Read the latest Boaters' Update to find out how we’ve successfully lobbied the government to extend the energy support scheme to continuous cruisers and then about some recent work for boaters.
After that you can ‘meet’ Dale Canfield, a liveaboard boater and area operations manager on the Grand Union Canal. Finally we’re celebrating a reservoir that’s fed water to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal for the last 130 years.
Welcome to Boaters' Update. Read on to find out how we've successfully lobbied the government to extend the energy support scheme to continuous cruisers and then about some recent work for boaters.
After that you can ‘meet' Dale Canfield, a liveaboard boater and area operations manager on the Grand Union Canal. Finally we're celebrating a reservoir that's fed water to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal for the last 130 years.
The regular news roundup and this weekend's stoppages can also be found.
15 Aug – We are preparing to host the biggest angling event for young people in almost 20 years. The National Celebration of Young People and Fishing, held on 16 and 17 September on the Shropshire Union Canal in Staffordshire & Shropshire has already attracted 275 entrants, and we are inviting more young people to get involved.
Government energy support now available to continuous cruisers
People living on boats without home moorings on our navigations will be entitled to payments from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero from the Energy Bill Support Scheme.
The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will be providing a £600 support voucher to itinerant boat dwellers who are registered as continuous cruisers and held a Canal and River Trust long-term leisure licence without mooring (6 or 12 month) for a minimum of one day while the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding (EBSS AF) was open between 27 February 2023 and 31 May 2023.
To be eligible, each boat had to have held a Canal & River Trust Licence as a continuous cruiser for a minimum of one day between 27 February 2023 (when the scheme launched) and 31 May 2023 (when the scheme closed) inclusive.
The vouchers will be sent via email or via SMS or letter to those customers who do not have an email address registered. To ensure the voucher is issued correctly and can be redeemed by the intended recipient, boaters must ensure that their details such as email, phone number, and postal address, are up to date on our licensing portal by 28 August. More information is available here.
How to redeem the voucher
The voucher can either be redeemed online or in person.
You can pay the voucher into your bank account using online banking in a browser or a mobile banking app. The support will be paid instantly into the eligible individual's bank account. This is the safest, simplest and quickest way to access the support.
Alternatively, for boaters who do not have online access or access to a computer or a smart phone, the voucher can redeemed in person for cash at a PayPoint retailer.
PayPoint are a trusted government partner who specialise in payments and commerce for the public and private sector. More information on PayPoint can be found on their website - https://consumer.paypoint.com/.
Further information and detailed instructions on how to redeem the voucher will be provided alongside the voucher itself.
For further information and scheme updates, please visit the GOV.UK webpage for the scheme by searching “Energy bill support if you do not get it automatically: continuous cruisers” in the GOV.UK search bar. For any queries regarding the scheme, please contact [email protected].
Breaches, bridges, mounds and a cruise against a cut in government funding
Our local team worked through the night and came up with a temporary solution, meaning we were able to reopen navigation again within a few days
The picture on the right shows how the team rebuilt the waterway wall with 300 concrete bags and clay backing. As you can see, they managed to fill the pound enabling the navigation to reopen. Thanks to the brilliant effort of the team, navigation was back open again by Tuesday.
Of course, this is only a temporary solution. We've now scheduled a remote camera survey of both the culvert under the canal and to investigate the pipe which we believe runs at the toe of the bank. The information from the surveys will enable us to determine what needs to be done next.
Hazlehurst Bridge restoration
The 12-month project, costing £2 million, was enabled by an award from the Postcode Earth Trust, thanks to funds raised by players of People's Postcode Lottery. It has seen the bridge rebuilt in its former location and with the same form, scale and character as before, with many of the original stone copings reused.
Hazlehurst Bridge is an accommodation bridge that provides access across the Caldon Canal for farmers and residential boaters. It also provides access for the Trust for maintenance work.
Adnan Saif, director for West Midlands, says: “The Caldon Canal, originally built to transport limestone from the Peak District for the iron and pottery industries in Stoke on Trent, runs through some of the most outstanding scenery on the canal network.
