Boaters' Update 14 Jan 2022

Welcome to the first edition of 2022! We start with a boater's story of how the waterways have made his life better (by water!) followed with an update on the breach repairs on the Leeds & Liverpool and other work we've been doing. Finally read about managing boats in busy locations and how we want your views.

Fenny Stratford, GUC @Lewis Webster Fenny Stratford, GUC @Lewis Webster

Happy New Year! Given how the last two years have been, it would be foolhardy to make any predictions for the 12 months ahead. Although we’ve started the New Year relatively unincumbered by covid-related restrictions please make sure you keep up with the latest government guidelines on safety which are linked from our website.

For those of you may already have been out for your first cruise of the year please don’t forget you can contact us on 03030 404040 with any questions, concerns or feedback.

Our first article, a heart-warming story that perfectly illustrates the positive power of the waterways, reminds us all of the difference time afloat can make. Read on to find out how we’re getting on with repairs to the breach on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal as well as a consultation that asks for your views on ways to manage mooring space in high demand locations – in this case, central London.

As always, a round-up of news and, in the bits and bobs section, some news on boat insurance.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 17 Dec – We invited boaters and local stakeholders to take part in a consultation on ways to improve the management of mooring space on central London’s busy canals to balance the needs of local and visiting boats. More on this below.
  • 17 Dec – News was released of celebrations to mark Britain’s first boat lift, Anderton Boat Lift, 20th anniversary of restoration with multiple events planned throughout 2022.

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What a difference a waterway makes

When it’s close to freezing out, the rain and sleet is horizontal and you’re maybe up to your knees in icy water, it is not so easy to see why so many of us work and volunteer on the waterways. Every now and then though someone gets in touch with us and instantly reaffirms why it is important.

This is exactly what happened just before Christmas when boater Dave Thompson, who’s kindly given permission for us to share his email, dropped our chief executive, Richard Parry, a few lines:

“You hopefully remember me as one of the North West Friends program fundraisers. We met on many occasions at events and I always enjoyed my little chats with you.

“Unfortunately as you may remember I left on good and personal terms after furlough ended. First of all, I want to say thank you to you and the Trust for the work I did. The job of working on the towpath for four years has shaped my life into something wonderful. Being next to water mixing with the public and connecting with nature and then moving to live on the canal has had a big positive impact my mental wellbeing.

“All my experience of the canals, its nature and wildlife, and how it’s reshaping my life, I share with thousands of people online through a personal video vlog series I put out every two to three weeks. I share the beauty and spirit of canal life and the goodness, rewards it brings me.

Boats on the Macclesfield canal“I do it for several reasons. It keeps me going, something to do. I do it to also support the Trust by self-promotion. And my vlog brings the canals into people's homes and promotes wellbeing and mindfulness. I live as a continuous cruiser on the Macclesfield Canal and Peak Forest Canal.

“I've come a long way in life since starting as a fundraiser about five years ago. Before that I'd experienced depression, loss of my wife to cancer and luckily woke up in hospital after an overdose.

“Canal life has given me a new life. It’s so important that the canals are kept alive. It changes people's lives like mine. I know you're doing a great job, Richard, and pushing forward on the theme on wellbeing and mindfulness. Mine is just one success story and there will be many other success stories in decades to come. Thank you and the Trust for all that you do. Please do watch my latest episode I'm sure you will enjoy very much.”

You can watch all of Dave’s wonderful vlogs online and, I’d love to hear about any other positive journeys, please drop me a line, that have happened as a result of the waterways – did it turn your life around? What’s improved in your life since you’ve been a boater?

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Boots on the ground to repair breach on Leeds & Liverpool

Rishton Leeds & LiverpoolLast October, as reported in Boaters’ Update, there was a culvert failure and subsequent breach on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal east of Blackburn which swept a section of the 200-year old canal at Rishton into the River Hyndburn. 

Intensive planning and preparations have since continued with repair work, due to complete in late-spring, estimated to cost nearly £1.7 million. Contractors working on our behalf initially installed emergency dams on either side of the breach to secure the canal. Now a temporary road and construction site compound have been established next to the breach and access to the canal bed has been constructed to enable physical work to begin.

Around three thousand tonnes of stones and other materials will be used to reconstruct the canal and build a new culvert carrying a stream under the canal. Dilwyn Parry, senior project manager, said: “It’s taken a while to physically start work to fix this hole. We needed to solve the problem of getting all our equipment and vehicles to the remote site, and the scope of works is complex and had to be carefully planned out. Behind the scenes, specialists have been ensuring the ecology, heritage and environment around the breach is safe-guarded and engineers have been working on the design plan required to repair the canal.

Allmans Lift Bridge Llangollen Canal“This is an extremely popular canal for boaters, walkers and cyclists that use it every day for their health and wellbeing. We appreciate that this is a major disruption for people who enjoy the canal and towpath and we’re working hard to re-open the canal as quickly as possible.”

The major repair works on the Leeds & Liverpool haven’t been the only big jobs we’ve been working on. Our winter stoppage programme continues apace and the list of things we’ve been doing is too long to include here but some interesting projects, such as the installation of new 9m long green oak support beams on Allmans Lift Bridge on the Llangollen Canal, have been completed. 

