Closing the towpaths

Published: Monday, 04 January 2021

Whilst I am quite sympathetic to your concern for live aboard boaters and their ability to protect themselves from people who may be infectious, you overstate your case, writes Mike Todd.

The current rules from the government web site state:

In Tier 4, you must not leave or be outside of your home or garden except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’.


A reasonable excuse includes exercising outdoors or visiting some public outdoor places, such as parks, the countryside accessible to the public, public gardens or outdoor sports facilities.

You can continue to do unlimited exercise alone, or in a public outdoor place with your household, support bubble, or one other person.

You should exercise locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your Tier 4 area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space).

No limit

In all tiers, there’s no limit to the amount of time you can spend outside.

This clearly does not provide the basis for CaRT to ban all access to the towpaths in Tier 4 (or anywhere else at the moment), bearing in mind that some of them are also rights of way (although not generally).

To call towpaths a 'visitor attraction' , especially in the terms used in the advice, is going a tad too far. In any case, the guidance even in Tier 4 seems to suggest that outdoor open spaces that are a distinct part of a 'visitor attraction' may remain open.

Contain the spread

Of course, there is a debate to be had about the extent to which people, in any area, are confined to barracks and whether it will reasonably contain the spread of coronavirus, but it needs to be based on peer-reviewed science not on a rather cautious interpretation of government rules (which change frequently in any case. The science does not—although its application may well do so).