News article created on 16 November 2018

Boaters' Update 16 November 2018

Welcome to the latest edition. With winter upon us this edition looks at some of the work we're doing over the season in the North. You'll also find news of 2019/20 boat licence fees, a celebration of the life of Harry Arnold MBE who has sadly passed away and, finally, how to stay safe this winter.

Narrowboat moored on the canal Narrowboat moored at Great Haywood in Autumn sunshine

Welcome to the latest edition. Hopefully you’ve managed to get out and enjoy some bonfire night bonhomie. Shocking to think but the next big celebration, in less than six weeks, is Christmas! Between then and now you’ll find hundreds of Trust staff out and about repairing and restoring things as part of our winter stoppage programme. In the last edition I gave a flavour (think amuse-bouche) of this work.

Continuing with that analogy, the first two articles in this edition can be considered the soup course, focussing on some the work we’ll get done in the North, while upcoming editions will focus on the Midlands and the South (main course and dessert, if you will).  

There’s also an article about next year’s boat licence fees, which, along with other funding, help us carry out the vast amount of work mentioned in the first two articles. There’s also a celebration of the life of Harry Arnold MBE who sadly died at the start of this month. Lastly, you’ll find a short piece on winter boating safety – do have a read and get in touch. The regular roundup of other boating news, stoppages and events are, as ever, there for you too. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see in a future edition then please drop me a line.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and the fortnight ahead             

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

  • 31 Oct – Glandŵr Cymru – the Canal & River Trust in Wales – has started a £545,000 winter repair programme on the nation’s waterways, including the Monmouthshire & Brecon and Llangollen canals.
  • 6 Nov – We are also beginning a £445,000 winter repair programme along the Kennet & Avon Canal involving projects at half a dozen locations that range from replacing giant lock gates through to rebuilding historic canal walls.
  • 7 Nov – Together with the Chesterfield Canal Trust we've begun a comprehensive programme of works to repair and replace 12 lock gates along the 46-mile waterway this winter.
  • 7 Nov – Fish living in the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal have been temporarily rehomed ahead of a major project to repair the lining of the canal near Brecon.

Below I’ve picked out some highlights to see and do over the next fortnight. 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.

  • 18 Nov – Turn up and chat through the decades with costumed interpreters at Ellesmere Port by visiting Porters Row cottages, with rooms and gardens that turn back the clock to the 1830s, 1900s, 1930s and 1950s.
  • 24 & 25 Nov – As mentioned in the introduction, we’ve got less than six weeks to get presents for those we know have been good. If, like me, you’re lacking inspiration then why not head along to the Roving Canal Traders floating markets in Birmingham and Berkhamsted?
  • 23 Nov to 14 Dec – Improve your health, make new friends, and enjoy the lovely countryside surrounding Fradley Junction by joining us on one of our organised walks along the canal.
  • 27 Nov – Join us at the Royal Armouries Museum Leeds to learn about our work across the Yorkshire & North East region over the past year, and about our future plans which will embrace a wider appreciation of the importance waterways play on the wellbeing of all communities.

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Greater Manchester's canals to get winter makeover

As mentioned in the introduction this article, and the next one, look at the winter works going on in the North in more detail. Costing nearly £1m, the works in and around Manchester will include the replacement of a number handcrafted lock gates and repairs to listed waterway structures. We’ve started repairs already and, in one place or another, they’ll continue through until next March.

The work taking place includes:

  • Vital repairs to five locks on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal including Lock 18 at Greenfield and four locks on the Diggle Flight.
  • New handcrafted lock gates to replace aging gates in central Manchester on the Rochdale Canal, while in Rochdale itself a number of locks will undergo important work to prevent them leaking.

Manchester – Islington WharfRegional construction manager, Ged King, from the Trust, said: "The projects we’re carrying out over the next five months are really important. We’ll be emptying millions of litres of water from the canal, moving thousands of fish, and lifting multi-tonne, handcrafted, lock gates into place. It is a great example of the type of work we do to improve the canal so everyone who boats on, lives on or visits the waterway can enjoy.

"The canals are 200 years old but arguably as relevant as ever for today’s society. They offer an amazing, tranquil space, where everything slows down – boaters know just how special it is. 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."

The wooden lock gates on Greater Manchester’s waterways typically last around 25 years and allow countless boats to travel from place to place. Each new gate is made to measure and weighs several tonnes and is handcrafted from seasoned oak so that it fits perfectly in the lock chamber.  Once in place the new lock gates will help the Trust conserve water and keep boats moving along the waterway.

Visit the dedicated winter stoppage page for more information on the works planned on the nations canals this winter (that’s if you can’t wait to read about them, in detail, in the next two editions!)

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Winter works on Calder & Hebble to keep water flowing

This second article, looking at the winter works in the North, shifts its gaze slightly further north easterly to the broad and ancient Calder & Hebble Navigation.

If you’ve cruised it you’ll know that it’s part canal and part river and runs from Sowerby Bridge to Wakefield, connecting canals in Yorkshire and the Pennines. You may even still have your handspike (a thick wooden pole) that you would have needed to operate its quirky lever-operated locks.

