Welcome to our first regional Bulletin of 2020. The weather may be fresh and the nights still closing in early, but there’s been lots going on over the winter and plenty to get involved in to shake off those Christmas calories.
In this edition, read about our volunteers tackling pennywort and adopting parts of their local canal, about towpath improvements across the region and progress with pioneering mooring schemes.
Over the summer of 2019 we launched a trial of a new pre-bookable mooring in Paddington Basin, as part of our plans to improve the range of mooring options for boaters visiting the capital. Using one of the pontoons owned by European Land, the long-term leaseholders of the land around Paddington Basin, we offered six pre-bookable berths on a trial basis from 10 June to 30 November.
The moorings have proved popular, with berths being fully occupied over the summer and strong demand continuing into the autumn. Feedback from boaters using the moorings has been mostly positive, with some room for improvement. Suggestions have included clearer information about the mooring on the booking website, more informative signage on site, more mooring cleats, and better management of moorings to ensure smooth transitions between bookings.
Based on the popularity of the scheme and the learning from the trial, we will be making improvements to the mooring and will continue to offer it to boaters as a pre-bookable service in 2020. Bookings can be made for the period up to the end of June 2020, with bookings for July-Sept. being released at the end of March.
The London Mooring Strategy proposes a suite of pre-bookable visitor moorings throughout central London to improve choice and provide the certainty of a guaranteed mooring spot for visiting boats. Two more sites are currently being developed at Kings Cross (on Argent’s offside mooring) and in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, on a section of towpath on the Lee Navigation where mooring is currently not possible. Watch this space, or visit our website, to find out when these sites will be ready for bookings!
Our plans for the Islington Eco-mooring Zone have moved a step closer following valuable input from boaters at two public meetings held in September. The Trust and officers from Islington Council heard useful feedback about the challenges of implementing the scheme, what could be done to make the project more accessible for boaters, and the range of practical advice and technical support that boaters may need.
We have been working with the Council to modify our plans as a result of the feedback received, including allowing for more charging points and investigating additional support that could be offered to boaters. We are currently developing the mooring management arrangements, which will include specific terms and conditions for the mooring and an online, free of charge pre-booking system. This will also allow specific support and education initiatives to be offered to boaters using the mooring.
The project, which aims to contribute to cleaner air and reduce environmental pollution around the Regent’s Canal in Islington through the installation of electric charging points, will be a trial for two years. During this time boats may not run engines or generators while moored, and boaters will receive advice about how to reduce smoke emissions from solid fuel heating stoves. The project is now in the final design stages, and construction is planned to start in February 2020 following the resolution of design issues and negotiations with power suppliers.
Further information will be published shortly about the start of the trial, providing boaters with plenty of notice about when current mooring arrangements will change.
It seems an age ago now that the the Trust’s office at Little Venice was closed for an apparently minor, er, inconvenience – temporarily blocked toilets. However, urgent investigations by Thames Water found it was a more serious problem - a blockage in the external sewer system caused by a collapsed pipe somewhere in the area. After several weeks of investigations, the source was located in Westbourne Terrace, just south of the blue bridge at the entrance to Browning’s Pool.
Unfortunately, this has had a serious impact on the boaters’ facilities adjacent to the office, causing the use of the Elsan and pump-out to be restricted. We know how important the Little Venice facilities are to boaters in the Capital, so we immediately arranged for our contractors to provide an overflow tank in the grounds of the office and a regular pump-out by tanker to enable the facilities to be opened at specific times. The tank has had to be monitored very carefully by staff, as some of the waste in boaters’ tanks can block the pump (requiring them to, er, lend a hand). This was a particularly smelly task, so a big shout-out goes to our dedicated facilities staff and local volunteer Karl who have soldiered on to keep the facilities open.
One of our local adoption groups in Milton Keynes, Old Woughton Parish Council, were joined at their November work party by Cllr Sam Crooks, aka the Mayor of Milton Keynes! The mayor was impressed by the group’s progress and at how many volunteers gave up their morning to come and help. The group have worked hard over the last few years resurfacing their parish’s stretch of towpath, and after hundreds of barrowfuls of material over the last couple of years the end is finally in sight. The group hope to finish their stretch in 2020 and pass the baton to the neighbouring parish in Simpson.
‘Tis the season for towpath makeovers, as you may have seen if you’re out and about in Oxford. The Canal & River Trust has been working closely with Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council on a project to improve a stretch of towpath between Aristotle Lane and Godstow Road, near the centre of Oxford. The works, which aim to benefit local people, boaters and other towpath users, extend improvements completed in 2014 between Isis Lock and Aristotle Lane.
The project is upgrading approximately 2.3km of towpath, and is entirely funded (to a value of around £750,000) by the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, which ensure that appropriate infrastructure is in place to cope with expected housing growth in the county.
This towpath upgrade, using a combination of flexi-pave and tar and chip surfacing, is a key route into the city centre with lots of links to residential areas, schools, universities and green spaces. It is a very popular area for boaters, with a range of moorings and boater facilities. The towpath is currently narrow in places and has an unbound, uneven surface, making it very unsuitable for the potential growth in use. The project will widen the towpath and make it usable all year around, improving an increasingly popular route for the community.
