Welcome to Boaters’ Update. In this eclectic edition you can read about the ongoing fight to #KeepCanalsAlive, the £600 energy support for continuous cruisers followed by some advice on stopping the spread of invasive species which can cause such havoc on our waterways.
After that you can plan ahead with our guide to this year’s winter moorings and then read how the humble brick provides a fascinating insight into the history of our wonderful canal network.
Welcome to Boaters' Update. In this eclectic edition you can read about the ongoing fight to #KeepCanalsAlive, the £600 energy support for continuous cruisers followed by some advice on stopping the spread of invasive species which can cause such havoc on our waterways.
After that you can plan ahead with our guide to this year's winter moorings and then read how the humble brick provides a fascinating insight into the history of our wonderful canal network.
The regular news round-up and this weekend's stoppages can also be found below.
17 Aug – Why not swap your narrowboat for a canoe or kayak and head to the Swansea Canal? We're asking canal lovers to travel a mile of the Swansea Canal this way as part of the year-long celebration of its' 225th anniversary.
1 Sep – Tour the magnificent 'Cathedral of the Canals', explore a renovated Victorian workshop and step back in time to watch traditional craftsmen at work in a canal-side blacksmith's forge. These are some of the experiences we're making available this month as part of England's largest festival of history and culture.
What's 127 miles long and took 46 years to build at a modern-day equivalent cost of around £37 million? Well done to anyone who answered ‘the Leeds & Liverpool Canal'.
Coincidentally, the advent of rail saw both of the Leeds & Liverpool's trans-Pennine rivals abandoned and, if it wasn't for the volunteer movement, they would be a footnote in history.
Today, the ‘competition' is different yet just as much a threat as the rail industry was to the canal network. Climate change is having a palpable effect on the planet and, in turn, the waterway network. Extreme weather events are becoming more common, and more extreme, and the 200+ year old network is struggling to withstand them.
Our approach to managing the weed, including early season spraying and in-season mechanical removal, has struggled this year to keep-up with the growth and we're reviewing what we can do differently next year with the limited budget available.
But these steps alone aren't enough. As you may have read, in July the Government announced a new funding settlement, spanning from 2027 to 2037, to follow on from our current grant agreement. We welcome this further long-term commitment but the amount awarded represents a steep reduction in funding of over £300 million in real terms over a ten-year period compared to recent levels. A reduction that will have devastating consequences on our canals and the boaters, towpath visitors and wildlife which 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. 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.
As you'd imagine, we're not resigning ourselves to this decision and have launched our Keep Canals Alive campaign to explain what is at stake and find ways to address our concerns over the threat to our waterways. You can get an update on the campaign, including how you can support, here.
The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has begun distributing £600 vouchers to itinerant boat dwellers in respect of their energy costs, including alternative fuel use. The vouchers are being issued to boat dwellers who are registered as continuous cruisers with the Canal and River Trust and who held a long-term leisure licence without home mooring from the Trust for a minimum of one day while the Energy Bills Support Alternative Funding scheme was open (27 February 2023 to 31 May 2023).
If you have already received support through the Energy Bills Support Scheme (including the EBSS Alternative Funding), or the Alternative Fuel Payment (including the AFP Alternative Fund) you are not eligible for this support.
How you will receive the voucher
These vouchers will be issued to eligible individuals over the next week so do not worry if you have not received your voucher yet. Vouchers will be sent out automatically by PayPoint to the email address provided by customers to the Trust, or via SMS or letter depending on the contact details you have registered with the Trust.
Please also check your email spam/junk for your voucher.
Only Canal & River Trust licence holders who continuously cruise can be named on the voucher, and only the person who is named on the voucher will be able to redeem it.
The voucher can either be redeemed online or in person. Recipients must redeem the voucher by the expiry date shown on the voucher.
The safest and fastest way to redeem your voucher is online. You can pay the voucher into your bank account in a single transaction. It will be paid on the same day, usually within an hour.
For your security, the bank account must be in the same name as the person who was sent this voucher. You will be directed to your bank's online banking verification process to redeem the voucher. The government will not ask you directly to provide your bank account details to receive the payment.
Whilst many users have successfully redeemed their vouchers without any problems, we are aware that some recipients have experienced an issue when attempting to redeem their voucher via online banking, and received an error message at the end of the process. A separate email has been sent to all those eligible so please look out for it if you've experienced this error.
Alternatively, for customers who do not have online access or access to a computer or a smart phone, the voucher can be 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/.
According to a recent UN assessment, invasive species are costing the world at least £335bn every year. While the huge financial impact is spread across the whole world, the effects are being felt closer to home.
Every year we spend around £700,000 treating invasive weeds. However, these direct control costs are likely to represent a small proportion of the wider impact of invasive species.
As non-native invasive species are often introduced to the waterway network by unsuspecting members of the public, we have been working with Defra and the Non-Native Species Secretariat to raise awareness of the problems they cause.
If you're concerned that an invasive species has not been dealt with on our waterways please . The management of some invasive species is helped hugely by volunteers, including Himalayan balsam and Ragwort. Check our for details of how to get involved.
The main offenders
One of the most invasive weeds in Britain, Japanese Knotweed's dense growth crowds out native vegetation, erodes riverbanks and causes structural damage.
We spray it once a year to try and keep it under control. However, it's impossible to eradicate it completely as it can grow from the smallest fragment.
Floating pennywort can grow from the smallest fragment and spread rapidly, causing operational and safety concerns. A single infestation can cost us up to £25,000 a year to treat and, without proper management, can block our waterways.