“Constructed at the end of the 18th century, Hazlehurst Bridge is one of over 2,700 listed structures in the Trust's care. We are grateful to the support of players of People's Postcode Lottery to enable us to rebuild this historic bridge within a particularly fascinating section of waterway, with multiple historic structures and a rich story to tell. As a charity with increasing cost pressures, and with news that government is cutting support to keep canals open, it's important we secure external investment to help us restore, protect and preserve our historic waterways to ensure that we don't see the decline that took place in the early 20th century.”
Hillmorton's mysterious mound
Grass cutting challenge
It's been a particularly challenging year to keep on top of towpath vegetation, with regular rain and warm periods meaning our contractors have struggled to keep up and the standards we require haven't been met. Things have been especially bad in the West Midlands, and we know many of you have been in touch to share your concerns about access to moorings and lock landings, and getting safely along the towpaths. To help us get on top of the backlog of cuts this summer, we agreed a recovery plan with our contractors and redeployed a number of colleagues to tackle the most challenging areas.
If it's been bad near you, you should be starting to notice the difference, but do let us know if it's still not right where you are, so we can get it sorted. We'd also welcome constructive ideas for how we can do this better, as we're reviewing how we can best avoid these problems next year – get in touch via phone, email or our website.
Campaign cruise makes waves
As you may have read, last month Government announced a new funding settlement, spanning from 2027 to 2037, to follow on from our current grant agreement. Whilst we welcome this further long-term commitment to the nation's historic waterways, the amount awarded represents a steep reduction in funding of over £300 million in real terms over a ten-year period. A reduction that will have devastating consequences on our canals and the people and wildlife who rely on them.
Just to explain the figure of £300 million, since it has generated a lot of interest: we have measured the reduction in our funding against a baseline that includes a modest element for inflation, had it been applied to our core grant, while Defra has not offered any recognition of the effect of inflation. This is why we describe the reduction as ‘in real terms'. We calculate the total effect on our spending power of a) having no increase for inflation from 2021 to 2037, together with b) the 5% year-on-year cut, as amounting to over £300 million – in real terms.
Back to the event though. It took place from 11am - 1pm, saw campaigners descend on the canals and towpaths outside the Mailbox. A huge thank you to everyone who helped the event pass off so smoothly, with minimum disruption to boating businesses and other users, and great coverage in the media.
I manage the operations team and the maintenance of the canal between Iron Trunk Aqueduct Milton Keynes and Stockers Lock Rickmansworth which equates to approximately 56 miles with 87 locks, four large reservoirs, a large pumphouse and several other smaller ones.
What kind of volunteers do you have (are they boaters/walkers/retired etc.)?
We have a range of volunteers, mainly retired and from many different walks of life. As you can imagine, they have had many different experiences that really compliment the work we do, from customer service to the construction industry.
It's a really broad range of things. From planned preventative maintenance, lock keeping, and fence repairs through to painting, boat maintenance and bank repairs. In reality it's a long, long list so it's easier to say anything that my team do, volunteers do!
What's your background?
My career started as a baker for which I had a qualification in baking and confectionary. I started my work in a small local bakery where everything was handmade. No machinery to make it easier! At the same time I was a retained firefighter for 11 years. I left baking to join the prison service in which I served for 20 years. After that I was head of service for supported accommodation for mental health services in London.
Can you remember your first experience of a canal or river?
Yes, I live on a boat now but fell in love with canals many years ago when living close by and walking the dogs daily. It took 10 years for my wife to agree to live on a boat and now she wishes she did it 10 years ago. We love boat life!
Do you or any of your team go boating?
Yes, in fact, 45% of my team are liveaboard boaters
What do you enjoy most about your job?
All of it, I enjoy customer contact the most (if it's positive!) and I am trying to make a difference locally for all the users of our canals.
What do you enjoy the least about your job?
With a busy section of canal and a lot of interested parties, it can be very demanding and almost impossible to please everyone. That said, I do try my best every day to make a positive difference.
Working to get the canal to a standard that I am happy with in my section. There is lots of work to do to get it to my high standards so I do appreciate that this is not a quick project, in fact it's a long one with many demands!
Is there anything boaters can do to make your job easier?
