Boaters' Update 14 Feb 2020

Welcome to a bumper edition. In it you'll read about everything from a new way to pinpoint your location on a canal or river and the damage done by Storm Ciara through to the 'Oscars of the Waterways' and which lock was the busiest in 2019 (among others)!

Walking in the winter

Welcome! I think I may have tempted fate in the last edition by talking of spring – a week later Storm Ciara arrives to let us know that winter isn’t done with us yet. Given their age, the waterways stood up well to the onslaught but thanks for your patience while we’ve been out clearing many fallen trees and fencing off things that now need repairing. You’ll find a detailed report below.

Thanks also must go to those of you that took part in the survey about what you’d like to read in future editions of Boaters’ Update. There’s more on this below. Elsewhere in this edition you’ll find news of how we’ll be dealing with boats moored improperly, a new way to precisely identify your location using just three words, the 2019 Lockage Report, and how you can nominate inspiring waterway projects for awards.

Of course, the regular round-up of other news, stoppages and events are also included.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and upcoming events

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 31 Jan – New research shows that narrowboat hirers overwhelmingly recommend boating holidays, with ninety-eight per cent recommending their summer holiday to family and friends.
  • 4 Feb – We are calling for local boaters and, more widely, the people of Birmingham to join the fight and help eradicate litter and plastic pollution from our canals using our very own electric litter boat named ‘Aquarius’, which has been a feature on our canal for the last twenty years.
  • 10 Feb – A group of our volunteers will be transforming a neglected piece of land besides the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to create a new community space.

Beneath I’ve picked out some events and activities 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.

  • 22 Feb to 8 Mar – We'll be draining the famous locks at Foxton this winter as they’re getting a bit of a makeover, including gate replacements, brickwork and ladder repairs. You're invited to come and take a much closer look than normal to experience this unique view of the lock flight. Please note that due to another forecasted storm, this weekend’s (15 Feb) Open Day is not going ahead.
  • 15 to 23 Feb – It’s half term already and if you’re on entertainment duty for children then consider a visit to The Admiral – no, it’s not a new pub, it’s our floating visitor centre at Caen Hill Locks! There you’ll find a whole range of activities to keep little minds busy.
  • 26 Feb to 13 May – In Cheshire? Over 55? Looking to be a little more active? Look no further than Active Waterways Cheshire. It’s a free 12-week programme (one hour/week) designed to get you up and out to learn about local history and nature, socialise, have fun and enjoy the beauty of canals and rivers on your doorstep.

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Storm Ciara’s impact on canals and rivers

Last weekend, as you’ll be aware, Storm Ciara brought widespread disruption, and damage, to many parts of the country.

Given their age the waterways stood up well and, more importantly, we haven’t had any reports of injuries to boaters or colleagues.

As you might expect, there has been some impact. And while it’s been especially felt in the north, all regions have been affected in one way or another:

Narrowboat moored in front of bridge on Calder & Hebble NavigationOur Yorkshire & North East Region has been the worst affected with significant flooding in the Calder and Colne Valleys affecting our navigations. We are just completing engineering inspections of the Aire & Calder, Rochdale and Huddersfield Narrow/ Broad canals to determine the full extent. 

While our sense is that the event has not been as damaging as the 2015 Boxing Day floods we know that there are locations which have been hit and will take time to repair. Across these canals there are locations with towpaths substantially eroded around locks; and at Figure of 3 on the Aire & Calder the lock is now heavily obstructed by washed in stone and damage to the structure itself. There are locations with boats having floated out of the channel too, so a sizeable clean up is to be done.

In the North West, overtopping occurred in a number of locations but thankfully, that hasn’t led to embankment failure.

Tame Valley, Perry Barr Locks by Mat FascioneFurther south, the story was more about the wind than the rain although across the network many rivers have flooded.  We have been working to clear multiple trees from across the navigations.  In the West Midlands a roof has blown off an adjacent building landing on top of Lock 10 of the Tame Valley Canal.

The forecast is quite bleak for the coming weekend as another storm, this time ‘Dennis’, is predicted to bring gales and heavy rain so, as a reminder:

  • When mooring prior to stormy weather be mindful of your proximity to nearby trees which may get blown onto the navigation
  • Make sure that everything on deck, or your roof, is secured or stowed away
  • Keep an eye out for neighbouring boaters as some may be more affected by stormy weather than others
  • Read our advice on preparing for a flood
  • Check our water level and strong stream warnings webpage
  • Once the storm has passed, be on the lookout for debris in the navigation which may have been blown in

As always, we will update the stoppage notice section as we come across any issues that affect the navigation or towpath. If you haven’t already, you can sign up to receive stoppage alerts by email via the MyTrust section of our website.

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what3words

Imagine this. You’re up a mountain, the wind chill is -20C and a blizzard strikes. You’re wholly under dressed and can’t find your map. What do you do?

This was almost exactly the scenario faced by tourists a few days ago on Ben Nevis. Thankfully they had a phone signal. But, even with traditional online maps, relaying your position during a blizzard, on the side of a mountain, is extremely difficult. While the situation sounds untenable, the climbers did have the foresight to install, and use, an app which quite possibly saved their lives – what3words.

