The charity making life better by water

Boaters’ Update 17 Nov 2023

Find out about your Boaters' Report and how we're spending your licence fee, as well information about boat insurance which could save you money if disaster strikes.

Although scientists are predicting that this year is ‘almost certain’ to be the warmest of the last 125,000 years, we have nonetheless seen the rain, fog and grey skies that go hand-in-hand with our winter maintenance and engineering programme – more news of it starts this edition.

We also tell you more about a protest cruise on Westminster and an exciting second phase of dredging of the Montgomery Canal restoration.

Finally, along with this weekend’s stoppages, there’s an article about boat insurance – not usually a riveting topic but certainly one which could save you a lot of money if the worst happens and what you need to do to get refunds for unused pump out cards.

Happy boating, Damian

PS If you’re a user of X, formerly known as Twitter, then we’re please to say that our @CRTNotices account has now resumed announcing stoppages as and when they are added to our website.

Autumn at Farnhill, Leeds & Liverpool Canal

In this edition:

  • The A to Z of our winter stoppage programme
  • Surprising stats from the latest Boaters’ Report
  • Cruise on Westminster
  • Dredging more of the Montgomery
  • Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend
  • The importance of boat insurance small print
  • Returning pump out cards ahead of contactless payment roll out

The A to Z of our winter stoppage programme

Despite the harsher conditions, we do a lot of our ‘big jobs’ over winter to minimise the disruption to boaters. As a boater you’ll appreciate we have a never-ending list of tasks and our £50 million winter stoppage programme will cover a lot of them. These include worn-out lock gates being replaced, historic bridges repaired, tunnels inspected, canals dredged, and a host of other important heritage and conservation tasks.

Age and the extreme weather that is becoming more common due to climate change mean the year-round work, including the support given by thousands of volunteers, many of whom are boaters, is vital in looking after the network.

This year, we’ve faced some of the greatest threats to the future of the canals in over 60 years. Battered by storms and floods, the cost of keeping the ageing waterways safe has soared. Against this backdrop, the government has announced significant cuts in the vital funding they will be making available for the care of this historic network - A parliamentary debate about funding for the canals took place on 9 November, tabled by David Morris MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale. DEFRA’s Trudy Harrison MP responded, summarising the many benefits of the canals and paid tribute to the work of our charity. She also recognised the impact of climate change, and the role canals can play. She talked about the government’s continued intention to fund the waterways but without committing to sufficient funding that will ensure they are protected for future generations.

Wigan lock flight stoppage

We are determined to safeguard the canals and all the benefits they bring to boaters and our local communities, so we’ll be rolling up our sleeves to deliver the care and maintenance required, and to fundraise the money needed. The work we are carrying out this winter is part of our ongoing effort to keep canals alive and accessible for local people. The alphabetical list below – ok, four of the letters were impossible to match to the first letter of any of our waterways so I improvised – shows just a tiny portion of what we’ll be up to:

