Welcome to the latest edition. It's another bumper one packed full of news and events. It starts with great news about more Green Flag awards for our waterways, work being in done in London and the South East for boaters, an insight into some of the vandalism we deal with, an update on water resources, news of a boaters' census and where to moor at the Commonwealth Games. The routine roundup of news and stoppages can also be found.
Welcome to the latest edition of Boaters' Update. It's a big edition packed with lots of news and events.
In it you can find out what's being, and been, done for boaters in London and the South East, the thoughtless vandalism we've recently had to deal with, an update on water resources and restrictions, a boaters' census as well as a few events you might like to visit in August.
If you're planning a visit to the Commonwealth Games, there's also a reminder of the temporary mooring arrangements in place. As ever, this weekend's stoppages and the latest news are also included.
19 July – Cheshire's historic Anderton Boat Lift hosted lift off for the Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton Relay on the first stage of its tour through Northwich prior to the start of this week's Games.
21 July – A £1 million two-year project to link together parks and green spaces in Southall via the Grand Union Canal was launched earlier this week with a canal-side information event taking place at Havelock Green Space in Southall.
25 July – alongside partners, we supported World Drowning Prevention Day – encouraging, often young people, to stay out of the water during the hot summer school holidays
Green Flag success coincides with tenth anniversary
Earlier this week, more Green Flags were awarded to waterways meaning that we now have over a quarter of our canal and river navigations recognised. This includes urban canals in Manchester and Sheffield, Commonwealth Games-hosting waterways in Birmingham, and semi-rural stretches of river in Leicestershire and a navigation in Yorkshire, have been newly awarded prestigious Green Flag status by Keep Britain Tidy.
The Midlands saw seven new sites being awarded Green Flags, including sites in central Birmingham and Walsall as the community got involved in showcasing the waterways as part of the Commonwealth Games. In Manchester and Sheffield, once unloved stretches of urban canal have been transformed into pleasant, wildlife-rich places for the surrounding communities to spend time. More rural stretches along the River Soar and Calder & Hebble Navigation were also recognised. The Kennet & Avon Canal, Macclesfield Canal and Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, together with Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool, the first marina in England to hold a Blue Flag, retained their status, along with 35 other sites.
Richard Parry, chief executive, said: “As we celebrate our tenth anniversary, we're delighted that over a quarter of our network now holds Green Flag Awards. It's a testament to everyone who works or volunteers with the Trust, including those in the community who play such a vital part in helping to look after their local canal. The Green Flags showcase the breadth of what the waterways have to offer: the growing role canals have as beautiful places to spend time and reap the health and wellbeing benefits of being by the water. And this barely scratches the surface: with waterways offering free, accessible blue and green space on the doorstep of millions, everyone can find their own special place.
“The latest chapter in the story is only just underway and brings its own challenges, with the 250-year-old canals vulnerable to changing weather patterns. We are calling on the public and the government to continue to support the waterways so we can continue to protect and preserve this incredible network and avert the decline we saw last century.”
Commenting on the news that 50 stretches of the Trust's waterways have met the Green Flag Award standard, Keep Britain Tidy's Accreditation Manager Paul Todd said: “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making these waterways worthy of a Green Flag Award.
“Canals and rivers are vital green spaces for communities across England and Wales. These awards are testament to all the hard work of staff and volunteers, who do so much to ensure that they maintain the high standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.”
The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of green spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.
A full list of Green Flag Award-winning parks and green spaces is available here.
In the last edition you read about the great work being done in the East Midlands for boaters. Continuing our whistlestop tour around the network, our next stop is London and the South East.
Different to the previous articles about the work being done in individual regions, this time we'll be focussing on two things that set London apart from most other parts of the network. The first is the London Mooring Strategy and the second is the working life of a ranger – both aspects of our work for boaters that aren't routinely found elsewhere on the network.
London Mooring Strategy (LMS)
As boat numbers on London's waterways grew rapidly (with boat numbers doubling between 2010-2020), we identified the need for a LMS to help address the challenges facing boaters in London. These included pressure on moorings, facilities and infrastructure. It was sometimes hard to find space at towpath moorings in the most popular areas while the supply of long-term moorings outstripped demand.
