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The charity making life better by water

We've launched our Towpath Code

Ahead of the busy summer holidays, we are appealing for people to remain friendly and courteous on towpaths – as figures published today show the nation’s canals are benefiting more people than at any time in history.

In the last financial year, a record 885 million visits were made to our often narrow towpaths across England and Wales by walkers, cyclists, boaters, paddlers, anglers and runners, with visits having increased by over 30% in the past four years.

As the summer temperatures rise, we are asking people to keep their cool, and has published a new Towpath Code to help people better enjoy their time on towpaths, avoid tension between visitors and respect the wildlife and pets along the canal network.

A huge rise in visitors

Richard Parry, our chief executive, says: “With the nation's 250-year-old canals more popular than ever, the summer months are set to draw even more people to visit these much-needed spaces. But with so many people sharing them, and with waterways bringing nature and biodiversity into our towns and cities, it is important that we are kind to each other and to wildlife.”

Speaking about the rise in popularity of canals, Richard continues: “We saw a huge rise in visits to our waterways during the pandemic and they have remained important places for many people who discovered them during that difficult time.

“Today canals are playing a key role within society. They are vital links for walking and cycling and help Government hit its targets* around access to nature and the outdoors. But canals are old and vulnerable and need continued investment. By sharing the space responsibly, we can all look forward to enjoying our local canals this summer.”

Our Towpath Code

Our Towpath Code is a simple, easy to understand guide for how to share towpaths thoughtfully and considerately. Remember: Share the space, Drop your pace, It's a special place. The following applies:

  • Pedestrians have priority.
  • Cyclists must slow down for others.
  • Take extra care when passing people, pets and wildlife.
  • Respect people using the waterway for activities like angling, boating or paddle-sports.
  • Wheelchairs, mobility aids, cycles and legal e-bikes are allowed.
  • E-scooters, motorbikes, modified e-bikes and other unauthorised vehicles are not allowed.
  • Keep dogs under close control and clean up after them.
  • Take litter home.

Last Edited: 10 July 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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