  • Aire & Calder Navigation Main Line - Repairs to quions and cills and also damaged/bent stop grooves at New Goole Caisson near Old Goole in January.
  • Bank Dole Cut – Repairs to Lock 5 in January and February.
  • Chesterfield Canal – Top and bottom gate replacement at Lock 49, Worksop Morse Lock, in November and December.
  • Digbeth Branch (Birmingham & Fazeley Canal) - Night time closures are required to allow for construction of new high speed railway viaduct over the Digbeth Branch Canal, Curzon Street, in February and March.
  • Erewash Canal – While there’s no work planned as part of the winter programme of works, we did spend a lot of time in September and October managing water levels after a lock was vandalised.
  • Fossdyke Canal – Later this month the Saxilby visitor mooring footbridge will be lifted back in to place following its removal for refurbishment works.
  • Grand Union Canal - Replacing the top and bottom gates and carrying out some repairs to the steps and brickwork at Cape Lock 24, Warwick in January and February.
  • Huddersfield Broad Canal - A stoppage is required to carry out washwall repairs due to missing stone between Turnpike Lock 5 and Bridge 9, Ridings Bridge, from January until March.
  • Icknield Port Loop – We've worked in collaboration with Birmingham City Council to secure outline planning consent at Icknield Port Loop, a site extending to approximately 43 acres (18 hectares), to the west of Birmingham city centre.
  • Jim Crow Arm – This little known arm lies off of the Titford Canal.
  • Kennet & Avon Canal - A stoppage is required to replace the top and bottom end gates mitre at Lock 83, Higgs, near Newbury this and next month.
  • Llangollen Canal - A stoppage is required to drain Pontcysyllte Aqueduct for our periodic inspection and we also plan to replace towpath supports at the same time during January to March.
  • Middlewich Branch (Shropshire Union Canal) - A stoppage is required to carry out repairs to the failed by-wash culvert at Lock 1, Wardle Lock near Middlewich during November and December.
  • North Stratford Canal - Replacing the top and bottom gates at Lock 19, Kingswood, in November and December.
  • Oxford Canal - Replacing the top end single and bottom end single gates at Lock 35, Heyford Common this month.
  • Peak Forest Canal - Resin grouting will be put behind the lock walls to fill up any voids and prevent deterioration of the lock structure at Lock 14 in January and February.
  • Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Waterways - You can now cruise the waterways around the London Stadium, which includes the Old River Lea, City Mill River and St Thomas Creek, without needing to book first. But you will need to book passage through some of the locks onto the Thames.
  • Regent's Canal - Relining the bottom gate and repairing the chamber wall at Actons Lock (7) near Haggerston in March.
  • Shropshire Union Canal - A stoppage is required to remove a deformity and install a structural liner along the full length of Culvert 19, Blacon, near Chester this month and next.
  • Trent & Mersey Canal - Fitting new head and tail gates at Lock 74, near Middlewich as well as carrying out some footbridge and masonry repairs in January and February.
  • Ure Navigation - Gate replacement and general repairs at Milby Lock (Lock 3) in February and March.
  • V – The Tame Valley Canal is 8.5 miles long and is a secret, secluded world, largely hidden from its built-up surroundings by high embankments and deep cuttings.
  • Walsall Canal - A stoppage is required to carry out replacement of the top gate at Lock 1, Top Lock in January.
  • X – On the Oxford Canal this winter a number of lift bridges are having hydraulics installed to allow them to be raised and lowered via a windlass.
  • Y – The Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation will see gate replacement and general repairs at Long Sandall Lock in January and February.
  • Z – On the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal at Lock 11, Aston, the bottom gates will be replaced along with lock ladder and brickwork repairs this month and next.

You can read the full list on our website.

Ashton Lock stoppage lock 7

Surprising stats from the latest Boaters’ Report

Every year we publish a report specifically for boaters that summarises the work undertaken to keep the canal network open and available for navigation and sets out how we generate the income needed to support boating and the wider use of the waterways.

The Report, covering the period from April 2022 to March 2023, illustrates how navigation is the core of our day-to-day spending and objectives. A link to the Report will be included with new boat licences and boat licence renewals but, if you can’t wait to read it, it’s easily accessible on our website.

In a challenging year which illustrated the vulnerability of the ageing canal network and its exposure to extreme and more frequent weather events brought about by climate change, the Report celebrates examples of the work carried out to keep the waterways safe and open for navigation. Despite the increasingly unpredictable, and damaging, conditions, some statistics from the Report show that much was still achieved:

  • 10% increase in the investment in maintaining our network, to £199.5 million
  • Dredged over 35 miles of waterways at a cost of £7.4 million
  • 120,000 tonnes of material removed from navigations.
  • 208,090 hours of volunteer lock keeping
  • 325 in house construction projects
Weed conver boats removing floating pennywort

The makeup of our income is reported, including the 20% of income that comes from the income we receive from your boat licence and other boating income. It also provides details of the campaign to in response to proposed cuts in funding by government post 2027 when our existing grant agreement ends.

Richard Parry, our chief executive, comments: “Boats cruising the waterways are central to our work and keeping the canals safe and open for navigation is of utmost importance. A navigable and safe canal system protects the waterways’ heritage, supports biodiversity and underpins the benefits that the network brings to millions of people both on and off the water.

“Despite the challenges facing the canal network, with the support of boaters and partners, we are committed to doing all we can to safeguard the waterways’ future and urge all boaters to join our Keep Canals Alive campaign and make their voices heard. We hope recipients find the Report useful in giving them an overview of the work we do and how the money is spent and welcome any feedback on what readers might like to see covered in future years.”

