Boaters' Update 17 Jan 2020

This latest edition updates on our £43.6 million programme of winter works, how we're tackling canalside vegetation, boater representative elections and new ways for you to help us care for our wonderful waterways.

Cowley Lock aerial view Aerial view of Cowley Lock drained for winter repairs

Welcome to the first edition of the year. Now that the festivities have drifted off in to memory our focus, and excitement, naturally turns to the year ahead. Perhaps you’re planning to cruise a previously unexplored part of the waterway network? Maybe you’re thinking about buying a new boat, or maybe this is the year that you are able to spend some time getting more involved in caring for our wonderful canals and rivers?

Whatever your plans, we’re hard at it with our winter stoppage programme of work that enables us to keep the waterways open for you to enjoy – more on this below. Along with the big projects, you’ll also be able to read about our exertions to manage canalside vegetation over the last couple of months.

Elsewhere in this edition you’ll find out about the upcoming election for your private boater representatives on the Trust’s governing Council and, if you’re planning on volunteering for us, how we are broadening the number and range of volunteering roles on offer.

Of course, the regular roundup of other news, stoppages, events and ways to get involved are also included.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and upcoming events

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 12 Dec – We're to trial a set of new ‘long life’ lock gates on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Installed at Picketsfield Lock near Hungerford in Berkshire, the innovative new gates are intended to bring efficiencies and long term environmental benefits.
  • 12 Dec – Students, from Gloucestershire College, have helped create a brand 'newt' home (for great crested newts!) by digging out seven tonnes of earth and landscaping a pond beside Saul Junction on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal.
  • 19 Dec – A major milestone in the £2 million project to improve sections of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal towpath from Skipton to Gargrave, and Bradley to Kildwick, was completed in time for those with a New Year running resolution!

Below 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.

  • 15 Jan to 23 Feb – Visit the Puppet Theatre Barge in Little Venice and join a little chimney sweep as he plunges into an underwater realm of fish, caterpillars and caddisflies and get drawn into his adventures in the colourful depths, swept along with his dreams and new freedom.
  • From 17 Jan – Head to the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port for the Navigable Lines Exhibition which showcases the historical importance and heritage of inland waterways.
  • 19 Jan – If you’re near or on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in the Bingley area then we’d love to see you at our exciting open day where you'll get the chance to walk over the drained flight, providing a unique view down the staircase at Dowley Gap.
  • 24 Jan – Are you a happy snapper and want to refine to your photography skills? Then why not join a free workshop in Nottingham that’s led by professional photographer Louise Mills. It’ll involve a short talk before going out onto the canal to take some photos.

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Winter works progressing well

If you’ve been out on or by the cut over the last couple of months you’ll be only too aware that we’re right in the middle of a £43.6 million programme of repairs on waterways across England & Wales.  

New lock gates at Picketsfield LockOf the 118 hand-crafted lock gate leaves due to be replaced, over 100 have been made and about half are now on site either having been fitted or about to be put in place. By mid-December we’d completed 14 of the published winter improvement works and another 36 were on track to be finished by the Christmas break.  A further 92 repair and refurbishment projects will be completed this year. 

In terms of major projects that we’re carrying out, work has been completed to replace gate cylinders on the Tees Barrage. On the Lancaster Canal, the Lune Embankment is being relined, while on the Macclesfield Canal similar work is being carried out at Palmerston Street Embankment.  At Hurleston on the Llangollen Canal, where movement in the lock walls has restricted passage through the lock, we’re carrying out work to rebuild the affected wall, halt movement, and increase the width of the lock chamber.  Work is ongoing at Winterburn Reservoir, and at Blackbrook Junction Bridge in the West Midlands. 

Over the first few months of this year we’ve scheduled a programme of works that includes repairs to mechanical swing and lift bridges, embankment relining, and culvert repairs, amongst others. Two pumping stations are also on the list for special attention. Bowyer Street Pumping Station, a key water supply to the Grand Union Canal, will see works to upgrade and replace life-expired pumps. On the Wendover Arm, a similar project at Tringford Pumping Station will replace the pumps, pipes, electrics, and gantry.

