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News article created on 14 July 2017

Boaters' Update 14 July 2017

Welcome to the latest edition. In this latest one, you'll find important water safety advice, an update on the licensing consultation, great news about the Montgomery Canal and much more besides.

the Montgomery Canal The Montgomery Canal

Welcome to the latest edition. With the school summer holidays almost upon us we can expect things to start getting busier around the network. With that in mind, we start with some important reminders about water safety.

Following on from the great news from the Cotswold Canals Trust a couple of months ago, you’ll also find that the dream of a fully navigable Montgomery Canal has come a step closer.

There’s a report of the things we had to unexpectedly fix in June to keep the navigations open for you to enjoy.  You’ll find the usual mix of news and this weekend’s stoppages as well as ways in which you can get involved. If there is something else you’d like to see in a future edition, then do get in touch.

In this edition:

Happy boating,

Damian

News round-up and the fortnight ahead

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

As we head towards the school summer holidays it’s getting busier on and around the waterways. As you’ll see below I’ve picked out some highlights to show that, whatever your fancy, there’s something you’ll like! Of course, there are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities around the network: visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.

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Water safety

Boaters are generally aware of the risks of cooling off with a dip in a canal, river or reservoir. But to the untrained, or young, eye the millpond appearance of canals can fool some in to thinking they’re harmless. So, with schools about to unleash their pupils for six or so weeks, you may find it useful to remind yourself of the key reasons we discourage it so you’ll have the information to dissuade others from doing it too.

Let’s start with a short, 30-second, video from the Fire Brigade on the dangers of hidden currents.

As you’ll know, hidden currents are just one of the hazards. The other significant risks are:

  • Low temperatures which can cause the body to go into cold shock and even hypothermia, drawing the blood away from your muscles to protect your organs. This can lead to drowning.
  • Reeds and other plant life which can get tangled around limbs and keep you in the water.
  • Rubbish, like shopping trolleys, which can trap your feet as well as cause injury.
  • Depth perception - it could be much shallower than you expect it to be and cause serious harm if you jump in, as well as being much deeper than expected in other areas.
  • Waterborne diseases such as Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease).

Knowing all the above you might be asking yourself ‘what should I do if I see children playing in the water?’ Each situation is different but as general rule check if the children are with their parents or adults. If they are, approach the parents/adults and respectfully tell them of the risks of swimming in open water. Ultimately it is the parent/adult’s decision if they are happy for their child to be in the water. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), that you should be mindful about approaching children/teenagers who are on their own – make sure you don’t put them or yourself in a difficult situation.

Hopefully it’ll never happen but it’s important to know what to do if you see someone struggling in the water:

  • Even if you consider yourself a strong swimmer, do not get into the water, you may get into difficulties as well.
  • Call the emergency services as soon as you can.
  • Keep an eye on the person, keep talking to them, and stay near them.
  • If you can, get something to help them, like a throw line if available or a tree branch to reach out to them.

There’s plenty more information about water safety on our website.

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What went wrong in June

For the second edition in a row we look back at the previous month to see what things the Canal & River Trust had to unexpectedly fix to keep the canals and rivers open for you to enjoy.

Angler on Macclesfield Canal with boat moored oppositeTotalled up, across the entire 2,000 miles of rivers and canals that we look after, there were only five occasions when a navigation was closed for more than 48 hours.

One of the five occasions was actually a continuation of the leak investigations on the Macclesfield Canal that I mentioned previously. The remainder were mainly spent fixing lock gate cills, gate chains and installing an entirely new set of gates on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal. Oh, and a pesky swing bridge on the Leeds & Liverpool needed some TLC too.

If you’ve signed up to receive stoppages you’ll notice that we categorise them in to general reasons, such as repair, inspection or vegetation.

Of course, when we’re dealing with such old structures, it’s not always as straightforward as ‘repair’ so we offer more detail in the body of the stoppage notice. But, in case you were wondering, here’s a handy guide to what we classify as a repair, maintenance, inspection and so on.

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Getting closer to the full Monty

1936 was quite a good year – Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People were published (I know my favourite…). It was also in this year that the first Butlins Holiday Camp opened and Burt Reynolds, Robert Redford and Buddy Holly were born.

In the inland waterway world though it’s remembered more sadly. It’s about this time that the last boat managed to navigate the Montgomery Canal. But that looks set to change.