An example of conventional dredging from a pontoon

Cruise on Westminster

A flotilla of boats today delivered a visual and vocal message to the Palace of Westminster that funding cuts for our canals and rivers are unacceptable and damaging. The boats, a mixture of leisure and commercial, drew parliamentarians’ attention to their presence and the banners they were displaying by sounding their horns and holding station outside the Palace of Westminster. They were cheered on by a group of supporters on Westminster Bridge.

The boaters and supporters acted on behalf of a new campaign group, Fund Britain’s Waterways, which represents over 100 organisations with varying interests in the waterways. The Canal & River Trust was represented on the cruise by chief executive Richard Parry, regional director Ros Daniels and national boating manager Matthew Symonds.

The group is campaigning to ensure that there is sufficient funding to retain the huge environmental, economic and social benefits that inland waterways are widely acknowledged to provide. It will continue working to ensure that future governments continue to invest the relatively small amount of funding that is required to maintain all these benefits.

The Westminster cruise built on the success of previous, well supported, campaign cruises earlier in the year in Birmingham and Gloucester. More events are being planned in the run up to the next General Election. Support for the campaign can be shown by signing the petition available at

Sir David Suchet CBE FRSA, a long-term supporter of the waterways and a Vice President of the Inland Waterways Association, said “Our waterways are valued and used by millions of people. Over the years volunteers have not only worked to protect and restore them but also ensured that governments appreciate their value. I am pleased to see this proud tradition continue.”

Christine Kemp, a long-standing waterway volunteer and liveaboard boater who participated in the cruise, as well as in an earlier campaign in 2007, said: “Who would have thought after the 2007 campaign cruise against DEFRA cuts that we would need to be here again in 2023, asking the government to look after our heritage and infrastructure.

“My boat is my home, and I spend time volunteering to help keep the canals in as good a condition as we can, but cuts to waterways funding will have a devastating effect on the canals and my way of life. Our waterways are one of the things that make this country special – serious cuts to their funding risk losing them for everyone.”

Staff members holding a Keep Canals Alive campaign banner

Dredging more of the Montgomery

As mentioned above, and as you may have read about Gloucester Docks in the last edition, dredging is one of our core activities to ensure that navigations remain open and usable for boaters. Sometimes we need to continuously return to a location and carry out regular dredging because it’s especially prone to silting up. However, for certain parts of the Montgomery Canal the challenge is different – the second phase of dredging in the restoration project will be venturing on to a stretch that hasn’t been used by boats in nearly a century!

The restoration has included decades of work by volunteers and partners. Now, over four miles of the canal between Llanymynech and Maerdy is being restored thanks to our successful Levelling Up Fund bid in partnership with Powys County Council, supported by the Montgomery Canal Partnership.

This phase of the canal’s restoration is aiming to restore the channel so that boats will be able to use the waterway for the first time since the 1930s. It will also help make the canal easier to use for unpowered activities such as canoeing and paddleboarding. The restoration is also creating a broad and sustainable habitat to support a range of wildlife and the protected floating water plantain that are found on the canal.

Restoration work gets underway at Carreghofa Locks on the Montgomery Canal

This latest phase of dredging is being split into two parts. The first, which will be completed in the new year, will see nearly a mile dredged from Bridge 99 to Vyrnwy Aqueduct. The work will also open-up the canal by cutting back overgrown vegetation and ensuring that dangerous or diseased trees are pollarded or removed as appropriate. The second part, just over half a mile from Bridge 101 to Bridge 102, will see the bank stabilised using coir roll and timber stakes, which will give the canal a soft bank ideal for wildlife such as water voles, wild fowl and invertebrates. This phase will begin in January and is set to be complete by March 2024.

Kathryn Woodroffe, project manager for the Montgomery Canal restoration, said: "This phase of dredging is another exciting step forward in the work to restore the Montgomery Canal.

“We are aiming to achieve a standard depth for boats to use the canal and ensure vegetation and tree cover that will enhance and protect the diversity of the canal ecosystem.

“The protected floating water plantain found in the Montgomery Canal, tends to follow the shade line, so we will look at maintaining overhanging branches, where safe to do so, to provide the ideal environment to encourage its growth. The work will also give us the opportunity to create and maintain a broad and diverse habitat to encourage wildlife.”

