News article created on 7 March 2018

London Waterway Bulletin - March 2018

Brrrr, it’s officially Spring, but feeling more like winter with the recent snows! Don’t let the cold weather put you off from enjoying the wonder of our frozen waterways. There are lots of Towpath Taskforces to get involved with this month, as well as opportunities to volunteer and sample cultural activities on the canals, starting with film and live performances at Paddington Basin.

Frozen Little Venice A frozen scene in Little Venice

All hands on deck to tackle Lee Navigation oil spill

As many of you know, there was a serious oil pollution incident on the Lee Navigation in February. This has significantly impacted on the health of the river and on the boaters moored on this particular stretch. We’d like to thank everyone for their patience and help with the clear-up operation.

The oil had spread from a source on Pymmes Brook, a tributary of the Lee Navigation just below Tottenham Lock. Heavy rain causes local storm drains to discharge into the Brook and ultimately into the Lee Navigation. In this instance, it’s understood a large amount of waste oil had been dumped into the storm drain.

Following initial reports of the incident on 11 February, the Trust and Environment Agency (EA) worked rapidly to place additional special booms across Pymmes Brook and at various other locations on the Lee Navigation to contain the spill. Tankers were used to collect oil captured by the booms and absorbent pads were used to soak up patches of oil.

The EA, as the body with statutory responsibility for pollution incidents of this size, has continued to lead the clean-up operation over the last few weeks, with the support of the Trust’s Waterway and Environment teams.

Many boaters, as well as local businesses and organisations, asked to help with the clear up, so we arranged for supervised clean-up events as well as providing for equipment (such as absorbent pads) to be left at the Lee Rowing Club and Springfield Marina for boaters to use around their boats.

We are continuing to support the EA as they clean the remaining oil from the river, although the snow affected progress over the cold snap. The EA’s contractors have now completed a line clean of any residual oil from the source to the outfall, and Pymmes Brook is now clear of any further oil so there should be no more flowing into the waterway. The contractors will now re-double their efforts on the Lee Navigation. Tottenham Lock, Old Ford Lock (on the Lee) and Bottom Lock of the Hertford Union remain closed while the clear up continues. Movement of boats is allowed below the boom at Lea Bridge only as necessary to get water and enable access to services. However, we ask that there be no boat movements from the boom at Lea Bridge heading north.

Investigations are ongoing with the EA into who was responsible for the spill. We have been in touch with all our partners and local MPs to make them aware of the issues and the need for a long-term solution.

Our aim is to see the oil cleared and the navigation open as soon as possible. We’ll continue to post updates of progress on Twitter @CRTLondon, London Boaters Facebook page, and our stoppage notice services. For any other enquiries contact us at

Thanks again to everyone who has helped us and our partners deal with the oil spill.

Changes to boat licensing


Over 11,000 submissions were made to our consultation on Licensing Futures, which aimed to ensure the financial contribution made by boaters towards the cost of looking after the waterways is spread fairly across the boating community. We’ve now published the changes we will be making to boat licensing following the consultation.

A summary of the changes are:

  1. Changes will be phased over five years, with no changes before April 2019
  2. Current length bands remain the same, and an additional charge will be levied on widebeam boats, with the introduction of three width bands
  3. The prompt payment discount will be reduced to 5% in April 2019, and from April 2020 the structure of the discount will be changed
  4. All other current discounts remain unchanged, with a planned review of the criteria for the electric boat discount
  5. One-day licences will be withdrawn while all other short-term licences will be retained

There will be no link between mooring status and licence fees, but a further review is planned to establish how the significant growth in some popular locations can be addressed.

You can find more information and the consultation reports on our National Consultations page.  

London mooring strategy

Since the New Year we’ve been busy going through more than 1200 responses received in the London Mooring Strategy consultation, and are considering what changes are needed to our proposals. Overall, there is broad support for the principles and proposals in the draft Strategy, although some proposals have been less popular. It’s been a time-consuming process finalising the Strategy, but we aim to publish it around Easter time. While implementation will be phased, we hope that the Strategy will start improving the experience of boaters, and of boating, in the Capital very soon.

Film and poetry at Paddington Basin

March in Paddington Basin sees an exciting programme canal-related films and live events aboard the Barge Fiodra, moored up next to the Paddington Basin floating Pocket Park.

