We're nearly at the end of the year that contained the hottest ever summer (in England)! Despite the challenges that come with the heat and lack of water it's been wonderful to see so many of you out and enjoying our amazing waterways. In this edition there's a look back over the year, a message from chief executive, Richard Parry and much more besides. I'm already looking forward to keeping you up to date with all the latest boating news and events in 2019!
Welcome to the last edition of 2018. What a year! I won’t reminisce in this introduction as there’s a review of the year below but I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who’s been in touch, and contributed, during 2018. We’ve covered everything from keel maintenance and HS2 through to Barbara Castle and greener boating.
As well as looking back over the last 12 months, you’ll find an end of year message from chief executive Richard Parry, what work is going on in the South this winter, an update on our water management strategy and, to close out this year’s final Boaters’ Update, a winter poem from the Canal Laureate.
The regular roundup of other boating news, stoppages and events are, as ever, here for you too. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see covered in 2019 then please drop me a line.
Happy boating and Merry Christmas,
In this edition:
Over the last couple of weeks you may have heard, or seen, that:
Below I’ve picked out some highlights to see and do over the festive break. Of course there are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities. Just visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.
I’d like to send my very best wishes to all readers of Boater’s Update. We appreciate the contribution that our boating customers make to the Trust, not just through licence fees, volunteering and donating but also by bringing the canals and rivers we care for to life. Our role in enabling boating and navigation remains central to our purpose.
It’s been a challenging year, with the exceptionally dry summer causing water shortages on sections of the network for long periods. Colleagues at the Trust worked long and hard to manage our water supplies so we could deliver the ‘normal’ boating experience you expect. In addition, of course, we’ve also had to deal with some significant emergency works – not least at Middlewich (which we hope to re-open in time for Christmas) and Marple where we’ve suffered long closures – and I hope this hasn’t affected you too much. Thankfully, with such a rich variety of amazing waterways, there will always be something new to discover and new experiences to be enjoyed.
Of course, we’ve also seen other changes this year - positioning ourselves as a Trust for wellbeing and the waterways, as we promote ‘making life better by water’ for the millions of people who can access their local towpaths. Strengthening our connection with local communities, to encourage them to use, value and appreciate their local stretch should benefit us all – making all our canals the safe, attractive and well cared-for places we all want to enjoy.
We know how important your support remains and we’ll continue serving you as best we can in the year ahead, to make life better on and by the water. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy boating in 2019!
In the third, and final, article in a series looking at the work we’re doing this winter, we focus on the South of the country. Important repairs to the waterways in London, including the Regent's and Grand Union canals, are already underway as are projects on the Kennet & Avon Canal.
The works in London, to ensure the capital’s canals are kept flowing, will cost around £120,000, and includes repairs to a number of solid oak lock gates and listed waterway structures. We started the repairs last month with the maintenance programme continuing until next March.
Vital repairs will take place at Old Ford Lock and Actons Lock on the Regent’s Canal in Hackney and at Osterley Lock and Cowley Lock which are both on the Grand Union Canal. A new footbridge is also being installed on the Grand Union Canal’s Slough Arm.
Charlotte Wood, regional construction manager at the Trust, said: "The canals are 200-years old but arguably as important as ever for today’s society. It can be hard to escape the hustle bustle of one of the world’s busiest cities but, as boaters’ know, they offer an amazing, tranquil space, where everything slows down. They are a great place to escape the pressures of modern life. We know from research that people are happier and more relaxed when they are by water, and the activities the canals support means they can help contribute to improving people’s mental and physical well-being."
Further west, on the Kennet & Avon, projects at half a dozen locations, costing around £445,000, are planned or already underway. They include replacing giant lock gates, rebuilding historic canal walls, and repairing locks along the waterway. Some of the works will require water to be drained from stretches of the canal with thousands of fish carefully rehomed before the engineering work is carried out.
Richard Thomas, regional director, says: "While we’ll be working on some key sections, the remainder of the canal is still open so I’d encourage everyone to come and discover all it has to offer - from the scheduled ancient momument that is Caen Hill lock flight through to the atmospheric Bath Valley – winter is a magical time to fully appreciate that life is better by water."
So much has happened over the last 12 months that it’ll be impossible to capture it all in one article – a quick word count of all 25 Boaters’ Updates comes in at just over 70,000 words!
The image below is a word cloud of those 70,000 odd words: the more prominent a word, the more frequently it’s been used. Isn’t it ironic how this ‘cloud’ features very little ‘rain’ but a big ‘water’? You’ll find that, from May onwards, this is a recurring theme as you read through the year in review…
Great news came early this year in the form of the appointment of Nancy Campbell as Canal Laureate. Oxford-based poet and kayaker Nancy has a keen interest in arctic, marine and water conservation, and spent 2018 “seeking out and sharing stories” from the people and places she encountered during her travels along the 2,000 miles of the nation’s historic canals and waterways we look after – read Nancy’s evocative winter poem below.
Elsewhere, a giant hoover (sort of) was used in a £1million project to remove silt from Liverpool’s South Docks.
One of the oldest wharves on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Finsley Gate Wharf in Burnley was the subject of plans that we submitted to transform it into a hive of activity for boaters, the local community and visitors. A few months later the plans were approved. If you want to learn more, why not put a big X in your diary for 3 March 2019 and come along to the open day?
Talking of old, 2018 marked the bicentenary of the Pocklington Canal and we were delighted to announce that the Pocklington Canal Amenity Society (PCAS) formally ‘adopted’ part of the 9.5-mile canal.
