Boaters' Update

Welcome to the first March edition of Boaters' Update. In it you'll find some great news about those waterways affected by the Boxing Day floods, reports from your representatives after their first Council meeting and lots more besides...

Kaskelot at Saul Junction Kaskelot at Saul Junction

Earlier this week our patron, HRH The Prince of Wales, wrote a stirring letter to The Telegraph. On this occasion he was writing in his role as patron of English Tourism Week but much of what he said was relevant to boaters too.

As The Prince of Wales mentioned, it is the Year of the English Garden and I’ve seen many boats parading down the cut with pots in bloom lining the roof like a row of brightly coloured beach huts. If this sounds like you then you might be interested in taking in a ‘Garden Tour’ – many of which are a short hop from a nearby canal or river.

It wasn’t the talk of garden’s that struck the loudest chord though. The Prince took the opportunity to urge people, this Spring, to visit those areas hit by the Boxing Day floods. It’s something we couldn’t agree more with. Although there was considerable damage to our waterways in and around the Calder Valley, already some stretches are reopening to navigation in time for Easter.

Now we’ve got a better idea of the work ahead, we’ve tentatively drawn up a timetable showing when each affected waterway should be ready to cruise again. There’s more on this below along with a report of the remarkable contributions that volunteers have made to the repairs.

Also in this edition:

If there’s something you’d like to share with the boating community via this update then please drop me a line.

Happy boating,


Last week, this week

Since the last edition you may have heard, or seen, that:

Before the next edition is published you might like to know that:

  • 13 Mar – If you’re planning a marriage this year then why not ditch the conference room of a chain hotel and do your fact-finding in the altogether more pleasant surroundings of a wedding fayre at the Standedge Tunnel & Visitor Centre.
  • 16 Mar – Do you have a waterway-based project that you think is worthy of an award? Our Living Waterways Awards are now open for entry and the deadline is looming! We’re looking for fantastic projects that are helping to transform canals, lakes, rivers and lochs into exciting places to visit, play, live or work. There are seven categories to choose from and the closing date is now only five days away. Please click on the link above for more information - this is your chance to celebrate the success of your project and the people who have helped make it happen.
  • 19 Mar – Talking of romantic relations – do you like the thrill of The Chase? Good because The Chase I’m suggesting ekes out the thrills over a competitive 38.2 mile towpath walk.
  • 20 Mar – If the above sounds a little too much maybe a stroll along the Regent’s with the IWA might be more suitable?
  • 25 to 28 Mar – Slightly further off but one definitely for the diary is The Easter Boat Gathering & Sea Shanty Festival at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port. A significant event in the boating calendar which marks the start of the summer cruising season where many boats will set off to other parts of the canal network following the festival.

Of course, there are plenty of other activities around the network so please visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.


Timetable for reopening flood affected waterways published

Before looking at when we’re hoping to re-open those waterways affected by the flooding, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on, and thank, the enormous contribution – now over 3,000 hours - volunteers have made.

Volunteering in the north after the boxing day floods

The toil and sweat illustrated above has helped us make quick progress on some waterways while others suffered more significant damage and will take longer to fix.

Alongside the efforts to repair towpaths for those on foot, we’ve also been working hard to fully understand what needs to be done to reopen the affected waterways to boats. We now have a clearer idea of the timescales involved and are able to share some details of our plan.

The good news is that, as part of the first phase of our programme, we’re planning to reopen over 12 miles of waterways to boats in time for Easter. This will be in two sections; the Rochdale Canal between Sowerby Bridge and Hebden Bridge and the Calder & Hebble Navigation between Cooper Bridge and Figure of Three Locks.

Getting to this position has involved significant dredging works and repairs to lock gates, wash walls and weirs. 

The next stage of the programme is focussed around early summer and when we hope to be able to reopen a further section of the Rochdale Canal heading west from Hebden Bridge towards Lock 15. Shortly afterwards we’re aiming to open up the Calder & Hebble Navigation between Salterhebble and Cooper Bridge.

Elland Bridge and Crowther Bridge need to be completely rebuilt as both have been badly damaged. In each case our engineers are planning the rebuild so that the canal can be reopened to boats once the new bridge foundations and a concrete arch are in place – hopefully in July.

This will mean that boaters can then use the canal while the remaining works to rebuild the bridge take place, reinstating an important link from Hebden Bridge to Wakefield and beyond and to the Huddersfield Broad Canal.

Beyond the summer the remaining challenge will mainly involve repairing the breach and landslip that occurred on the Rochdale Canal. These are two major, and complex, engineering jobs and so timescales are slightly less clear.  We will share more information when we have more details. 