Films include The Bargee (1964) and Painted Boats (1945), both shot on the Grand Union Canal 19 years apart; and L’Atalante (1934), shot on a French barge and directed by Jean Vigo.

Two special evenings feature writer Kate Saffin, discussing the wonderful women canal characters she’s created over the years; and Nancy Campbell, our new Canal Laureate, who’ll be premiering her new filmpoem ‘The Cut’.

You can find out more and book tickets to all these events on Fiodra’s website

Proposed new canal access in Regent’s Park

The Royal Parks and Canal & River Trust are working together to create better access between Avenue Road and the Regent’s towpath, so that more people can enjoy the canal, The Regent's Park and onward connections to ZSL London Zoo, Camden, St John’s Wood, Lisson Grove and Lord’s Cricket Ground.

Currently there are some rudimentary existing steps at this location (beside Macclesfield Bridge) which do not fully connect to the towpath level. It is proposed to remove these steps and replace them with a new ramp and steps which will connect the street level all the way down to the towpath.

The design of the new access has been developed to take account of the existing environment, landscape and heritage features of the location, to limit the impact on the trees and vegetation and to take account of the access needs of our various visitors.

The three metre wide ramp will make the access more accessible for visitors, especially those using wheelchairs and prams. Features include a textured surface, handrails for support and flat landing areas. The access will also include new orientation and directional signs to locations of interest.

We'd love to know what you think about our plans. You can give us your feedback there until 23 March 2018. You can also contact us at

Following this feedback we will finalise our designs for the access and submit a planning application to Westminster City Council. If the proposal receives planning consent, The Royal Parks will then build the access between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Proposed access ramp and steps Visualisation of how the steps and ramp would look from towpath level, produced for Canal & River Trust by Arcadis Consulting (UK) Ltd.

Winter moorings ending soon!

With spring around the corner, a reminder that our winter moorings scheme ends on 16 March this year, to ensure they don’t disrupt the start of the cruising season over the Easter holidays. Please remember that if you have a winter mooring permit, you will need to leave the site when your permit expires on 16 March so do make sure that your boat is all ready to move on. We hope you’ve enjoyed staying put while our winter works programme was underway, and that you’re looking forward to exploring the waterways as springtime approaches!

Look after your Elsans and they’ll look after you!

Elsan disposal points and pump-out machines are vital waterway infrastructure, especially when your boat’s toilets are full! It never ceases to amaze us, though, how little care some people show towards these essential services. When St.Pancras Cruising Club recently started renovating their boater facilities, to provide a more reliable service to both club members and passing boaters alike, they were shocked to find the cause of the latest Elsan blockage – a plastic bottle, with a pile of wet wipes backing up behind it! Please take care to only allow human waste and toilet paper to enter your toilet, and keep Elsan caps and bottles away from the disposal point to prevent them falling in. Otherwise it could be a long journey to your next sanitation station with full toilets!

Blocked drainage

Come and volunteer with us – mooring rangers needed!

Volunteers are an essential part of the Canal & River Trust team, helping to look after the London’s waterways and making them a welcoming place for people and wildlife. We have a range of events and opportunities going on from towpath taskforce, to mooring rangers and towpath walks. To find out more please check out the latest newsletter on our website

This month we are looking for volunteers to join our mooring ranger team. If you enjoy meeting people and are looking for a flexible volunteer experience on London’s canals then this could be for you. We’re introducing volunteer mooring rangers at sites across London to provide a welcoming information service to mooring customers and record information about boats using the mooring. 

We’re looking for volunteers who can give a minimum of one hour a week (this could be in the evening or weekend), with a friendly manner and enthusiasm for canals, boating and your local area. To find out more about volunteer mooring ranger opportunities near you please visit our volunteering page.

March Towpath Taskforce dates

Join us at Towpath Taskforce to help keep London’s waterways looking their best!  Please click the links below for more information. All tools will be supplied, please wear old clothes suitable for the forecasted weather and hard-soled footwear.