Himalayan balsam is now widespread along our network. It outcompetes native plants and when it dies back in winter results in erosion of banksides. The most effective control method is manual hand pulling, however this is a time-consuming activity which benefits hugely from volunteer time. Visit our volunteering pages for details of how to get involved during early summer and make a difference to our waterways.
Reporting potential invasive species
While we try and monitor and control invasive non-native species where we have the resources, there is always the threat of new species being brought onto our waterways. One of the most common ways plants become invasive is through escaping from gardens.
Our partners are always seeking more information on where plants are starting to endanger our waterway habitats. Early identification that a plant species has the potential to be invasive is key.
If an ornamental plant is growing so strongly that it needs to be controlled to prevent it overgrowing other plants, it has the potential to be invasive in the wild. This can be reported via the Plant Alert website.
What can you do?
There's a simple principle that you should follow when going from one waterway to another. It's called Check, Clean, Dry:
Check your equipment, boat (not always possible but certainly everywhere above the waterline), and clothing for mud, aquatic animals or plant material. Remove anything you find and leave it at the site.
Clean everything thoroughly as soon as you can, paying attention to areas that are damp or hard to access. Use hot water if possible.
Dry everything for as long as you can before using elsewhere as some invasive plants and animals can survive for over two weeks in damp conditions.
Even though this latest blast of hot weather could fool anyone into thinking that we're still in the midst of summer, we're only actually 84 days away from the start of winter (meteorologically speaking @ 8 Sep). With this in mind we've announced the plans for winter moorings.
Winter moorings give boaters who don't already have a permanent mooring a chance to moor up for the winter months, while keeping enough space clear for those who want to continue cruising.
Permits will be available for one, two, three or four months*.
the pricing of nearby moorings (to ensure we comply with competition rules)
the availability of nearby facilities and services
the level of demand
The price bands for 2023/24 are:
Band 1 £8.50
Band 2 £10.20
Band 3 £12.70
Band 4 £15.80
Band 5 £19.00
Band 6 £21.60
Band 7 £23.80
Band 8 £26.20
Some sites have changed price band in response to the high levels of demand last winter, with popular sites increasing but other low demand sites at a reduced price.
Before booking a winter mooring, please check our winter stoppages to ensure that works will not prevent you from reaching or leaving your preferred site.
Winter moorings are available at fixed locations and you can see these on the regional maps below.
Lengths shown on the maps may not be 100% precise, but the linear length of each site will be included in the site list, and signage on site indicates the start and end point of each winter mooring from 1 November 2023 to 29 February 2024.
* This year the Winter Mooring site at Salthouse Docks Visitor Mooring is for five months from 1 November 2023 - 31 March 2024, however boats must arrive by 30 October 2023 and will not be able to leave until 1 April 2024, due to the closure of the Liverpool Link Canal between 31 October 2023 and 31 March 2024. Winter Moorings at this location are only available for the complete five-month period. Electricity is provided at Salthouse Dock winter mooring, there is a mandatory daily fee of £7 (in addition to the winter mooring fee) that is chargeable for the duration of your winter mooring. This will be invoiced separately.
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.
Brainchild of visionaries like Brindley and Telford, and carved out of the landscape by ordinary working men and women, our canals are a window into a bygone era. But none of them would be here without the humble brick. Heritage adviser, Elizabeth Thomson, explains why the birth of our network and the explosion of the brickmaking industry are so inextricably linked.
At the time, digging was seasonal. Navvies would cut out the line of the canal using picks and shovels, finishing their back-breaking work by 1 November, before the frost set in. The excavated clay was left to break down over the winter months, before being tossed into a shallow pit and trodden down by humans or horses. After that, brickmakers would mould the bricks and fire them in kilns or clamps, ready to go into the bank walls, bridges and locks we see on our network today.
“You can walk along the canal network and tell when these handmade structures were built just by looking at the size and texture of the bricks,” says Elizabeth. “The number of bricks that were used to build those early canals is mind-boggling; you're talking millions and millions of bricks, each one of them carefully moulded by hand.”
“The canals were a game-changer for the brickmaking industry,” says Elizabeth. “What began as a hand-made, local trade, over time, and through the Industrial Revolution, became mechanised; factories opened, machines were installed, and you go from rustic handmade bricks to smooth engineering class machine-made bricks.”
By the early twentieth century the hand moulding of bricks was confined to a few brickyards, the itinerant brickmakers and small canal-side yards bought out by the big factories or forced to close. Within a century, the canals that spawned them would suffer a similar fate.
So next time you're on your boat, why not pause for a moment to examine their handiwork? There are makers marks stamped on many bricks, particularly on blue-brick copings on locks and bridges. If you look close enough, you might even see the tell-tale fingerprints of those first craftsmen etched into the bricks. These so-called ‘brick kisses' can be found up and down our network, as shown here at Factory Road Bridge stamped with the makers marks J. Whitehouse, Bloomfield, located in Tipton. They are a lasting testament to the men, women and children who were involved in brickmaking for our canals.
Elizabeth is also doing a PhD on the brickmaking industry of the Black Country at the University of Birmingham sponsored by the Black Country Living Museum.
As you may have read back in March, we conducted a trial of contactless payment systems at a handful of our customer service facilities. We're pleased to announce that the installation of this system will now be rolled out in our North West region. More information on how to use them can be found here.
On 2 December, alongside the Accessible Waterways Association, we are holding a ‘Towards Accessible Waterways' Event. To coincide with the International Day of People with Disabilities, we are holding this event to recognise and celebrate all those who are working to make our inland waterways more accessible for disabled people. Applications for exhibitors are now open via the AWA website.