Dredging has been completed on the Macclesfield Canal and on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, where we removed 27,000 tons of contaminated sediment at Titford Pools. Further dredging, bank protection and tree works are planned. On the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal at Pontymoile, 4km of dredging has been completed, with a further 2.2km to come this year. 

Frankton Locks, Montgomery CanalSpot dredging on the Llangollen Canal is ongoing with around 1,700 cubic metres of silt removed from the 2km length between Frankton Junction and New Marton Locks, with some dredgings reused to repair offside erosion. The work continues with reactive spot dredging across the country and projects at Sharpness Dock, Ribble Link, Liverpool Dock approaches, and on the Upper & Lower Peak Forest and Chesterfield canals.

You’ve got the chance to see ‘behind the scenes’ at a number of stoppage sites by coming along to one of our open days. You’ll be able to access drained lock chambers on the Grand Union Canal and Trent & Mersey Canal, whilst repairs to the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Anderton Boat Lift provides an amazing opportunity to get a rarely-seen view of this ‘wonder of the waterways’.  A number of the events, including on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, will highlight our #plasticschallenge which invites eveyone to get involved in helping to stop the flow of plastic litter into the world’s oceans.

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Winter tree and hedge maintenance programme underway

While many of us are dreaming of escaping to our favourite canal or river on a warm summer’s day, colleagues, contractors and volunteers are currently occupied with three quarters of a million pounds of work to tackle overhanging trees and hedges. 

A crane cutting trees by the canalThe works focus on preserving navigation and ensuring sightlines are kept clear, rather than cutting back every metre of overgrowth. The charity actively manages vegetation all year round, but large-scale activities are best suited to winter when the waterways are quieter and disturbance to wildlife is minimised.

While most of the national programme of work is carried out by specialist contractors, we’re also working alongside volunteers to deliver the improvements. 

Matthew Symonds, national boating manager, said: “We know how important keeping trees and hedges under control is to boaters and we’re committed to tackling those places where overgrowth is causing problems whilst ensuring that important wildlife habitat is maintained.  A nicely cut hedgeWe’ve listened to customer feedback and worked with boaters to identify the places that need the most attention and, this winter, we’re investing three quarters of a million pounds into a programme targeting the areas that will make the biggest difference for our boating customers. 

“Managing the ever-growing flora across 2,000 miles of waterways is like painting the Forth Bridge, and we welcome every extra pair of volunteer hands. It’s really satisfying to see the difference you’ve made at the end of the day, and being by the water and active can brighten up the dark winter months.  Thank you to all the volunteers who will be getting involved.”

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Canal & River Trust Council elections for boater representatives

We recently called for nominations from prospective candidates to join our governing Council. As mentioned in November last year, we’re pleased to confirm that we received a record 34 nominations for the four available posts and we’ll be opening for voting on 20 January. You can read about the candidates on our website.

Council Meeting in Birmingham, September 2018The Council is currently made up of up to 50 elected and independently nominated members together with six Regional Advisory Board chairs.  Together they reflect the wide appeal of the waterways – from boating and angling through to walking and conservation.  The Council is responsible for the appointment of Trustees, helps to shape policies and provides guidance and perspective to Trustees. You can read about the current Council here.

Of particular note, given that this is a Boaters’ Update, is the information relating to private boating representation on the Council:

  • There are four posts available and 34 candidates standing for election
  • The election process will be run independently of the Trust by Civica Election Services (CES).
  • Voting is open from 20 January to midnight on 14 February. Eligible private boaters will receive an email on 20 January from CES with a link to the voting portal (this is different to our normal website). You’ll be able to review the candidates’ election statements to help you decide how to cast your vote.
  • A reminder email will be sent out by CES in February to those who haven’t cast a vote.
  • The entire election process is online. If we do not have an email address for private boaters, you will receive a letter but will need to go online to vote. All of the information on how to do this will be in the letter.
  • If you haven’t received an email, check your junk email folder and make sure you check the email account associated with your boat licence.
  • We’ll announce the results on 17 February. 
  • Votes are cast on the basis of one vote per customer. For joint licence holders please decide between yourselves how to cast your vote.
  • Voting is by way of single transferable vote, where voters sort the names of candidates into their order of preference.   If the first preferred candidate already has enough votes to be elected, or cannot ever get enough, the vote can be transferred to the second preferred candidate and so on, so it is not wasted.  
  • Successful candidates will start their term on Council in March 2020.