Repairing the damage caused by some of the worst flooding ever seen on our waterways has placed real pressure on budgets and the availability of our staff and contractors. With flood-related works estimated to cost just over £10m (with £5.5m being provided by Government in relation to the works at Elland Bridge) we will have to delay or scale-back some other projects that were in our plan for the year ahead. We’ll be able to provide more details in the coming weeks.

Whilst there’s still a huge amount that needs to be done we’d like you, boaters, and local businesses for their understanding and patience as we’ve worked through exactly what needs doing.


Your representatives report from first Council meeting

Earlier this week, our governing Council met for the first time this year. The day was opened by chairman Allan Leighton and was also the first meeting for three of your four private boating representatives (among others).

So, with a tight deadline, I asked for their reflections. Two have very kindly sent in their thoughts and, throughout the year, we’ll touch base with your representatives to see what they’ve been up to. First up is Andrew Phasey:

“The atmosphere outside the Museum of Liverpool was bracing; inside it was warmer. Introductions were made and slide presentations delivered as we newbies, elected, appointed, or co-opted, were inducted onto Council.

“The December elections were discussed, and mistakes acknowledged. The Trust’s chief executive, Richard Parry, had met with Electoral Reform Services chief executive and a reduction in fees payable was agreed.

“Richard also briefed on current activities. Lynne Berry, chair of the Appointments Committee; Julie Sharman, head of asset management & performance; Sandra Kelly, head of finance; and Sophie Castell, director marketing, communication & fundraising all provided informative briefs, with occasional humour, on their areas of responsibility.

“Much of this strategic level stuff, looking at the recent past (flooding) and well into the future (EA navigations & funding), demonstrated that serious issues which affect us all are being given proper consideration.

“From my perspective, a key element of the day was the invitation to raise matters of interest for discussion at our September meeting. Trust chair Alan Leighton agreed that one topic will be ways in which we boaters’ representatives might authoritatively report to our constituents.

“To be clear; I, with my elected colleagues, represent recreational boaters. I will use the opportunities Council provides to raise issues which concern us. As Alan Leighton pointed out, all issues are local to someone and deserve attention.

“I have a list, generated by boating friends and some of those I have not yet met. Now, it’s your turn to let me know what you think – feel free to drop me a line.”

Thanks Andrew. Next up is Stella Ridgway:

“It was my first Council meeting, so I have nothing to compare it with. On reflection, I felt we could have got more out of the day if all the reports were circulated ahead of the meeting, so more discussion could take place.

“Nothing much further was achieved as it was the first meeting, so more of a meeting people; but we have asked for a different format, in order to provide feedback rather than being talked at - this group consists mainly of people who have no boating experience (apart from us, your boater's reps!) and so you got lots of reports about flooding, financials etc.

“Actually, the one thing that came out of it was that neither boaters nor friends feel valued; however, the Trust gets that and are exploring a system that will tell them who is where and what; at present, they don’t cross reference who is a boater + volunteer + friend, volunteer + friend.

“I get the impression that the main work of council comes outside this forum. The boater's reps have a meeting with Mike Grimes, the head of boating, in April that will be really useful.

“I hope I manage to change a few people's perception of a liveaboard continuous cruiser and I certainly hope to try and make a difference.  It should be noted that on International Women's Day, that half of the Executive Team at the Trust are women and I hope the predominance of white middle aged men will change over time on Council and within the Trustees.”

You can get in touch with Stella via email or Facebook.


SUMBA, white knickers and Richard Parry

At first glance you might think that SUMBA was some sort of derivative of the aerobic fitness programme Zumba. It’s not. Nor are we talking about an Indonesian island or a small village on the Faroe Islands.

SUMBA logoRather more relevantly, although if either of the above places have canals I’ll happily accept submissions, this article is from the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch Adopters. SUMBA member, Graham Mitchell, recounts last weekend’s work party:

“A mammoth 12 miles of canal towpath and adjacent embankments were litter picked from Calverley on the Shropshire Union canal to Barbridge Junction - and from there to Middlewich on the Middlewich Branch canal.  

“Our largest and most well attended Work Party had 35 volunteers - including the Trust’s chief exec, Richard Parry. Cubs & Leaders from Nantwich and staff from Active Cheshire - met at Aqueduct Marina at on a very cold morning and received hot drinks courtesy of The Galley restaurant.

“Five teams were then driven to their starting points along the twelve mile route - and the litter picking commenced in earnest whilst they walked back to the Marina. Our two boats decorated with flags and Richard Parry with sumba volsbanners, NB ‘No Plan 2’ and the Trust’s ‘Gowy’, started from Barbridge and Middlewich and worked their way back to Aqueduct Marina, collecting the filled litter bags and fly tipping’s on the way. 

