Boaters' Update 12 July 2019

In this edition you can learn about the Waterways Alive awards and the Don't Drink and Drown campaign. Then, after reading about mooring alongside a soft bank and what your cruising speed should be, we'd love to hear your views! As ever there's a round up of the latest news, events and stoppages.

Pontcysyllte Pontcysyllte

Welcome to the latest edition. The school holidays are nearly here and up and down the country children will be celebrating. They’re not the only ones.

In this edition you can read about how we’ve celebrated the tireless work carried out to help as many people as possible to find out how life is better by water (check out the awe-inspiring time lapse video of the repairs at last year’s Middlewich breach!)

With the aforementioned summer holidays just around the corner you’ll also find a timely summer safety message, an article on how we protect the soft banks of canals – and a request for your views on this – along with a short article on cruising speeds and the ever-present roundup of latest news, stoppages and events!

If there’s an article you’d like to read in a future edition then please drop me a line.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and upcoming events                  

Over the last few weeks you may have heard, or seen, that:

  • 3 July – Restrictions to navigation over the summit of the Kennet & Avon Canal and at Caen Hill Flight have been put in place whilst works are carried out to repair a faulty pump.
  • 3 July – In partnership with the European Regional Development Fund, Highways England and Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council we have secured £3.1 million to improve the water quality and encourage wildlife back to the Titford Pools in Oldbury.
  • 19 June – As a result of figures published revealing that the number of boats on London’s canals have reached a new record high, we have announced a programme of improvements to help keep up with demand.

Below I’ve picked out some events that you might be interested in over the next month. There are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities if none of the below take your fancy. Just visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.

  • Every Sunday – To help celebrate its bicentenary, why not take a skippered boat trip on the Lancaster Canal and marvel at the stunning backdrop to this 200-year-old treasure.
  • Every fortnight – Join a walking group in Merseyside (in partnership with Care Merseyside) that welcomes all ages and abilities and is a perfect trip for those who are retired, parents with pre-school children (in prams), those on shifts and anyone else wanting to find out why life is better by water.
  • 16 July – Come and try yoga for free looking out onto the beautiful Llangollen Canal with our qualified instructor, Maisie, to help build strength and flexibility as well as getting a good boost to your wellbeing.
  • 27 July – Come along to Stoke Bruerne's Canal Museum to discover 'Your Story' and perhaps learn about your family's history at this free event.

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Waterways Alive Awards

Waterways Alive finalists (2019)Late last week Richard Parry, the Trust’s chief executive, lead a celebration of the work done by a broad range of staff over the last year. The Waterways Alive Awards highlight outstanding commitment and skill across a range of categories.

Commenting on the winners, Richard said: “The quality of the work remained as high as ever. This is testament not only to the great work we do, but also the passion and commitment of all those who are doing so much to make life better by water. All our finalists have made a very positive difference to our waterways and the people who use them, and the impact they can have.” 

The winners are:

Best Community Project: 4Life – A package of wellbeing volunteering schemes trialled in one of the most deprived communities in the North West. Social prescribing supports people suffering from anxiety, social isolation, depression and those who would benefit from physical exercise by offering practical outdoor conservation tasks to improve physical and mental wellbeing.

Best Wellbeing Project: Let’s Fish! – This campaign has expanded from a small start two years ago with nine events to a bumper year in 2018 when we ran 147 events, involving 20 waterways, 50 qualified angling coaches, 30 angling clubs and attracted 3,997 adults and children to try fishing for the first time.

Best Customer Service or Visitor Experience Improvement: Waterways Experiences: Offside Improvements Grand Union Canal – Waterway Experiences is a small volunteer run organisation, offering accessible day boat trips to people with disabilities, who gave 900 hours, in all weathers, to clear 8km of offside vegetation benefitting all canal users and saving the Trust in the region of £6,000.

Best Innovation or Productivity Improvement: Wigan Flight – The local team produced a programme for improvement works while it was closed during the 2018 drought. Colleagues, volunteers and young people from The Skills Company (in conjunction with The Desmond Family Canoe Trail) completed more than 400 tasks such as painting, towpath and wall repairs, greasing and repairing lock gate mechanisms, removing litter, graffiti, sprawling vegetation etc. Our direct services team also brought forward stoppages from the winter programme.

Values Team of the Year: Tees Barrage Operatives - exemplify our positive spirit; despite their location being remote from the rest of our network, they are using the barrage and the river to create a wide range of opportunities to engage and involve people with the Trust, always friendly, enthusiastic and accommodating, whilst also managing a very significant engineering structure  – you’ll always find a smile and a warm welcome on the Tees!

