Victor: Surely it should now be Towpath Trust!

Published: Sunday, 19 April 2020

WITH Canal & River Trust giving complete freedom of movement to towpath users whilst closing down its waterways it really should change its name to the more accurate Towpath Trust.

Boaters are not allowed on its waterways and its continuous cruisers are being hampered by ever changing regulations giving them the feeling of being inferior citizens, whilst visitors to the towpaths have no regulation whatsoever.

Every single person in the country must be aware of the coronavirus pandemic and the never ending 'Stay at Home - Save the NHS' messages rammed down their throats, yet thousands ignore it by walking, jogging, running or cycling the towpaths, so such people are hardly going to bother about the ambiguous notices being churned out by Towpath Trust—should they even see them.

People with moored boats, whether marina or towpath, are not allowed to take them out on the waterways, as a couple of people on a boat mooring against a towpath 'is a health risk' that could spread coronavirus.  But the thousands of people allowed on that same towpath obviously cannot.  Just how illogical is that?

This is indeed a clear case of favouring the towpath visitors as against the Trust's customers—the boaters. The answer is simpleclose the towpaths. That would deliver the 'Stay at Home - Save the NHS' instruction.  But no, Canal & R...sorry, Towpath Trust is more interested in flogging its linear parksthe towpathsand to hell with us, the boaters.  Even though it goes directly against the government advice, as they are certainly not staying at home and the two metres rule is impossible to enforce on such narrow towpaths.

In perspective

Let's put it in perspective.  We are not allowed to take our normal Spring cruise as, though we have all been in isolation for three weeks, we are told we could tie up at a towpath and spread coronavirus.  We planned to travel the Trent & Mersey, well stocked but with a 'pit stop' at the Tesco Extra just up from the towpath at Rugeley early in the morning, keeping our distance then off we go.

The problem however is the masses of towpath visitors at the locks that could give us the virus, and for the aged Thomas that would be kaput!

You see the problem?  All the towpath visitors, many of whom will be hanging around the locks, some obviously affected, spreading it to us.

So Towpath Trust bans us (not the more obvious visitors) and bans all its other thousands of boaters and hire companiesits paying customers—from using the safe environment of the waterways in favour of allowing unsafe towpath visitors, who of course pay nothing, but more importantly are illegally breaking the rule of travelling away from home to exercise and the other rule of keeping the two metres distancing.

Where's the logic?  Where's the sense? 

Thousands at risk 

It gets worse, much worse, for Towpath Trust tells us there are 5,500 continuous cruisers on its waterways, and with many couples and even crews a modest total would be around 7,500 people—many elderlyat risk from coronavirus from those towpath visitors.

But that is not the half of it.  The boaters have to stay put.  And needing supplies of course that means they have to stay where it is available—around towns, where the hoards of walkers, joggers, runners and cyclists congregate.

Here's what the Trust (Towpath, of course) tells its continuous cruisers:

'We are continuing to put out the message that, while our towpaths remain open, use of them should be limited, in support of the government’s ‘stay at home’ campaign.

To this end, thousands of signs have been put up around network, with more to come, and other channels such as our website and targeted social media advertising continue to remind the public that towpath use should be limited and only for those who are local to it'.

Then it told the continuous cruisers:

'Please remember our advice—only move your boat if it’s essential (not for leisure purposes) and minimise your use of the towpath'.

So whilst the public have free rein to use the towpaths as they please, boaters cannot, they have to minimise their use!

How ridiculous is that?  It proves one thing for surethe towpaths are not for the use of boaters, they're for visitors!

Blaming the government

And now it is no longer 'our' advice.  This has been changed to 'governments' guidance, making it of course seem official, though of course it is not as the government most certainly has not given the advice it blatantly states:

If you are not currently occupying your boat, the government guidance is that you must not visit it. This means no short trips or breaks on your boat at this time. 

It is simply putting it's own twist on the government's 'stay at home' campaign so stopping boaters.  But I ask why not the same twist to stop towpath visitors?

Instead it is wasting thousands of pounds in an expensive campaign to persuade people not to visit its towpaths, if it really means it then it would be simpler and a lot less expensive to just close them.  But methinks, as do I'm sure many others, that is the last thing it really want to do, eh?

Victor Swift