“One team who had the longest route, and the biggest job with litter and fly tipping’s near Middlewich, gratefully accepted a lift back in ‘Gowy’!

“Everyone returned to Aqueduct Marina soon after 2:30pm and on arrival were again warmed with hot drinks courtesy of The Galley restaurant.  Exhausted volunteers were soon sitting in chairs swopping stories like fishermen about who had collected the largest amount of litter.

“Over 50 bags of litter and a mass of fly tipping’s was collected on our twelve mile ‘Clean for the Queen’ litter pick. Almost all of it was collected from outside of our five and a half mile adopted length of the Middlewich Branch canal - well we would say that wouldn't we!!

“What was collected besides the expected paper, plastic, tissues, bottles and cans? Several work surfaces, cupboard door, small bath, garden furniture, wooden lattices, car number plates (YF56 HVL), tyres and wheels, hoover hose and an oven door - to list a few items. 

“Oh, and the white knickers? Well these were part of the haul - the type that boats' props love so much - and kept the Cubs much amused…”


Inland Waterways Association helps deliver Trust’s new workboat plan

We’ve already seen, above, the big difference that volunteers make. This article continues the theme with news that the IWA recently stepped up to answer our call for skilled volunteers to help with a new approach to the deployment of our workboat fleet.

As some will know, we’re reorganising our fleet into a nationally managed resource so we asked the IWA to work with us to help with the inspection and moving of craft.  IWA volunteers will provide the necessary knowledge and skills, as well as the national coverage required for the work.

From next month we’ll be organising our workboats centrally to co-ordinate the fleet on a more strategic basis. Craft will be ‘hired’ to the regional maintenance and construction teams. The aim is to make more efficient use of the workboats across all of our different teams and by volunteers, such as IWA’s volunteer work parties.

The work will also include IWA volunteers monitoring the condition of craft and reporting any potential issues which will then be used to develop programmes of repair work.


Recycling points – an update

You may remember that, last summer, in response to boater demand we committed to installing extra recycling facilities around the network. Over six months on, we thought you’d appreciate an update and, in turn, we’d like your vigilance.

RecyclingWe now provide 132 sites for Dry Mixed Recycling (DMR) and glass across the network. The greatest challenge we are facing is regarding the contamination of dry mixed recycling with inappropriate waste and black bags. 

Due to the public nature of the recycling sites we did expect some abuse as they’re an easy place for illicit waste disposal from non-customers. We have installed the signage which does deter some but, as you’ll guess, not all.

To counter this, we are looking to increase investment in improved security and the site layout of recycling facilities. The plan is for this to happen over the next year or so - this may include designated DMR and glass areas.

One of the other challenges is where, in certain locations, we have co-collections. This is where it is not economically or environmentally practical to send different vehicles to collect DMR and general waste. It basically means that, although initially segregated, waste is actually collected in the same vehicle.

Please don’t think that your recycling efforts will be going to waste, pun intended, though. It would be illegal for our waste contractor to dispose of recyclables to landfill. Also, it’s more expensive for us as landfill tax, at £82.50 per tonne, would be levied on the DMR component.

Where co-collection does happen, the rubbish is destined for a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where it’s all re-sorted for recycling, waste to energy and landfill. We’re charged the appropriate taxes on each type of rubbish as the collection vehicle electronically records what containers have been collected from each individual site, i.e. no landfill tax on all the DMR element.

So, please keep on recycling and, if in doubt, check the local signs to see what can go where. Thanks!


Bits and Bobs

  • Please make sure you check the stoppage section of the website before setting off on your cruise. And with Spring nowhere in sight, you might also want to check the weather
  • Following on from the articles earlier this year, about how to moor your boat, another boater has got in touch and suggested that, if you have issues mooring securely to soft banks, a static caravan anchor might be worth considering.
  • If you read the last edition you may have seen heritage advisor, David Viner, article on the restoration of the Old Saul Junction Lock. Well, in case you were wondering, the stunning main picture – sent in by a boater – heading this edition is of the tall ship ‘Kaskelot’ at Saul a few weeks ago…
  • But, just in case you missed the last edition I thought it worth highlighting something Mike Grimes mentioned in his article – for the first time, kids go free at this year’s Crick Boat Show!
  • Did you know that Drifters Waterway Holidays’ have just added seven new departure points to its canal boat hire offering, giving customers booking narrowboat holidays in 2016 the choice of 45 starting points and 588 boats across England, Scotland and Wales? Why not celebrate the International Day of Happiness by booking one on 20 Mar?!

Happy boating,



Last date edited: 31 March 2016

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The boaters' update

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