Yes lots! It'd be great if they would only use waste sites for domestic rubbish that is in a refuse sack. That means not fridges, microwaves, mattresses, waste tanks, sofas, tyres – these need to be disposed of at a local tip.
I'd also ask boaters to be particularly careful not to accidentally drop without the safety catch as this breaks the rods from the paddles and causes closures. Proper and considerate use of Elsan disposal points is also high on my wish list!
What does an average week look like?
Busy! Emails are relentless, planning can be difficult too as there always tends to be an issue that needs addressing immediately. Customer service complaints are constant and usually relate to fly tipping. It's frustrating because it's such a drain on our time and I'd like my team to be focussing on real issues that make a noticeable change to the boating experience.
What's the oddest job you've had to do on the waterways?
Arrange to get a dumper removed that had been driven in by youths. In the last year we have also had a car and several motorbikes to recover from the cut.
What's the most common job you do?
I would like to say maintenance but we are spending a lot of time chasing fly tipping at great cost. It's not only in time either but also in disposal costs. Misuse of the waterways causes a massive distraction from the core work that we should be doing.
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.
If you've cruised on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal then you've benefited from Winterburn Reservoir. Opened 130 years ago this month and was the last significant Victorian construction project on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, and is at the halfway point of a three-month programme of essential maintenance works. Project manager Stuart Sutherland explains more in the video below:
The work comes at a time when we are facing challenges from more extreme weather, driven by a changing climate, affecting the ageing infrastructure, and from a recently announced cut in future funding from the government.
Situated on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and Pennine Lancashire, the reservoir officially opened in August 1893. Today, it is a major supply of water for the Leeds & Liverpool Canal – the UK's longest single canal - and is a valuable green open space for people and wildlife.
Restoration works to the Grade II Listed reservoir, which will keep it in working order, is supported thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery. Skilled stonemasons have cleaned the spillway flight by removing vegetation, deteriorated masonry and grouting. Work has begun on replacing stonework and repointing using traditional lime mortar. The vital repairs are due to complete by the end of September and build on major works undertaken at Winterburn Reservoir in 1995 to bring it in line with modern safety standards.
Stuart adds: “It is a careful balance to maintain the historic integrity of this 130 years old asset to withstand the demands of the 21st Century. While skilled stonemasons apply traditional lime mortaring techniques that would have been used in construction of the reservoir, we are employing the latest innovations to lower our carbon footprint and reduce our onsite disruption with clamp-on platforms to carry out works (in place of scaffolding) and bringing in solar-powered welfare units.”
Celebrating 130 years
Laura Chow, head of charities at People's Postcode Lottery, said: "It's fantastic to see the support of our players making a real difference in our communities, helping to protect important projects like the Winterburn reservoir. Players have raised more than £18 million awarded by Postcode Earth Trust to support and foster the conservation of our canals and waterways.
“The ongoing restoration progress at Winterburn Reservoir, as it celebrates its 130th anniversary protects its legacy and demonstrates the commitment in safeguarding our heritage.”
While the water resource situation is undoubtedly better than it was just a few weeks ago, we still want boaters to continue to use water as thriftily as possible. And while many of you can recite the principles of THRIFT from memory, here's a little reminder:
Two in a lock? Share locks
Help keep it in. Make sure gates and paddles are shut
Report any leaks to us
Invite oncoming boats through. Don't empty or fill locks if someone else can make use of the water
Find another favourite. Explore less busy parts of our network
Think ahead. Plan cruises to minimise use of locks
As you'll know, each winter, when fewer boats are on our waterways, we carry out essential repairs and maintenance. In many cases we need to close the waterway completely, and sometimes even the towpath. Before we begin, we always consult the people who use our waterways to make sure these stoppages cause as little disruption as possible. Thank you to all those who commented on our draft winter 2023/24 programme. The list has now been published and you can see the individual stoppages in the main search function on out stoppages webpage. You can also download the full list of 2023/24 winter stoppages as a pdf. This pdf is updated regularly. We aim to deliver the winter programme as published. However, changes are occasionally required. Change will only be made where necessary and the website and pdf will be updated accordingly.