Before updating you on the latest progress, it's worth looking at the aims of this long-term project:
Better provision and management of facilities and mooring types
Manage the high number of boats in London and mitigate the environmental impacts on the waterways and neighbours
Help ensure fair sharing of water space
Enable a wider range of boaters to visit and navigate in London
Generate income to maintain the waterways in London
Support a London waterway destination and tourism strategy
Ensure the mooring strategy contributes to our aim that London's waterways help to transform neighbourhoods and enrich people's lives
Working towards those aims, we've been able to improve boating in London by installing, or improving, four new waste sites, seven new water points, two new Elsan points, electricity charging points (as part of an eco-trial) and hundreds of metres of mooring rings.
In the last few months some of our work has seen us:
Installing new mooring rings over approximately three quarters of a mile of general towpath on the Limehouse Cut and sections of the Regent's Canal.
Dredging to enable easier access to facilities and towpath moorings in places such as Norwood Top Lock.
Continuing work on new electricity charging points at Brentford.
Clearing vegetation on the River Stort.
Use over 40 tons of material to repair the access road at Coppermill (which was an issue for boaters)
Consult on creating more pre-bookable moorings (thanks to the 1,000+ of you who responded!)
As the above hopefully demonstrates, with the help and input of boaters and other stakeholders, the LMS is an ever-evolving initiative that aims to improve time afloat .
As a slight aside, if you'd like to give us your feedback on the LMS, or anything to do with your boating life, then you'll find our local team at some upcoming events where they'll be holding informal boaters' ‘surgeries'. If you can't make it in person then you are always welcome to drop them a line at [email protected].
Linslade Canal Festival - 30 July
Angel Canal Festival - 4 September
Oxford Canal Festival - 17 September
Talking of the local team. One of them is Gareth George who's been a London mooring ranger for five years. Here, George gives an insight into his role:
What does an average day as a ranger on London's waterways look like?
After that I'll go out on site visits – it could be a boat moored inconsiderately or requiring assistance, or a member of the public negatively impacting canal life. Sometimes you get called out to a boat which is “polluting”, to find it's just their shower pumping out into the canal. Sometimes it's a bit of education to the public, other times to boaters.
We do anything you can think of... I also manage the paid bookable moorings in Paddington and Rembrandt Gardens so if boats are already in London or coming in from outside and want to be sure of having a mooring they have that option. We look after temporary suspensions to moorings or navigation, whether that's for third party works, new bridges etc or festivals like Cavalcade. We had to move every boat out of the Hertford Union Canal in January for a three-month restoration project.
What projects have you been working on recently?
We manage the Eco Mooring Zones at King's Cross and Islington. We helped advise on the installation of the electricity bollards and worked on the booking system – which is going to be changing soon! At the moment we have an individually numbered space but that's become very hard to manage so we're changing it to meterage. So you might have a specific space but you're booking a 60ft section of the mooring. I also manage Henry who's the Eco Mooring Ranger. We've got other eco moorings in Camden which you can use on a first come first served basis.
Do you feel that there are any misconceptions about what rangers do?
Why is rangers' work important?
The way I best describe my job is that we do everything that everyone else doesn't have time for! Part of our job is boater-facing signage – visitor moorings, no mooring areas… Stopping people tying to railings and damaging the infrastructure. We do a lot of work with the London Mooring Strategy, having new rings installed and suggesting locations for others. There's the Harlesden Canalside Project as well and we give feedback into things like that too.
As you'll have been reading in Boaters' Update each week there's a huge range of work completed to protect and preserve the network. We have to carefully plan what we spend our limited budget on so, when costs are rapidly rising, it's especially maddening that some people in socieity show a complete disregard for the nation's wonderful waterways and how their anti-social behaviour has an impact on boaters and other waterway users.
To give you a better idea of some of the things we deal with, here are a couple of examples.
Lock 6, Camp Hill, Grand Union Canal as told by Dan Allen, reactive response team manager
The problems with Lock 6 started a few weeks ago on a Tuesday afternoon. A boater called in to let us know that they were unable to fill the lock. To investigate, the area operations manager sent a team member to have a look and it was confirmed that there was a problem filling the lock. I then got a call to ask if I would go out and have a look on my way home. By the time I got there, the operations team had helped the boaters back to the top of the flight where it was safe to moor and I inspected the lock with the ops team.
We determined there wasn't much we could do that evening and arranged to meet back on site at 6am the following morning with tools and the floating pontoon to see if we could fix the paddle.
We spent Thursday collecting all the stoppage equipment together and loaded the boat. On Friday morning we met at 6am in Icknield Port to set off with the boat down Farmers Bridge and Ashted locks – 19 in total – but when we arrived at Lock 6 we found a whole new problem to deal with. In what can only be described as pointless and stupid vandalism, the bottom end towpath side gate had been unseated and was leaning up against the offside gate.
