-essential travel should be avoided, boat owners who are not currently occupying their boat should not take short overnight breaks on their boat during the period. Those who live on their boats and, as continuous cruisers, are normally required to move from place to place on a continuous journey, will not have to do so during the restricted period. Information for boaters, including how to access support and advice, is available on our website.