And there goes another year! Welcome to the final 2017 edition. Huge thanks go out to everyone who's been touch over the past 12 months and given up their time to share their thoughts, and passion, on all things boating. See you in 2018!
Traditions are a plenty at this time of year. For some, it’s when the family returns to the nest, while for many boaters it’s a chance to get out onto the cut, away from the hustle bustle of the New Year sales, and enjoy the peace and tranquillity that the waterways provide.
For me, there’s the annual ritual of seeing just how many notches I have to release my belt by in a 10-day period!
Then, of course, afloat or not, we all have our own timeworn formats for the big day. Presents before breakfast? The Queen’s speech? Trousers with elasticated waists after 7pm? Ok, that last one might just be me…
What all these traditions have in common though is that they usually stimulate a moment of reflection. Reading this, you might find yourself thinking back to Christmas past and fondly remembering the warm sense of wellbeing you felt when everyone around you was happy.
While writing this year’s final edition, reflecting on the last 12 months, something similar happened to me. As I started running through the months I found myself transported to various places around the country – that gloriously warm weekend at Crick Boat Show where I met many of you, that early September afternoon slowly cruising down the Shroppie, you get the picture… With each recollection I felt that lovely glow that comes with a deep down sense of wellbeing. I can’t wait to recreate it, hopefully with some of you, in 2018.
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 Christmas period. Of course, there are plenty of other activities (including Santa trips in pretty much every part of the country!) and volunteering opportunities around the network: visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.
Also, this year we're counting down to Christmas on the canals with our advent calendar of exciting events, festive activities and great gift ideas - just open one door a day for some seasonal surprises...
I'd like to wish all boaters update readers, and all our boating customers, a Merry Christmas and happy boating for 2018.
This year has seen the Trust turn five years old, and we can reflect on the progress that we’ve made in that time – with increased spend on the waterways, reduced failures and many more people engaged and participating in caring for their local waterway. I hope you have seen some of the benefits.
We’ve also taken a fresh look this year at some of the more challenging issues we face – from mooring space in London to the basis for charging boat licence fees – and I appreciate the input that many of you have given to those consultations. We welcome your feedback on any issues you encounter, and it’s always good to have a chat with someone on the bank, or by email, and weeks later receive confirmation that we’ve got it sorted.
I know there is a lot more that we can and must do to secure a sustainable long-term future for our amazing inland waterway network and look forward to your patronage and support in the year ahead.
As mentioned in the introduction, the following review of the year took longer to write than it should have – I kept staring off into the distance while daydreaming of sunny, slow days on, and by, the water just soaking up the ambience and basking in the wonderful feeling it inspires… Ooops, there I go again. Right, here it is, a look back at 2017:
When the alarm sounds, marking the first day back at work after a fulfilling Christmas break, some reluctantly emerge from their duvet and begin the trudge back into the routine of their 9-to-5. Going by the meaty tasks that got underway back in January, I suspect colleagues working on the Rivers’ Weaver and Stort probably threw their duvets to one side and bellowed ‘Good morning World. Right, let’s crack on then…’ Which they duly did with a £500,000 repair job on the Stort’s Brick Lock and a £1.5million repair project on the Weaver’s Acton Swing Bridge.
The pace of our traditional winter repair and restoration programme kept going this month. Well, it did for all my colleagues except those on the workboat that was stopped dead in its tracks by a large submerged safe on the Regent’s Canal. It was also the same month that we set out our plans to review how boats are licensed in the future.
Ok, so spring had officially arrived but someone forgot to tell the person who arranges the weather, they still had snow in their diaries for some parts of the country. Despite the wintry conditions, colleague and boater Debbi Figueiredo had her mind firmly set on a summer of cruising and started preparations by writing about her recent boat engine maintenance course. It wasn’t only Debbi who took to the keyboard, we responded to the Government’s consultation on the next phase of the HS2 high speed rail line, and set out a series of measures to protect the nation’s historic waterways.
You’d be forgiven if you thought nothing else was happening in the world due to wall-to-wall coverage stoking up election fever but it certainly was. We launched the first-ever ‘Boats in Bloom’ awards to say thank you to the many people who bring the waterways to life with plants and flowers and, in Manchester, the Rochdale Canal was improved for both pedestrians and boaters with the installation of new and refurbished lock gates, and a large scale waterway clean up.