With a bit of head scratching, and a few choice words, we decided on a plan of action and started arranging to get the now-required heavy duty equipment to sight. We had a team from Tardebigge deliver a 3-tonne gantry, needed to support the weight of the gate, and the Wolverhampton team deliver the lifting gear.
With the gate back in position, we concentrated on the paddle problem that, as it turned out, we couldn't have fixed without draining the lock first - it had come out of the slides and was letting water through. After clearing away equipment we eventually reopened the lock at 6.30pm ready for boaters to use that weekend.
Bywash, Huddersfield Narrow Canal as told by Victoria Levine, area operations manager
There's a procedure in place, due to fluctuating water levels in Lock 1, whereby passage requires prebooking and is only permitted to be done with the assistance of our local team. However, a trio of boaters ignored this and navigated through the lock – not only dangerous for them but potentially causing damage to the lock itself.
We returned to the bywash, with police in attendance, and removed the barrier. While there, an adjoining landowner, and several other neighbours, also joined us and reported that the boaters had been cutting down vegetation and lighting fires. The day after we removed the initial obstruction another plank was put across the bywash, now removed, and the boaters moved on shortly after that – breaking through a lock that was chained and padlocked to help us manage water resources.
Thanks Dan and Victoria. So, as you can see, we have to deal with some quite extreme anti-social behaviour and I'm sure you share our frustration when we have to spend time and money fixing their consequences when we'd rather be putting those resources into making the boating experience as good as it can be.
Editor's note: From time to time our people experience behaviour which is unacceptable, and we encourage everyone to speak up when this happens. Threatening or abusive behaviour will not be tolerated. This includes threats and abuse received directly or indirectly verbally, in writing, text messages or appearing on social media channels, chat rooms or other electronic media. We will maintain records of all threatening or abusive behaviour and where it is appropriate to do so will take immediate action to protect our people to address threats and abuse from individuals or groups.
2022 may well be remembered as the year when temperatures in the UK first surpassed 40 degrees. The recent record-breaking hot weather came on the back of an exceptionally dry spring. During the peak of the heat one meteorologist commented that, even where rain was falling, in most places it wasn't reaching the ground because the air was so dry.
Thankfully the waterways have largely been holding up well under this combination of hot, and dry, weather with hundreds and hundreds of miles of the network completely unrestricted. There are navigations with some restrictions, mainly where a dearth of rain has been compounded by essential statutory work on some reservoirs.
Whilst some of these restrictions have been in place for a little while, the water resource picture is changing week to week. We're keeping canals open unrestricted where we can, putting in restrictions to facilitate boating for as long as possible where needed, and, as a last resort, closing canals if there is no other option. In all instances, if and when there's enough rain, we'll get each canal back open, and without restriction, as soon as possible. Because the situation is changing all the time, please sign up on our website for stoppage notices so that you have the very latest picture.
One such restriction came into effect on the Trent & Mersey Canal earlier this week.
The extreme weather and record temperatures at the beginning of last week hit the dwindling resources hard, leaving many pounds below weir level if not dry - this occurred across the wider North West region, as many lengths and feeds 'simply dried up'.
We are drawing out the supply on the Caldon Canal to maintain some form of navigation for as long as possible.
Sadly, with all these impacts coinciding, the northern section of the Trent & Mersey was hit and we suspended navigation from Lock 41 to 71.
With regards to Harecastle Tunnel, we are closing it in line with lock flights where passage is restricted through locks 36 to 61 to mornings only, for the following reasons:
This will allow us to increase the feeds required to refill the Cheshire flight
As a result of increasing the feeds into Cheshire this will lower the level of the tunnel pound (summit) to a level where we would have a higher risk of boats grounding within the tunnel, equally if the level is lower we will not be able to safely deploy the rescue boat.
By replenishing the Cheshire flight in the afternoon this will hopefully leave sufficient time to replenish the Treat & Mersey ready for the following day as we can only release minimal feeds from the reservoir to protect supplies for as long as possible.
By sacrificing the lesser used afternoons slots for the tunnel, the hope is to maintain navigation for a longer period into the peak boating period. By acting now we stand a much greater chance of doing this.
While the forecast doesn't yet show any prolonged periods of rain for any part of the country, there are some things, in the meantime, we can all do to help stretch out precious water resources. It's called THRIFT:
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
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 your boat 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. 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.
We're launching our first ever Boater Census and are asking every boat licence holder to take part and help paint a picture of who boats on our waterways.