A dream to restore the Montgomery, one of our most picturesque canals, took a giant leap forward at the start of the month with the beginning of a new £4 million project. A new nature reserve is to be created next to the canal near Oswestry which, together with work along the canal itself, means boaters could soon be returning to the area for the first time in 80 years.

The work is being carried out by us, and is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and supported by the Montgomery Canal Partnership.

The canal on the Shropshire/Welsh border is currently only partly navigable and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Rare aquatic plants, including Floating Water Plantain Luronium natans, will soon be given a secure environment by the creation of a new three-hectare wildlife habitat within Aston Locks Nature Reserve.

The site, which is expected to be complete by winter 2017, will also be home for a range of wildlife including damselflies, dragonflies, otters and water voles, and will attract a range of bird species.

Montgomery CanalAlongside the creation of the reserve, a further 1¼ miles of the canal, from Welshampton to Crickheath in Shropshire, will be restored to navigation (including a winding hole) enabling boats to return to the area, hopefully by 2020, for the first time since 1936 when the canal was closed.

Wendy Capelle, our waterway manager said: "The work starting today at Aston Nature Reserves is a huge step forward in restoring this beautiful canal. It is a testament to the dedication of so many people over many years who have kept the dream alive and we’re hugely excited to see the diggers on site. The Canal & River Trust wants to continue the hard work of local volunteers in bringing the canal back to life and as a charity, the support of HLF is invaluable in enabling us to do so."

We will be working with the 15 partner organisations which make up the Montgomery Canal Partnership. The Partnership aims to restore the canal fully within the next decade as a haven for people and nature. This work will bring canal boats back to Crickheath for the first time in over 80 years.  

The project is also supported with funding from Powys County Council, Shropshire Union Canal Society, Inland Waterways Association, Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust and the Friends of the Montgomery Canal.

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Licensing consultation update

You’ll have seen talk of the licensing consultation in previous editions of Boaters’ Update. A week or so ago we passed another milestone – the second stage has finished. The next, and final, stage is where we want every boat licence holder to get involved.

In case you’re wondering what stage two actually was, nine workshops were held across the country by an independent agency to get in-depth perspectives on licensing. Many of you were keen to be involved - 988 boaters expressed interest in the 135 places available, representing a wide variety of licence holders.  A report on the topics and views that came up in the workshops will be available in late July and, of course, published on our website. 


Crick and Grand Union CanalThe third and final stage is likely to be launched in mid-August. Every boat licence holder will be contacted to take part and will have the facility to respond by email, post or telephone.

Ian Rogers, customer service and operations director at the Canal & River Trust, said: “We’ve had a fantastic response to the consultation so far and it’s great to see so much interest in a topic that is fundamentally important for our boaters.  It’s vital that the financial contribution made by boaters is spread fairly across the boating community – both now and for the future.

“I’d encourage all our boating customers to respond to the consultation when it goes live in August so that we have a full view of boaters’ thoughts and feelings to help us shape the future of boat licensing.”

Read more about the boat licensing consultation.

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More ways for you to get involved

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, there’re always other ways you can get involved:

  • Winter stoppages – Next week (16 July) we’ll be publishing a revised version of our winter maintenance and restoration programme. You’ll then have until 4 August to give us further thoughts which we’ll review before publishing the final plan, a couple of weeks later, on 18 August.
  • Seen a boat stunningly bedecked with a dazzlingly display of flowers? If so, why not take a quick snap and post your photos on our website to give the green fingered boater the chance of a special prize. We've had quite a few posted already so if you’re wondering what the competition looks like

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

Keeping your canals and rivers ready for you to enjoy is a year-round job. From time-to-time this includes some major engineering that we need to temporarily close the navigation for. Below you’ll find a list, by region, of anything that’s happen that may affect your cruising.

Just click on the one where you’ll be and a webpage will open listing any stoppages for that region (if your region isn’t listed then, yay, there aren’t any navigation closures there!). If you’re not quite sure which region your planned cruise falls in to please take a look at this map.

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.

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Bits and Bobs

  • If you’re a Gold licence holder then you might want to know about some advice that the Environment Agency issued – ‘water levels in the upper River Thames, particularly upstream of Abingdon lock, will be shallower than you are used to in some places, due to below average rainfall this year. With this in mind we are asking boaters to take extra care, especially immediately downstream of locks where the natural gradient of the river means levels are always slightly lower than elsewhere in the reach.’ More information about the Thames can be found on the EA’s website.

Happy boating!

Damian

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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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