Works commenced at the end of last year, with most of the activity expected to be completed by mid-February. There is a relatively short time window for carrying out the improvements, for weather and nature conservation reasons, so the Trust is working closely with partners to deliver the project within the time available. If you’d like to know more about the project, please contact Mark Pearson, Enterprise Manager.
The Trust’s transformation of over 16 miles of the Grand Union Canal and Paddington Arm between Paddington and West Drayton is well underway. Working in partnership with Transport for London under the Quietways programme and London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Hillingdon and Westminster City Council, our towpaths will be transformed with better quality surfaces, wider paths, more accessible places to join the towpath, new signs, tidier vegetation, and Share the Space campaigns to promote our towpath code.
Improvements have been completed from Ladbroke Grove to Old Oak Lane, through Alperton and Southall, and between Stockley Park and High Street Yiewsley.
Our most recent towpath improvements between Alperton and Greenford are largely complete, with the towpath open again. However, we will be back to do surface-dressing in the Spring once the weather is suitable again. The towpath will need to be closed again for a short period to allow this work to be done and diversions will be posted on the towpath and on our website. The navigation will remain open.
This year we have also improved access onto the towpath at Bankside in Southall, Ruislip Road, Bridport Road, Oldfield Lane, Manor Farm Road and Portobello Dock, with repaired steps, bike wheeling channels and improved layouts.
Hillingdon Council have been busy helping us with towpath improvements between Stockley Park and High Street Yiewsley, and they will be doing more improvements between there and Trout Road in the Spring.
Also starting in the Spring, we will be improving the next 2.3km section of towpath between Hayes (Station Road) and Stockley Park (Old Stockley Road), and resurfacing Printing House Lane ramp. We will be laying a new, level surface and widening the path to 2m.
The canal will remain open to navigation during these works, but the towpath, access points and moorings will need to be closed in stages to enable the improvements. Diversion routes for pedestrians/cyclists will be in place with information also provided on our website. We’re sorry for any any inconvenience that may be caused during the improvements.
Other upcoming works along the route include maintenance of the River Crane Aqueduct between Bull’s Bridge and Hayes. This is a priority project which will be carried out in the Spring, funded separately by the People’s Postcode Lottery. The project will also allow for environmental improvements to the offside of the canal, with new habitats that will encourage reed fauna species. Hillingdon Council’s plans for a new boardwalk crossing the canal on Station Road Hayes/Botwell Bridge are likely to be built towards the end of 2020, allowing greater space for people walking and cycling and places to sit and enjoy the canal, improved lighting and improving natural surveillance over the towpath at Western View.
We’ve also been out putting down our Share the Space stencils to remind people to use the new path considerately.
For more details please visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/BetterTowpaths If you have any queries about the project please contact the project team by email at: Quietway@canalrivertrust.org.uk
Canoeists on the River Stort have put their canoes to a novel use – using them to clear and transport floating pennywort off the River! Volunteers from Whoosh Explore canoe club have done an amazing job, clearing the majority of the pennywort from the Stort Navigation. The work was carried out by loading mats of the invasive floating weed onto their canoes and taking it by river to an area where it can be removed. An estimated 6-7 tonnes of pennywort have been dragged out of the water by hand. The group has now turned its attention to the back channels that lead into the Stort in an attempt to control the return of this invasive species that can clog the waterways.
Back in the summer, when our engineering team were carrying out some inspections along the Somerton stretch of the South Oxford Canal, they were unable to access an area of bank due to a 140m stretch of towpath having been completely lost to dense bramble and blackthorn scrub. Towpath users were having to divert around the vegetation through a farmer’s field.
Thanks to three and a half days of really hard work by volunteers from the Banbury Canal Partnership, Picker Institute Europe, and DHL this vegetation has now been blitzed with loppers and bow saws, and it is possible to walk this stretch of towpath once again without having to leave the water’s edge. Now that the worst of the vegetation has been cleared, we’ll be able to put this area of towpath into our regular maintenance programme.
In this edition we welcome Sarah Lee, the London & South East region’s new boating and customer services manager.
With a background in leading and developing health and wellbeing services throughout central London, Sarah takes on responsibility for customer service in the region, as well as the boat licence support team and mooring rangers. Being a liveaboard boater in London herself, Sarah has first-hand experience of some of the challenges facing boaters and is keen to keep improving the Trust’s service to its customers and visitors.
Sarah enjoys being active on and by the waterways, and can often be found either kayaking down the peaceful stretch of the Slough arm or strolling the busier stretch of the Grand Union. With a fascination for all things wildlife, Sarah loves how living on the boat brings her up close to many different species of birds. She particularly loves nothing more than waking up each morning to the sound of honking coots and trumpeting swans demanding their morning oats from the boat’s hatch!
With Sarah’s arrival, Sorwar Ahmed moves across to become interim community engagement manager after six and half years of leading on boating matters in London and latterly the whole region.
Sorwar Ahmed is Boating Manager for the Canal & River Trust's London & South East region. He engages with our customers and communities to improve boating serivces and the experience of the waterways for everyone! In this Bulletin he gives a regular round-up of news and views, essential reading for boaters and anyone with an interest in the waterways of London & the South East.See more blogs from this author