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

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Get involved in the second Golden Age of Canals

As a boater you’re more likely than most to appreciate that community spirit is alive and well on the nation’s canals. Just in the last year you’ll have come across record numbers of people volunteering – perhaps you were one of them?

Katy, volunteer lock keeper in LondonAs more and more boaters, local communities and others want to spend time helping to care for waterways we’re expanding the number and range of volunteering roles that we offer: everything from the iconic lock keeper to teaching children about water safety; from inspiring youngsters to take up fishing to supporting our wide range of professional teams.

Richard Parry, chief executive, said: “As we enter a new year, and a new decade, we are delighted that so many people want to support the Canal & River Trust and make a difference to their local community.

“On the waterways, community spirit is very much alive and well, with our canals and river navigations at the heart of such a diverse variety of villages, towns and cities across England & Wales. And, with so many ways to get involved, 2020 can be a year when more people take positive action for their local canal, for their community, and – because we know that volunteering and spending time outdoors, by water, is good for wellbeing – for themselves.”

Education volunters with Claire Cavendish In 2019 we saw record numbers of people volunteer 671,000 hours of their time to the waterways. There was a 27% increase in the number of volunteer lock keepers across the network, to 1,130, and the first volunteer to record a staggering 10,000 hours of volunteering time since the charity’s formation in 2012. 

Richard continues: “With more boats on the nation’s canals than at the height of the Industrial Revolution, and research showing that spending time by water helps people feel happier and healthier, it’s a great time to discover Britain’s waterways. 

“Far from being industrial relics or unloved backwaters, the dedicated efforts of thousands of volunteers have made canals the heart of the communities they run through. And with a remarkable 50% of the population living within five miles of a canal or river navigation, they are perfectly placed to provide free, accessible, natural environments where everyone can come to unwind and to embrace a happier and healthier lifestyle.”

In 2020 we’re building on the popularity of waterways volunteering by creating an even wider range of volunteer roles. Opportunities include:

  • Volunteer lock keepers and towpath rangers

Volunteer lock keepers and towpath rangers offer a friendly welcome to visitors and boaters and help people get to know their local canal.  We’re offering more flexibility in terms of time commitment and scope of these ever-popular and iconic roles, with some positions still available in a few spots across the country.

  • Education volunteers

Volunteers work with schools to teach pupils about water safety and anything and everything canal-related, inspiring the next generation of waterway-lovers. They can also take part in running activities on the towpath, at canal festivals, and local fairs.

  • Let’s activity volunteers

Volunteers for our Let’s Fish programme help host hundreds of free learn-to-fish events for all the family.  We’re building our Let’s activity programme and there will be further opportunities, for example walk leaders, throughout the year.

  • National Waterway Museums and attractions

Our three museums as well as iconic attractions such as the World Heritage Site at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct or Standedge Tunnel - the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel – all offer volunteer opportunities.

  • Towpath Taskforce

Towpath Taskforces are flexible opportunities for volunteers to come along whenever they’re free, whether that’s once a month or more regularly. Tasks can include lock-painting, hedge-planting, weeding gardens, litter-clearance from land and water, repairing towpaths and more – depending on what’s most needed in that area.

Let's Fish! with Nenescape 2019Richard concludes: “The arteries of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, the waterways were once in danger of being forgotten about when the demand for waterborne freight declined.  We owe a debt to the hard-working volunteers who helped to save them.  It’s heartening to see this passion for the waterways continue, as a new generation of volunteers continues to give us its support.  Our passionate volunteers have helped our charity to achieve so much and, with the waterways busier than ever before, we are enjoying a second Golden Canal Age, their benefit to people everywhere now firmly established.”

For further details please visit our website: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteer

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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

Last date edited: 17 January 2020

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The boaters' update

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