There’ll be a whole range of repairs being done to improve the boating experience including to several locks along the navigation:

  • Lock 13 Anchor Pit in Brighouse: repairs to the lock floor
  • Lock 15 Kirklees Low Lock in Clifton: replace the lock floor timbers
  • Battyeford Flood Gates: stonework repairs to the cill
  • Lock 21 Double Lock Bottom near Thornhill: masonry repairs
  • 1km stretch near Dewsbury: washwall repairs
  • Lock 19 Greenwood near Mirfield: re-building of the wash wall

Calder & Hebble Navigation, Wakefield, by John MStuart Gadsby, regional construction manager, said: "These works present various and complex challenges, so we’ll be drawing on a variety of skills among our staff and contractors, from specialist divers to our own highly trained craft operatives.

"This is also a unique opportunity for our apprentices to work on historical assets that are only drained every 25 years, giving them hands-on practical experience to bring their learning to life.

"The Calder & Hebble Navigation is a wonderful cruise, and equally great from the towpath, and these maintenance works will ensure it can be enjoyed for generations to come, providing a space for people to boat, relax, enjoy the fresh air, and spot the local wildlife."

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New boat licence fees for 2019-2020

Today we're able to confirm that private and business boat licence fees will be frozen for 2019 and will remain at current prices until 1 April 2020.

As previously announced, following our national boat licence consultation, which concluded in March, several changes will be taking place over five years starting from 1 April 2019. 

Boats on the Chesterfield Canal, courtesy Richard CroftThe prompt payment discount will be retained but reduced to 5% from 1 April 2019. This is the only change made to licence fees for 2019.

From 2020, part of this discount (2.5%) will apply for those who manage their payments online (for example by credit/debit card or by direct debit). This means that boaters who may not be able to afford to pay the licence fee in one lump sum will also be able to benefit from a discount.

In addition to length-based pricing, from April 2020 two additional pricing bands for boat widths over 2.16 to 3.24m (7ft 1” to 10ft 7¾”) and those over 3.24m width (10ft 7¾”) will be introduced.

Jon Horsfall, head of customer service support, said: “Income from boat licences accounted for around 10% of our annual income last year, and helps ensure that we can carry out the vast amount of work needed to keep the waterways available to boaters.   

“The changes we’re making to boat licensing are intended to ensure the financial contribution made by boaters towards the cost of looking after the waterways is spread fairly across the boating community. We’re staggering the changes we announced in March over a five-year period so there’s no sudden impact on any boaters, and we’re keeping headline licence fees frozen for the next year which will help offset the reduction in the prompt payment discount from 10% to 5% for those who pay their full licence fee upfront.”

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Stay safe this winter

Although, as a boater, you’re likely to be well aware of the water, and it’s dangers, it's always good to remind ourselves of how to stay safe during the winter – with cold temperatures come new hazards on and by your boat.

Winter day in Melbourne Arm Moorings, Pocklington CanalWe’ve created a new web page, just in time for the colder weather expected next week, to highlight the broad range of things to look out for if you’re on, or by, your boat when the mercury starts to fall.

If you’re a seasoned boater then you may have had one or two close calls in the past when we’ve had a cold snap. If this sounds familiar then please do drop me a line to let me know what happened and how it could have been prevented - your experience(s) could very well save another, perhaps newer, boater from a mishap or, in the worst case, injury.

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In memoriam – Harry Arnold MBE

It is with sadness that we note the passing, on 1 November, of Harry Arnold MBE. Harry was well known as a waterways journalist, campaigner, author and photographer who had been instrumental in many waterway campaigns since the 1950s. Harry’s roles included Vice President of the Inland Waterways Association, and editor of its magazine for 17 years, President of Shropshire Fly Boats and secretary of the Association of Pleasure Craft Operators (now BMIB).

Chief exec, Richard Parry, reflects on Harry’s substantial contribution to the inland waterways network: “There can be few people who have played as great a part in so many different aspects of the waterway renaissance over the past sixty years as Harry. He was centre stage in some of the most momentous changes on our canals and rivers since the late 1950s.

“Harry had a hand in many of the first changes that saw the waterways return to a valued role in public life, from hire boating to canal restoration, helping to set up the Waterways Recovery Group. He also anticipated the wide public interest in their heritage, helping to found the Inland Navigation Museum at Ellesmere Port, and playing a key role in the restoration of the Anderton Boat Lift and the Montgomery Canal.

“Harry didn’t just witness, and play a part, in all of these changes – he recorded every significant moment – as a photojournalist and co-founder of Waterways World he amassed an extraordinary collection of images.

“I was honoured to be able to acknowledge Harry’s dedication by presenting him with the Living Waterways Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 - there can be few more worthy recipients. The high regard in which he was held was reflected in the large numbers who attended his funeral earlier this week

“Ultimately, Harry gave a lifetime of passion to the waterways and left a lasting legacy which we can all be thankful for.”

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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 I thought you’d like to know about other ways you can get involved:

  • Many of you stop by our Facebook Boating page and, for those of you that have, you may have noticed that the main image is a bit, well, unseasonal! If you’ve captured some stunning wintery canalscapes - maybe you got one last winter? - please do send them in and maybe it’ll become the new main image on the Facebook Boating page!
  • Keep an eye on our social media channels on Monday as we’ll be taking part in the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ #youmadeithappen event where we’ll be joining other charities to show our gratitude for the huge contribution of volunteers. Thank you!

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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 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, 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.

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Bits and bobs

  • How many hours volunteering can you fit in to a weekend? 1,120 if you’re the IWA’s Waterway Recovery Group! At its Annual Reunion Weekend - Bonfire Bash - on the Lichfield Canal over 70 WRG volunteers from across the country, joined by volunteers from the Lichfield & Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust, carried out several large-scale restoration jobs, including vegetation clearance along the line of the canal, hedge-laying and building a retaining wall.

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