Best Construction, Heritage, Engineering or Environment Project: Stanthorne Repair – The £2.5m project to repair damage caused by the collapse in March 2018 of a 70m section of embankment next to Stanthorne Aqueduct, on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, had the challenging target of getting the canal open in time for Christmas. Project managers, ecologists, designers, contractors and media & communications worked seamlessly together to achieve it.

In case you were in any doubt as to the scale of the task of that last one, just watch the video below…

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Don’t Drink and Drown

As a boater you’ll know that spending time on, or by, our canals and rivers can make us all happier and healthier. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any hazards, especially if you’re three sheets to the wind. So, we’re supporting the Royal Life Saving Society UK's campaign, which warns us all not to walk home next to water or to enter water when under the influence of alcohol.

Boating through MiddlewichOf course, we don’t want to stop people enjoying their favourite tipple aboard their boat or from having a drink at one of the many canal side bars, pubs or restaurants. We do however want to raise awareness of the dangers and, if you’ve visited a local hostelry, make sure you get home safely afterwards.

If you have been out then walking home in the dark along a towpath is not the best idea, particularly if you’re on your own. If you’ve been drinking your judgement, balance and reactions will be impaired and the chance of ending up in the water is increased. Nearly a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream.

The stats

On all inland waterways (canals, rivers, docks, marinas, quarries, reservoirs) there were 366 accidental drownings involving alcohol and/or drugs in the United Kingdom between 2012-2016. That’s an average of 73 per year. 177 of these were intoxicated walkers and 42% of these people were 17-29 years old.

*All statistics are provided by the Royal Life Saving Society UK

Please read these top tips from the RLSS UK to make sure you all get home safely:

  • Look out for each other when you’ve had a few drinks and make sure you walk home with friends
  • Plan your journey home before you go out
  • Don’t walk home alongside the water after a night out. Find a better route home.
  • Make sure your friends get home safely after a night out. Don’t let them walk by the water.

If you’re moored up and spend an evening at a nearby pub or restaurant then it’ll be hard to avoid walking by the water but it’s best to minimise this as much as possible.

What happened when we went live

We hosted a Facebook Live at the Aire Bar, which sits alongside the Aire & Calder Navigation in Leeds. We talked about why the Don’t Drink and Drown campaign is so important with RLSS UK, West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service and Bath Spa University. Thanks to Made in Leeds TV for the loan of their presenter!

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Mooring next to a soft bank? Give us your views.

Regardless of your mooring preference – out in the sticks or slap bang in the middle of town – it’s likely that you’ve, at the very least, cruised past a soft bank edging the navigation channel.

Just for clarity, soft bank is where there is no hard edge to the navigation channel such as piling or concrete. It plays a vital role in providing habitat diversity for an array of native and protected species and contributes to the characteristics of our canals and rivers. There’s more of it than you might think too. There are somewhere in the region of 552km of soft bank on the towpath side of the canal.

As you may imagine, from time to time, parts of it need some TLC and a variety of techniques and materials have been used over the years. Many of these repairs involve stakes and a fabric material to create a wall instead of masonry or piles.  As well as being good for wildlife, this relatively low-cost solution enables us to repair more banks.

You may have been someone who has given us positive feedback on a new repair we’ve made but, occasionally, we also hear that these bank repairs cause snagging or navigation problems. With this in mind we’ve been working with volunteer boaters who sit on our Navigation Advisory Group to consider the issues from our use of soft bank treatments for repairs to washwalls. What we’re really trying to get a handle on now is just how big the issue is. 

There are some examples of the type of repairs we make below that might be helpful. 

Nicospan installation

NicospanNote: Nicospan is a brand name, like Hoover and sometimes is used as a catch-all for all geotextile fabrics. 

Coir rolls

Can be topped with coir rolls

Soft bank dressed with soil

Can be dressed with soil to allow soft vegetation to establish

Wooden fendering on soft bank

Wooden fendering can be installed to facilitate mooring

If you know good or bad examples of this approach, or where you’ve had a snagging or navigation problem then we’d love to hear about it.  Please email us at softbank@canalrivertrust.org.uk and tell us about your experience.  Please include where and when your feedback relates to, and if you have a photo please send that too, as we need to identify the repair method used to build up a national picture of soft bank repair works.   

We can’t feedback on the items that you send us, but we may want to contact you if there is something we want to understand more.  If you don’t want us to contact you, please also state that in your email.  Your help is appreciated!

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Ticking off at tickover

In the last edition I conveyed a message from a boater who was gently reminding those cruising that the 4mph limit isn’t aspirational. That was the first time we’d talked about speed in Boaters’ Update and, going on the feedback you gave in response, I felt it worth sharing the thoughts you sent in.