Councillor David Selby, Powys County Council's Cabinet Member for a More Prosperous Powys, said: "I’m delighted to see more progress being made on this project which aims to provide long-term economic, cultural and wellbeing benefits for local communities, as part of our plans to make Powys a stronger, fairer and greener place to live, and we want that to be achieved as a result of having a wildlife rich and well managed waterway.”

During the dredging a footpath diversion will be in place where the footpath comes off the canal towpath across the farmland at Pont-y-Person.

You can find out more about the project on our website.

Montgomery Canal

Maintenance, repair and restoration work this weekend

As someone who’s out on, or by, the water more often than most, you’ll know that there are times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. So, below, you’ll find a list of navigations that have ongoing restrictions that may affect you if you’re planning to get out on the water this weekend:

When restrictions to navigation happen, we get them up on to our website as soon as we can – always best to have a scan before you set off. As set out in the article above, you can set up your smartphone to automatically alert you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. Check out this guide to setting it up.

If you have any questions about a specific closure, or spot an error in our system, please get in touch.

The importance of boat insurance small print

I’m sure we’ve all done it at one point or another. You get handed what feels like War and Peace to sign and skim the small print before adding your signature. While it would be great for us all to have access to a contracts lawyer to pick over the detail, we generally take the path of least resistance and sign.

Most of the time this act of abandonment doesn’t come back to bite us but River Canal Rescue, the breakdown and emergency assistance firm, suggests that boaters might want to take more care when it comes to insuring their boat.

It is calling for boaters to check their Terms & Conditions if they have a third-party insurance policy, as many will leave them unable to recover costs for a vessel refloat, removal and pollution management if their boat sinks.

RCR says it’s aware of a number of insurance companies that are capitalising on the demand for cheap policies by modifying their terms & conditions, including removing some common third-party risks or adding them as optional extras.

This, says managing director, Stephanie Horton, is causing major problems for owners, who due to unclear Policy Information Documents, are unaware they’ll be left to foot the bill for vessel refloat, pollution management and environmental damage claims, should their vessel sink.

“While most third-party policies will support ‘salvage’ – vessel sinking – claims, as there’s a risk you may cause damage to the environment and other vessels, do not take this for granted. Boat age is another issue; although a standard policy covers specific age-ranges, insurers can exclude certain vessels, or will only insure with a survey, not a BSS certificate, so it’s important to check.” RCR is also concerned about claims handling, saying a number of insurers fail to appreciate boaters’ circumstances or support them during what is usually a very traumatic event.

Stephanie continues: “The emphasis is generally on claimants to limit further damage, organise estimates, report on what’s happening and pay for the work. Most insurers don’t take into account if you’re on holiday, you cannot progress the claim as you would if at home, and if you’re a liveaboard, and have just lost everything including your bank cards, phone and personal possessions, you’re not in a position to take any of the above actions.

“Before buying insurance, check the policy exclusions and optional extras, and ask how your claim will be processed if your vessel sinks or is at risk of sinking - is there a 24 hour helpline and online support?”

To help boaters navigate third-party policies and claims handling procedures, RCR has compiled two insurer comparison tables. Where possible its team checked all available policy documents, but this may not cover everything, so use only as a guide. Similarly, the claims handling data is based on general claims, and each case may be different.

RCR and its subsidiary, Canal Contracting, report that they respond to hundreds of incidents resulting in insurance claims every year and regularly witness insurance policies failing to meet customer expectations and variations in insurer claims handling. Its Incident Care team helps boaters manage insurance claims and reduce risks following an emergency – call 01785 785680 to find out more.

A narrowboat on a canal

Returning pump out cards ahead of contactless payment roll out

We now have a PO Box set up for the return of unused pump out cards. All unused cards must be returned for refund before 31 January 2024.

On receipt of unused cards, we will process the refund within two weeks. Please provide the following when returning cards:

  1. Unused cards for verification
  2. Name of customer: (the name on customer account held with the Trust)
  3. Customer number: 8XXXXXX
  4. Contact telephone number: to enable contact if we do not hold bank details (please DO NOT include bank details with the returned cards)
  5. Contact email address
  6. Confirmation of place purchased: (i.e. online shop)
  7. Date of purchase

Please send the above information and unused cards to: Pump Out Cards Return PO Box 7029 COVENTRY CV3 9UB

Last Edited: 29 November 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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