Even though there’s a whole 31 days in May, for me the month is focussed on the late May Bank Holiday at Crick Boat Show. Of course, the report on the exceptionally dry spring by group hydrology manager Adam Comerford and the introduction of auto-renewal for boat licences shows that the rest of the Trust was still hard at it while I was dreaming of, and enjoying, Crick. See you there next year?
It was a big month in the Big Smoke as, for the first time in a generation, we welcomed boaters back to the Bow Back Rivers that run through East London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, after a ten-year transformation project that has turned the derelict, virtually unnavigable waterways into a major new route for the capital. Boat licensing news continued as well with the introduction of a new licence for boat renting.
The good news kept coming as summer really got going – we published a positive Annual Report detailing great news such as a 264% increase in volunteering and a 62% reduction in unplanned navigation closures. We also managed to complete £1 million of improvement works ahead of schedule on the Rochdale Canal between Sowerby Bridge and Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire which suffered badly during the 2015 Boxing Day floods.
If you follow our Facebook boating page you’d have seen that I’ve been posting about some free activities that we’re putting on as a thank you to players of the National Lottery – it’s where we get great support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This month we announced that another historic aqueduct, Stainton, will benefit as we received a £41,000 grant to develop plans to restore and reopen the Grade II listed Stainton Aqueduct. And, even though the weather disappointed, we published an article about accessible boating so that as many of you as possible could get out on the water to enjoy the magnificently tranquilising effect of boating.
Continuing on from July’s and August’s news about the Rochdale Canal and it’s gradual restoration to its pre-flood glory, another step was taken this month with the reopening of Crowther Bridge which was completely destroyed. It wasn’t the only restoration talk that month, Britain’s first industrial canal, the Sankey, got a major boost thanks to the new Sankey Canal Partnership.
As things started to quieten down out on the cut, we turned to you for your opinions. Firstly, the final phase of the boat licensing review – where we invite all boat licence holders to tell us how they think we should licence boats – got underway as well as the consultation about the proposed London Mooring Strategy. There’s just about time to send in your views if you haven’t already (both close on 18 Dec)!
As the best of the autumn weather headed off in to the increasingly early sunset, it signalled the start of our £38million winter repair and restoration programme. While we’re out there doing some of the big jobs we welcome boaters and members of the public to see what we’re up to – there’s still several Open Days planned so we’d love to see you at one!
For the first time in four years the country saw a wide covering of snow. After a shout-out on our Facebook boating page you posted an avalanche, pun intended, of achingly beautiful snow-covered canals and boats – check them out and you may find it as difficult as me to pick a favourite! And, in case you haven’t seen it, you might want to join us as we count down to Christmas on the canals with our advent calendar of exciting events, festive activities and great gift ideas…
Those are just some of the highlights from my perspective. Thanks to those who sent in their memorable moments, here’s a couple of particularly inspiring ones:
‘This year my wife and I booked and cruised the Liverpool link. A memorable moment cruising into Salterhouse Dock. We were held back for a day due to very high winds by the Trust staff. However we were on a secure mooring so spent the day on a great excursion to see the Anthony Gormley sculptures facing out to sea. The trip into Liverpool was greatly enhanced by all the help and advice we received from the excellent Trust staff. We will certainly go back from our mooring at Yelvertoft in Northamptonshire…’
‘Single-handed boating for the first time in over 50 years of cruising. My first mate, lock operator and spouse has gone right off boating (she’s an Arizonan fair-weather gal, say no more!). So I set off by myself with some trepidation but armed with loads of advice from fellow sufferers. Everywhere I went, boaters flocked to help. No doubt there was an element of self interest in speeding me on my way, but I detected nothing but good humour. I only had to operate 15% of the locks totally alone. I made instant friendships, had a thoroughly good time and was soon ‘keeping up with the flow’ with no problem. The freedom to cruise and moor where and when I liked without interminable discussion was liberating, to say the least. In fairness to my wife, she has endured ten years of me as the overbearing captain. She has many other attributes and we have been married 40 years, so I’m sure this will not lead to a rift of a permanent nature.’
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:
We’re now into our £38million winter restoration programme - we get out our big toys and restore things while you’re less likely to be out on the cut. Of course, there are other times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. So, below, you’ll find a list, by region, of anything that’s happening that may affect you if you’re planning on wrapping up for a winter cruise.
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.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,