Lock 9 Marple on the Peak Forest CanalAnd while plenty of new lock gates have been swung in to place during this winter programme, there’s a diverse range of other work going on too. At Lock 9 (Marple) on the Peak Forest Canal, for example, there were overhanging coping stones to deal with. The soil behind the stones was excavated and once done, hydraulic rams were brought in to precisely align the stones before backfilling. 

 

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Boaters’ views sought on managing moorings in busy London

It was reported, at the end of last year, that Londoners were increasingly looking for homes outside of the capital as people sought more space during the pandemic. On the water though, weekly sighting data showed the number of boats remained pretty constant, at around record levels.

London's CanalsIn 2018, the continued growth in boat numbers led to  the publication of the London Mooring Strategy.  The strategy set out plans to improve the experience of boating in London and make the waterways a place that can be shared safely and fairly.  It highlighted the need to make moorings more accessible for all boats visiting and navigating through the capital, as well as those boats that predominantly cruise in London.

After the publication of the ‘Managing boats on London’s busy waterways’ report last December, we’re now inviting boaters and local stakeholders to take part in a consultation on ways to improve the management of mooring space on central London’s busy canals[1] to balance the needs of local and visiting boats as well as the needs of boaters without permanent moorings.

With boat numbers across the London waterway network remaining at around record levels (c.4,000 boats[2]), amongst the proposals included in the consultation is an increase in pre-bookable paid moorings at ten central London short-stay visitor sites. Pre-bookable paid moorings have been successfully operating at two locations since 2019, offering the assurance of a mooring spot to both residential and leisure boaters in and around London as well as boaters visiting the capital. Combined, the pre-bookable paid moorings will account for around 40 berths (less than 10% of the mooring space in inner London) with all the 14-day towpath moorings, remaining unchanged.

Views are also being sought on a proposal to make access to short-stay visitor moorings fairer by a more active management of the sites, limiting the amount of time individual boats can use them in a year and increasing the overstay charge if they stay longer than permitted.

Finally, to reduce the risk of blocking the channel and to make navigation safer, the consultation proposes preventing triple mooring and mooring against a widebeam boat on the busiest central London waterways.

We’ve sought suggestions from boaters about how to fairly manage the space and have ruled out several options, including a ‘congestion charge’, a ‘London Licence’, and a limit to the time boats can spend in central London on top of existing continuous cruising guidelines.

Ros Daniels, Canal & River Trust regional director, said: “Boats and boaters bring so much to London’s waterways and are an intrinsic part of the capital’s canal culture. Our proposals recognise and protect that and will help make the waterways accessible to boaters who want to visit them, and who have previously been put off because they don’t think they’ll be able to find a place to moor.

“After a lot of discussion with boaters, we’ve identified proposals that we believe will offer a balanced solution, giving boaters the option of guaranteeing a space, ensuring our short-stay sites are being used fairly, improving safety, and preserving all our existing 14-day towpath moorings.

“We must find a way to manage this finite space to keep the canals safe and shared fairly between liveaboard, leisure and trade boaters. I’d urge every boater to take part in the consultation and share their views.”

The consultation is running until March 2022 and can be completed online:  canalrivertrust.welcomesyourfeedback.net/London

Other London Mooring Strategy strands include installing more mooring rings, upgrading boater facilities and scoping locations for new facility sites, identifying ways to make the waterways safer for powered and unpowered boats, and reviewing short-stay mooring sites. The Trust will be providing an update on work to install new towpath mooring rings and customer service facilities improvements later this month.

Lea Bridge, River LeeWe’re also developing Water Safety Zones on the Lee Navigation as part of the Strategy. Following independently facilitated consultation with stakeholders, it is currently following the first recommendation in the independent report – to ‘explain and enforce the existing rules and regulations’ – putting up clear signs and walking the towpaths daily, speaking to boaters about the existing ‘no mooring’ areas, with our existing Improper Mooring Process that came into effect this month.

More information about our work to manage London’s increasing busy waterways can be found on our dedicated webpage.

[1] Waterways covered by the proposals include the Grand Union Canal east of Kensal Green (and one short-stay mooring at Cowley North), the Regent’s Canal, the Hertford Union Canal, and the Limehouse Cut.

[2] 4,274 boats at the last full national boat count in 2019, with weekly sighting data over the past 18 months showing numbers remain high.

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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 what may affect you if you’re planning to get out on your boat this weekend. Please note that we’ve now entered our winter works programme where you’ll see us doing some of the bigger jobs around the network:

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. 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 just get in touch.

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Bits & bobs

  • River Canal Rescue (RCR) is warning boat owners about the perils of buying third-party insurance on price alone after finding some insurers will not pay out if a boat sinks. The breakdown and assistance firm estimates around four out of 10 sunken boat claims are being rejected and says it’s due to a lack of definition in the policy small print, misleading wording referring to ‘wreck removal’ rather than ‘salvage’, exclusions for salvage cover and salvage costs being rejected unless the peril is covered. If you have any boat insurance questions do please send them in and we’ll put them to RCR and publish the answers in a future edition!

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Stay safe, happy boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 14 January 2022

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The boaters' update

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