  • Wednesday 7 March, 10.00am-3.30pm – Vegetation cutback and litter pick on the River Stort at Roydon Lock. Meet us at Roydon Lock, a five minute walk from Roydon High street, approximate postcode CM19 5EF
  • Saturday 10 March, 10.00am-3.30pm – Towpath tidy up and lock painting on the Regents Canal at City Road Lock. Meet us at City Road Lock, nearest access is from Danbury Street, N1 8JY
  • Saturday 17 March, 10.00am-3.30pm – Vegetation cutback and litter pick on the River Lee at Hardmead Lock. Meet us at Hardmead Lock, SG12 8LZ which is one mile south of Ware town centre
  • Wednesday 21 March, 10.00am-3.30pm – Litter picking, vegetation cutback and preparing for painting on the Hanwell Flight. Meet us at Lock 90 off Havelock Road, UB2 4PL
  • Wednesday 28 March, 10.00am-3.30pm – Painting, planting and vegetation management on the Regents Canal at City Road Lock. Meet us at City Road Lock, nearest access is from Danbury Street, N1 8JY

Boat licence customer support news

Our boaters’ licence fees play a crucial role in helping raise the money we need, as a charity, to keep our waterways fit for the demands of today and needs of tomorrow – in fact, they cover around a fifth of our running costs.

The boat licence customer support team works up and down the country to look after the licensing of the boats on our canals and rivers, making sure that all boaters using them are playing their part. Everyone’s combined efforts made a huge difference in the last financial year, meaning we could increase how much we spend on the waterways by 8% to £128 million.

Part of the team’s role is making sure boaters understand the terms and conditions of their licence, such as sticking to their mooring times and cruising appropriately. In the unlikely event that you’re not following the conditions of your licence, the team may have to take suitable action. But rest assured that we will always contact you beforehand to give you as much time as possible to get in touch with us.

An additional, crucial, part of the team’s role is to support boaters who are in need and, for whatever reason, are struggling to follow the rules. The team have always worked closely with boaters to help find ways to assist them where they can – for example agreeing to longer stay times when having medical treatment. In addition, we have expert advice on hand in the form of welfare officer, Sean Williams, who helps the team find the best support to suit a particular boater’s needs.

The London team has one of the biggest workloads in the Trust, due the density of boats on our relatively small network of London waterways (over 4800 boats in total on our 100 miles of waterway). To give an idea of the team’s work, our January figures show they were dealing with 233 unlicensed craft, down from 307 in December. Unfortunately, when all attempts at working with owners to get their boats licensed fail, we often end up having to remove the boats from our waters. In January, we removed six boats, and a further thirteen are awaiting removal.

People profile - Jack Newman, volunteer team leader

We continue our new series featuring profiles of the many people who care for and enjoy the waterways. This month, it’s Jack Newman, a volunteer team leader in the London Waterway.

I have been with The Trust for over two years and seen the breadth and scope of the role change to reflect the ever-increasing work we do with our volunteers.

I have worked with volunteers in a number of roles in the last 10 years, notably a three year posting in Hartlepool and two years with The Conservation Volunteers as a project officer for North London.

Since joining, I have seen the number of volunteers multiply – a trend that will continue. We have recruited two further team leaders to reflect that and are well placed to build further.

My work is diverse in terms of activity and the people with whom I work. The range of volunteering is staggering. My job is to make sure that all the possible volunteer offers of help are facilitated where possible. The biggest groups I work directly with include our volunteer lock-keepers, our community adoptions, our corporate groups and our boat movers. Each of these groups has different needs to help them help us. The volunteer team leaders link the opportunities available to our work delivering improvements and maintenance... as well as joining in the fun when I have time.

We recently had a brilliant day at the Brent Reservoir (Welsh Harp) where we worked with all the stakeholders to clear 160 bags of litter and countless larger items like carpets and trolleys. We were joined by the local MP and the local Hindu community based at the Sri Swaminarayan Mandir temple.

Another fantastic event saw us continue our work with Northolt’s Belvue special educational needs school. They have a great relationship with us and have worked on litter picking, hedge laying and planting schemes.

A mention finally for our towpath taskforce events. These are wonderful opportunities for us to engage new volunteers and never fail to deliver great work on the canal and introduce to amazing, caring and generous people from all walks of life.

Jack Newman Volunteer Team Leader Jack Newman at work

About this blog

London & South East Regional Bulletin

Sorwar Ahmed is Boater Liaison 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