The concept is simple. Every 3m square in the world has a unique three word address that will never change. By using the free app you can then relay your position to anyone – us, the emergency services, your friends – just by using three words. To give some examples:

  • Front door to our Little Venice office = drips.living.beats
  • Entrance, by boat, to Crick Marina = deny.dolly.admit
  • Junction of Trent & Mersey and Coventry canals (Fradley Junction) = lows.ultra.sneezing

A view of the North Oxford canal from the deck of a narrowboatYou may be wondering why I’m telling you this?! Well, our customer service team are fully aware of what3words so if you’re out cruising and spot something you think we should know about then consider using what3words to let us know exactly where it is – parts of the waterway network can be remote and difficult to describe the location of.

An example of this would be if you if you found a tree blocking the navigation on the River Trent near Low Marnham. Instead of trying to triangulate your distance from various landmarks to give a position you could simply say, eyeliner.rice.blush.

Of course, if you’re ever in any difficulty when out on the water or towpath, or spot another boater who is, then what3words comes in to its own as emergency services also use the system.

As mentioned above, the app is free and available for both Apple and Android phones.

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More opinions wanted!

Thanks to all of you who took the time to take part in the survey to inform the future content and format of Boaters’ Update.

While some of the answers were self-explanatory I was hoping that I could get some qualitative detail on a couple of points. In particular:

  • 72% of respondents said they’d like to read about boat maintenance. It’s a huge subject so please let me know which specific topics are of interest.
  • 55% said that they’d like to see regional detail featured. What kind of detail would be useful? Are we talking about cruising guides for individual canals and rivers that detail boating facilities, mooring points, local attractions and places to shop and eat? Or are we thinking of higher level information that gives a brief overview of a region? Please tell me which would be more useful.
  • Finally, and in a similar vein, 80% said they would like to read about maintenance progress. It’d be great to know if you’d find a roundup of work going on around the country or more interesting or if you’d like to get under the skin of individual projects by following it right through from planning to completion? Please let me know!

Thanks in advance.

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Entries open for the ‘Oscars of the Waterways’

More than most, as a boater, you’re likely to have first hand experience of how a wide range of projects can make life better by water. It could be the lovingly-tended community garden that transforms a certain Volunteer Newton Heath community garden Rochdale Canalstretch of canal or river through to the restoration of a waterside icon.

We know the difference these projects can make and, for the seventeenth year, the search is now on for the best as our Living Waterways Awards celebrate the most exciting and inspiring waterway-based projects across the UK.

Sue Wilkinson, chair of the Awards and volunteer trustee of Canal & River Trust, said: “We know there are hundreds of brilliant projects taking place along our waterways and we want to shine a light on the incredible contribution that those involved are making to the lives of many thousands of people living near these canals, rivers, lakes and lochs. We urge those involved in these initiatives to enter the Awards and get the recognition they rightly deserve.”

The Living Waterways Awards are judged by an independent panel of experts from the heritage, arts, environment, community and art of the Montgomery Canal restored by Shropshire Union Canal Society volunteersengineering sectors and are sponsored by Amco Geffen, CPC Civils, Fountains and Land & Water.

From inspirational education programmes and innovative construction projects, to exciting community-binding environmental initiatives, these awards have celebrated hundreds of organisations and individuals over the years.

There are six award categories available:

  • Art, Culture & Events
  • Built Environment
  • Engaging the Community
  • Heritage & Conservation
  • Learning & Skills
  • Natural Environment

The Awards will be open for entries until Thursday 26 March 2020.  Full details of the Awards and how to enter can be found on our website.

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Tackling 'improper' mooring and make waterways safer

We are taking a new approach to boaters who have moored their boats in a way that could be dangerous or cause problems for other boaters or waterway users. You regularly tell us about craft that are poorly moored, blocking facilities, or making it unsafe for boats to navigate. 

We are addressing the problem by promoting more considerate mooring and shared use of the waterways, letting those who are moored inappropriately know there is a problem, and ultimately acting against persistent rule-breakers.

If a boat is moored in a way that affects safety or impedes other boaters or waterway users, it will be recorded by our Licence Support Team and, initially, a letter will be sent to the boat owner highlighting the problem. The boater will also receive a booklet including extracts from the boat licence terms & conditions, bye-laws, the Navigation Rules, and Boaters’ Handbook to help them understand how they can moor more appropriately.

Matthew Symonds, national boating manager, said: “While the vast majority of boaters are considerate neighbours, every boater has a story to tell of a badly, or simply dangerously, moored boat. Whether it’s someone moored up for days on a water point, to boats blocking the sightlines on bends, there are many examples of poor mooring etiquette. This can at best be frustrating and, in some instances, can be dangerous for the moorers and others.

“So we're going to be stepping up our efforts to contact all boats that we see moored inappropriately. Much of the time a boater may not realise that the way they’re moored may be causing a problem, and we think a polite reminder of good mooring practise will result in them moving somewhere safer, or where they won’t be affecting others.