Image of narrowboat cruising past other boats on the canalWhile quite a few of you got in touch, the correspondence fell into three broad categories. The first was that tickover isn’t actually a speed, as concisely explained in by this response:

“Can you please let boaters know that “tickover” is not one set speed but depends on the engine/gear box, propeller, and hull design. I have been accused by some to slow down when in tickover. I have a 42 foot Liverpool built hull, 32hp engine and a 17inch prop.”

The second is that tickover is not fast enough (unless you’re passing moored boats) but you always need to make sure you’re not creating a breaking wash as typified by these two responses:

“Tickover is good for passing moored boats (though too few do) but a half decent speed is necessary along the cut to make any progress at all. As long as you're not making a breaking wash, that's fine. But anyone doing the Four Counties ring at tickover would be very unpopular with the boaters behind!”

“Tickover on most occasions is frustrating and not ‘plenty’, it causes annoyance and creates tension that boating is supposed to relieve! I always travel at tickover plus one notch past moored boats, but otherwise travel at the maximum speed that creates no damaging wash or dragging soil from the bank.”

The final category makes the point that tickover is usually too slow (unless passing moored boats) but if you must cruise everywhere at that speed then be prepared to pull over to let others past. These final two comments reflect this view:

“If people want to travel at tickover they should be ready to pull in so that others can pass. Those that don’t could just travel on wide rivers.”

Cruising on the Trent“While mentioning the aspirational speed limit of 4mph which is almost unattainable on a narrow canal, you should also say that if a boater wishes to poodle along at tick over, they should be mindful of others who would like to enjoy the canal without having to be in a line behind. It is just as annoying as speeding. Please suggest that if you wish to cruise this slowly, look behind and pull over at a suitably safe stretch and let others go by or wave them on when the canal is wide and deep enough.”

Which category do you agree with? Or would you like to suggest an alternate view? Please do drop me a line and let me know your opinion. Thanks!

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Get Involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteeringdonating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded plastic. As you’re such an integral part of what makes waterways so wonderful, and life better by water, I thought you’d like to know about other ways you can get involved:

  • Like to get dates in the diary early? How about our Annual Public Meeting on 19 September? It’ll be held at the Kingston Theatre in Birmingham and tickets will be available to book shortly.
  • Do you do most of your boating in London or the South East? If you do we’d love to see you at one of our summer user forums to meet our teams, hear about our plans and how they might benefit you. You’ll find us at the Said Business School in Oxford on 17 July and the London Canal Museum on 18 July.
  • The next draft of our winter stoppage programme is now online! Thank you for all your comments from the first consultation which have been put to our delivery teams and changes have been made. We now want more of your comments on the new programme so do please give us your opinion. This second phase of consultation will run until 2 August and the final winter stoppage programme will be added to the website later in August.

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising 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 anything that’s happening that may affect you if you’re planning on a cruise this weekend.

Below you’ll find, by canal or river, those that may affect your plans this weekend:

When any 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 for a cruise. The tech savvy among you may already know that you can set up your smartphone to notify you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. For those that didn’t know, check out this guide to setting it up.

If you have any questions about a specific closure then just get in touch.

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Bits & bobs

  • Attention all angling enthusiasts! Did you know that you can now buy your Waterway Wanderer Permit online? For those that don’t know, these are the permits you need if you want to fish on one of our unrented stretches of canal or river. For the rented parts, you’ll need to contact the relevant angling club
  • Did you see the foraging article in the last edition? It’s definitely worth a read but one resourceful boater has an addition for the list – Himalayan Balsam! Apparently “…the leaves are quite peppery, the flowers make a very pleasant wine but best of all, armed with a bag to place over the seed pods (as the explosion is amazing!!) gather the seeds. They are really tasty either just as they are or lightly baked in the oven! If you can't beat them eat them!”
  • And finally, in the hope of clearing up any confusion, boat licences do still need to be displayed on your boat. In fact, we’d love you to display as a badge of honour – you’re making a valued contribution to the upkeep of our wonderful waterway network. We used to send out printed versions of licences for display but we now email them to you. This used to cost us over £30k annually in printing and posting and most boaters don’t mind printing their own licence so that we can spend that money on other priorities. Of course, if don’t have access to a printer you can contact customer service team on, 0303 040 4040, who will happily do this for you.

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Happy Boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 12 July 2019

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The boaters' update

Think of this blog as your one-stop shop for up-to-date boating news. It's packed full of useful information about boating on canals and rivers as well important safety announcements and upcoming events.

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