The news that the Oxford Canal was named the busiest canal in the country (according to our annual survey of lock usage) may have had some of us daydreaming about warm sunny days afloat but we were rudely yanked back to reality by the Beast from the East which brought heavy snow to most of us in the month.
Any grumpiness about the delayed onset of spring was compounded when an embankment collapsed on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal leaving a 12-metre wide hole. At the time of publication (14 Dec) we’re still hopeful that the £3million repair project will be complete by Christmas.
Despite the bitter cold of the preceding month the hardy boat licence customer support team travelled the length of the 2,000 miles of waterways in our care in our annual National Boat Count. It was worth it too showing that licence evasion on the waterways is at its lowest-ever level, with 96.9% of boats holding up-to-date licences.
Later in the month, the Hinterlands arts project launched offering local communities in Enfield and children and young people from Oasis Academy and Prince of Wales Primary School, the opportunity to take part in creative river walks and boat trips, performance, spoken word and filmmaking activities with renowned and local artists.
While we didn’t know it at this point (we were just thankful to put away our winter coats), this month’s record breaking weather wasn’t a flash in the pan. There certainly weren’t any complaints from us as we were able to make the most of the great weather to promote our new positioning as a waterways and wellbeing charity.
And, of course, it meant that we were slapping on layers of sun cream as we enjoyed meeting thousands of boaters at a fantastic Crick Boat Show.
Warmer weather always entices more people on to the water, and boy did it continue throughout June, but in London the increase in the number of boats has been happening come rain or shine – up 76% since 2012. So, after lots of consultation with all involved, we announced a raft of initiatives that will benefit boaters and help manage the strain placed on the capital’s 200-year old network.
It was also the month that a formerly derelict lock on the Grantham Canal received its first lock gates for nearly 60 years after hard-working volunteers spent three years painstakingly bringing it back to life.
With no let up to what turned out to be the hottest summer on record in England, we announced a further package of measures on targeted sections of canals to manage the severe water shortages we faced in parts of Northern England.
Another unwelcome event occurred, this time on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, as a culvert collapsed. The local team worked tirelessly to repair the section and it re-opened at the end of the following month. Staff and volunteers also took the opportunity, with low water levels, to remove everything and the bathroom sink from the canal…
The final month of summer started with better news. Along with Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership, we were awarded a £1.3m grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to secure the future of Grade II-listed Stainton Aqueduct on the Lancaster Canal which was badly damaged during storms Desmond and Eva in December 2015.
The good news didn’t stop there. In line with our ongoing restructure, to help us improve customer service and engage with local communities, the final chair of for one of our six regional advisory boards was appointed as Caroline Schwaller MBE was appointed as the new chair of the regional advisory board for Yorkshire & North East.
After painstakingly balancing various water needs during the summer’s drought we were able, after some long overdue downpours, to reopen some sections of canal.
Later that month it was great to see boaters turn out for our Annual Public Meeting, after which Jennie Price CBE and Sarah Whitney were appointed as trustees of the Trust. Chief exec, Richard Parry, also had the pleasure of hosting the fourth annual Volunteer Awards, along with Marsh Christian Trust, which recognise and celebrate volunteer excellence along the nation’s waterways.
A lot happened in the South West during October; one of UK's leading female street artists began a giant mural on the River Severn, artist Jessica Kashdan-Brown created an underwater poem in a lock in Bath which may be seen by volunteers using a canal boat launched this month to help improve the waterways in Bath as well as other boaters and gongoozlers.
And that’s not all, work began on a £700,000 project to revamp more than two miles of towpath on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal!
As the country solemnly marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, the ‘forgotten’ waterway men of WWI were remembered with the release of a cascade of 100,000 poppy petals from the 50ft Anderton Boat Lift high lift.
With the winter repair and restoration programme well underway, more detail was released about specific projects such as 12 new lock gates for the Chesterfield Canal, £600k being spent on the Shroppie, £1/2 million in Wales and over £400k on the Kennet & Avon (to name just a few!). There’re still plenty of opportunities to come and see what we’re up to at one of our open days…
And that just about brings us up to date. If you want to know what’s been happening in the first half of this month then check out the news section above. Without a reliable crystal ball I can’t tell you if we’ll be battered by storms in the final weeks of this year so, on the off chance you’re planning a river cruise, it might be wise to check out our online strong stream warnings.
The roses on the boats will never fade
for summer hirers looking for escape,
but those of us who live aboard year-round
work hard to keep it rosy every day.
In winter, failing to charge the battery,
we curse the red light flashing on the dash
or we’re held up by the scarlet beacon
which shuts the navigation in a flood.
The paintwork needs retouching every year –
a deft, tough hand’s what keeps the roses fresh.
Our tasks all done, we gather by the stove
and toast its welcome glow with cheap merlot,
then flip the old calendar bravely over
and plan our next red-letter day together.
Credit: Nancy Campbell is the current Canal Laureate, a collaboration between The Poetry Society and the Canal & River Trust – find out more at www.waterlines.org.uk
Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering or donating. As you’re such an integral part of what makes waterways so wonderful I thought you’d like to know about other ways you can get involved:
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 seriously affect you if you’re planning on a cruise this weekend. Of course, now we’re into our winter stoppage programme (see above!) there’s a hive of activity repairing and restoring a variety of things. 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. If you have any questions about a specific closure then you’ll find the email addresses for our regional offices on our contacts page.