The Boater Census has been designed with input from boater representatives on our Council to help understand the different needs of those who live on or who use their boats for leisure. The anonymous data will be available to share with other organisations, such as local authorities and health service providers, to help them understand boaters' needs and ensure they are met.
Matthew Symonds, head of customer service, said: “While we know quite a lot about the boats that are on our network, for example the size, type and even their age, we know much less about the people onboard and their circumstances. The Boater Census will give us a comprehensive overview of the people who boat on our waterways, what they are using their boats for, and the challenges that they might face.
“The Boater Census is short, easy to complete, and completely anonymous, with no data attached to any boater. We are asking boaters to take part and help us build a picture of life on the waterways in the 21st century, 250 years after they opened to navigation.”
Tracey Clarke, co-opted boater representative to represent the views of disabled boaters on the Council, said “For those of us who live on the water, we know that there's a huge diversity of people in the boating community. However, very little information about them is formally recorded and that makes it much harder provide evidence to those who make decisions about the services that boaters need. I hope boaters will complete the census to help fill this gap in information about who's on boats on the Trust's waterways.”
Dave Mendes da Costa, also a boater representative on the Council, said “Spending time on the water is a great experience, but life on a boat is not without its challenges. I know how hard it can be to access basic services like a GP and have seen the obstacles which many face when bringing up children aboard or acting as carers. This census provides the first opportunity for boaters to give the Trust a full picture of these challenges, whether that's finding places to maintain our boats, access to health services or barriers to claiming benefits. The more boaters who complete the census the better the Trust can understand our needs so I'd encourage everyone to take part.”
We will be sending a unique e-link to the Boater Census to every boat licence holder who has provided an email/or mobile phone number. This will be sent out in phases during August. All answers will be anonymous and cannot be linked to individuals or boats.
Boaters are encouraged to complete the census survey by 30 September 2022, and we will send out reminders ahead of the census email.
With the school summer holidays now upon us, activity on and by the water really picks up. If you're looking for something to while away a lazy day or two then maybe one of the events below might be worth a go..
Reminder of Commonwealth Games mooring arrangements
After yesterday's spectacular opening ceremony, your appetite may have been whetted enough to inspire a cruise to Birmingham! If you do, here are some of the waterway places at the heart of the action:
On the Tame Valley Canal we've put in 100m of new 14-day moorings a stone's throw away from one of the main venues of the Games. Alexander Stadium not only hosts the Opening and Closing Ceremonies it's also where, from 2 to 7 August, athletes will also compete in track and field events.
New Main Line, Birmingham & Fazeley and Worcester & Birmingham Canal - gymnastics
Always popular with boaters, the New Main Line and the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal have moorings, some bookable (see below), and give you the opportunity to moor up pretty much next to the gymnastics venue (Arena Birmingham). Marginally further away, you'll be able to moor for four days opposite Gas Street Basin.
Coventry Canal – wrestling, judo and rugby sevens
Visitor moorings, between bridges eight and nine, are pretty much next to two venues; Coventry Arena and Coventry Stadium. If you struggle to find a spot to moor you can always head to nearby Hawkesbury Junction where you'll find extra moorings.
Old and New Mainline (Smethwick) – diving and swimming
Moorings are available along both canals near Smethwick pumping station and there are new moorings available down Engine Arm while not adjacent to the canal, the newly built Sandwell Aquatics Centre is less than a mile away.
An additional 110m of 14-day moorings are available by the University of Birmingham, near Selly Oak train station.
Grand Union Canal – lawn bowls
Additional two-day moorings are available near the town centre, by Leamington Spa railway station which are a very short walk from Victoria Park where you'll find the bowls.
Old Main Line (Wolverhampton) – cycling (time trials)
Additional moorings are available by Wolverhampton train station which are only a few minutes' walk from West Park which is where the cyclists depart on their time trials.
There are some Games-specific mooring arrangements:
All visitor moorings within Birmingham City Centre will change to four days for the period of the games. This will cover the area in between Vincent Street bridge, Farmers Bridge top lock, including Cambrian Wharf and Granville Street. These will be clearly identified and monitored and is in force until 4pm on Tuesday 9 August.
Boating business moorings and their operations will remain unchanged.
Visiting boaters will not be allowed to stay within this zone for longer than four days and will be expected to move out. Moving from different spaces within the zone is not permitted and this will be monitored by our teams.
The moorings durations outside of this zone will remain unchanged and we have installed 180m of new 14-day moorings just outside of Vincent Street bridge which are bookable. These are available until 4pm on Tuesday 9 August.