"Being by the water makes you healthier and happy and we want everyone to be able to enjoy the waterways safely.”

Taking action

The Trust intends the process to serve as a prompt for the boat owner to moor appropriately and to help and educate boaters that may be new to the water or unaware of the issues caused by poor mooring.

If a boater does not address their inappropriate mooring the process will allow the Trust to take action that could ultimately result in the revocation of the boater’s licence. 

If, after the first letter, there are further instances of poor mooring, then the Trust will send a formal reminder which clearly sets out how T&Cs and/or byelaws have been breached, and that this could result in the termination of their licence. Should there be no resolution or a repeat of the behaviour, a second reminder will be sent, detailing the circumstances, the action the boater needs to take, and issuing a final warning.  A final letter will be sent if the problem is not addressed, or if it is repeated, informing the boater of their licence being immediately suspended.

In these circumstances, the boater will be directed to remove their boat to a specific location where it must remain until investigation into the mooring conduct is concluded and they have been contacted with the outcome, which could be licence termination due to serious or persistent breach of the Trust’s terms and conditions.

Preventing poor behaviour

The process is aimed at preventing persistent poor behaviour or serious instances and as such will focus on more acute issues.  Rare or singular historic instances will be considered but the Trust hopes that the initial informative letter will help address these instances.

The Trust has identified the following examples of improper mooring, which are found in the Boaters’ Handbook, navigation rules and relevant byelaws.  It is not an exhaustive list and the local environment will always be taken into account: 

Mooring in a lock, lock approach, or in a lock flight; blocking services that the boater is not using; mooring near a bridge or under a fixed bridge where inappropriate; mooring near a weir; mooring near a sharp bend, on the outside of a bend, or by a blind spot; mooring in or opposite a turning point/winding hole or on the approach to it; mooring at a junction; mooring to the bank on a tidal river; mooring on a canoe landing place; mooring in a stretch marked for an angling match; mooring where there are signs that prohibit mooring.  

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Annual Lockage Report 2019 – where was busiest?

The monitoring of lock operations across the network remains an essential element in our water resources management but also to understand the changing patterns in use of the 2,000 miles of waterways in our care.

While there’s a sizeable minority of boaters who take an annual pilgrimage to a relatively far flung part of the network quite a few are working through a bucket list of navigations. This will undoubtedly have an effect on the annual lockage (lock usage through the filling and emptying of a lock chamber) of a particular set of locks but it’s not quite as straightforward as that.

The reasons for year to year variations across the different Regions and individual locks are numerous and complex. The summer of 2019 was the seventh wettest and twelfth hottest since 1910. Water resources driven restrictions led to local reductions in lockage, having a significant impact on the 2019 annual lockage for parts of the network.

In addition to this, teams of volunteer lock keepers worked hard to minimise water usage as the dry period continued, encouraging the sharing of locks by boats where possible.

Nationally, the total comparable recorded lockage in 2019 was around 1.6% lower than in 2018. A number of locks which were heavily affected by the closures in 2018 have seen a bounce back with numbers recovering to the 2017 figures.

Winter on the Llangollen CanalThe busiest site recorded, once again, was Locks 2&3, Hillmorton on the Oxford Canal, which saw a total of 8,362 lockages in 2019 (there are paired locks at this location), a decrease of 3% since 2018. New Marton Lock on the Llangollen Canal was the next busiest lock with 7,711 lockages recorded in the year 2019, a decrease of 2% since the previous year.

Read the full Lockage Report if you’d like to find out how busy your nearest comparison site (we monitored 156 sites across the network) was in relation to the busiest.

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Get involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering,  donating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded litter. In whatever form your volunteering takes place we’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you. Your support helps make life better by water.

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:

  • In the last few editions you’d have seen that voting for the four private boater representatives on our governing Council is underway. A record 34 boaters were nominated and, until 17 Feb, you get to cast your vote for the four that you’d like to represent your interests on our Council. Private boaters eligible to vote should have received an email on 20 January from CES (the independent organisation running the elections). You can read the candidates’ election statements on our website but don’t forget, you can’t vote on our website. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for on our website please get in touch.
  • Did you want to be a Buddy? We’re looking for new boaters to join our Boating Buddy We want our staff to understand what it’s like for the boaters who cruise, and live on, our canals and rivers, but many of us have to spend most of our time in offices so we don’t always get to see things from a boater’s point of view. The Boating Buddies scheme gives all our staff the chance to spend a day out on the water with a boater (or two). It also lets boaters talk with our staff about the things that matter to them and their experience of our waterways. We’re particularly keen on getting new buddies in the East Midlands, Yorkshire & North East, North West and Wales & South West. If this sounds like you (or you already take Trust staff out on your boat) then please fill in this form and we’ll be in touch. Thanks!

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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. It’s a long list due to the winter stoppage programme, where we carry out major projects when it’s quieter out on the cut:

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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Happy boating,

Damian

PS Happy Valentine’s Day!

Last date edited: 14 February 2020

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