Towpath Code of Conduct

Making the towpath safer for everyone

Horse drawn barge near Warnicombe Bridge.

This is one of two codes of conduct that the Canal Ranger Service have put in place to encourage the safe and considerate use of both the towpath and the Canal channel by all users. Both codes were developed in partnership with groups and individuals representing boating, angling and wildlife interests on the Canal and has been endorsed by the Canal’s Joint Advisory Committee.

The Towpath Code of Conduct has been published within our Visitor Information Guides, which is  available at the Canal Visitor Centre. It is also displayed in all of our notice boards along the towpath.

All towpath users

  • The horse pulling the passenger barge has priority over all other users. Please stop and make way before it passes.
  • If you wish to overtake the horse, please wait for the horseman to beckon you past. Never step over the rope and keep to the hedge side of the towpath.
  • Pedestrians have priority over cyclists on the towpath.
  • Considerate cycling is permitted provided this code of conduct id followed.
  • Horse riding and drone use is not permitted.
  • Give way to oncoming users under bridges.
  • All users are obliged to keep the towpath free from obstructions to other users.
  • Consider other users and the environment. Please take your litter home with you.


  • Please look and listen out for cyclists and allow them to pass.
  • The use of headphones is discouraged as you cannot hear cyclists approaching.


Cycling along the towpath (Photo taken by Alison Day)

  • Please slow down and use your bell or politely call ahead when approaching pedestrians. Bear in mind they may be hard of hearing.
  • Pass people slowly only once they are aware of your approach and have made way.
  • Ride at a sensible speed.
  • Slow down and take extra care at bridges –  you can’t see what’s coming the other way! Always dismount and walk when signs indicate to do this.
  • Watch out for anglers and their equipment and pass slowly.


  • Please keep the towpath free from obstructions to other users.
  • Anglers must move rods, umbrellas, and themselves completely out of the way to the far side of the towpath if the passenger barge horse is approaching, so that the rope does not become snagged.
  • Take care no to lose tackle. Almost every year swans and ducks on the canal are killed or injured by lost tackle.
  • Please take particular care of towpath users, boaters, and offside landowners when casting.

Dog walkers

Lady walking her dog by Tiverton Road Bridge

  • Dogs must be kept under control at all times and on leads in the Canal Basin Picnic Area.
  • Always clear up after your dog. Dog mess on or beside the towpath can spoil a visit for everyone and poses a serious health risk – particularly to children. Dog mess disposal bins are located at all major towpath access points. It is an offence to leave dog mess behind, with fines of up to £1000.
  • Do not allow your dog to chase or worry wildlife, other dogs, or people. Dogs must be kept out of adjacent farmland at all times.

Motorised vehicles

  • The use of motorised vehicles is prohibited, with the exception of mobility buggies and electric bicycles.