Boaters' Update 18 Oct 2019

Welcome to this latest edition which is wide-ranging and big! There's everything from Council elections and fishing through to single-handed boating and the 'Oscars of the Waterways'! Of course, there's also the usual roundup of news, events and stoppages.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct illuminated with purple lighting Pontcysyllte Aqueduct illuminated by night

You’ll find a big mix of topics below – from our Heritage Report and Council elections through to single-handed boating and the ‘Oscars of the Waterways’! I even use a phrase that I never thought would grace the pages of Boaters’ Update - ‘seven-mile neon laser beam’.

There are also a few prods and prompts for you to get in touch and share your views and, as ever, there’s the regular roundup of news, upcoming events, and the latest stoppages.

If there’s an article you’d like to read in a future edition then please drop me a line.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and upcoming events         

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

  • 7 Oct – A luminaire of iconic structures, Chirk and Pontcysyllte (main image above) Aqueducts being two prominent waterway ones, along the 11-mile corridor of the Dee Valley’s World Heritage site near Llangollen is expected to draw thousands of visitors to the area this month.
  • 10 Oct – A seven-mile neon laser beam, marking the line of the River Soar as it runs through the heart of Leicester, is set to light up the city’s skyline as part of the 2019 Diwali celebrations.
  • 10 Oct – We are inviting people in Nottingham to enjoy a free boat ride and guided walk along the city’s waterways this Sunday (20 Oct) as part of Nottingham Mental Health Awareness Week.

Below I’ve picked out some events 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.

  • 26 Oct – Cheshire’s most thrilling firework display is back with a bang. The iconic Anderton Boat Lift in Northwich will once again play host to its annual firework spectacular. A musical display like no other with explosions of colour and sound set off from the River Weaver.
  • 30 Oct – Whether you love to draw, or think you can't, join the world's biggest drawing festival at the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum for this free event.
  • 27 Oct to 1 Nov – There’s a whole range of activities at the National Waterway Museum Ellesmere Port including pumpkin carving, Lego bats and ghost tours (among others!) to help you get in to the spooky spirit of Halloween.
  • 19 to 27 Oct – Become immersed in the strange and beautiful world of beetles, grasshoppers, wasps and dragonflies as they demonstrate their dexterity with wit and humour. Expect dramatic lighting and exquisitely composed music, punctuated by the ambient sounds of enraptured children – all at the Puppet Theatre Barge’s production of ‘The Insect Circus’ on the Regent’s Canal

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Heritage Report

How many listed buildings do you think we take care of? 50? 100? Or maybe even 500? Not even close. In fact, it’s 2,663 along with 50 scheduled monuments and a World Heritage Site at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – one of the largest collections of industrial heritage.

As you might imagine, managing and conserving the historic environment of the waterways is a never-ending task, as the case studies in the newly published Heritage Report amply demonstrate. We formally checks for changes in condition, defects or hazards along each stretch of canal at least once every two months. 

These inspections show that incidents affecting waterways heritage stood at 626 in 2017/18 and 635 in 2018/19, down from 800 recorded incidents in 2016/17.  The most common cause of damage was vandalism (42% and 41% in 2017/18 and 2018/19, with half involving graffiti). 

Less frequent, but significant, are incidents of damage caused by impact from vehicles or boats.  In 2017/18 40% of all such incidents were caused by boats, reducing to 19% in 2018/19.  Vehicle collisions typically damage canal bridges, and in 2017/18 there were 63 reported incidents, rising to 85 incidents in 2018/19.

You’ll find a couple of examples of the highly skilled heritage work below but do read the full report to get a feel for the huge breadth and scale of tasks we have to tackle:

Derwent Mouth Lock repairs, Trent & Mersey Canal

Derwent Mouth Lock, Open DayDerwent Mouth is the first lock on the Trent & Mersey Canal. It is Grade II listed and in a conservation area. In December 2017, extensive repairs to the lock chamber were carried out by the Trust’s direct services, working closely with a conservation stonemason and the local conservation officer.

Repairs to the lock chamber were carried out in matching brick and lime mortar. Worn copings were replaced with a matching sandstone. The stone was cut and delivered to site, then dressed in situ to ensure that the profile of the new stones matched the existing ones.

Once the lock was drained it was found that one anchor stone had delaminated over time and was preventing the gates from sealing when closed. This was replaced with a new piece of sandstone.

Carpenter’s Road Lock restoration, Bow Back Rivers

Boat passing through Carpenters Road LockCarpenter’s Road Lock in East London was completed in 1934 to preserve safe river levels and allow passage for boats in what is now Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. After decades of disuse, the twin vertical lift radial lock gates were restored by the Trust as part of a £1.8 million project. They are the only lock gates of their kind in the country and are now back in use by commercial and leisure craft for the first time since the 1960s. The lock is now a significant attraction, providing access to the water space of the Bow Back Rivers.

The re-opening of the lock at the East London Waterways Festival in August 2017 was designed to showcase it as a destination and promote the natural amphitheatre and surrounding waterways as sites for cultural and water-based activity.

Gates and gantries for Carpenter’s Road Lock were restored using original drawings, with modern materials and contemporary architecture to bring the lock into the 21st century. The gate counterweights are housed behind glass doors, so visitors can see their mechanisms and the modern nylon bushes and wearing strips that have replaced the original phosphor bronze bearings. The gantry steelwork is made from CorTen weathering steel that eliminates the need for painting, forming a stable rust-like appearance after several years exposure to weather.

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Meetings for disabled boaters

During late 2018 and early 2019 we held a number of meetings for disabled boaters and carers to tell us their experience of boating on our waterways. The notes from these meetings can be found at the end of this article.

Since then we have been working through the feedback we received and looking at what we can do to address some of the issues raised. We’re planning some further meetings as part of our ongoing commitment to engage disabled boaters. At these meetings we’ll share an update on some of things we previously heard, or were asked, and what we’re doing to respond to them.

If you’d like to come along, the details of the next four meetings, and how to attend are:

If you can’t attend one of these meetings then why not join the IWAF Inland Waterways Accessibility Forum on Facebook? This group is independent of the Trust but we’re working with them to arrange a Q&A session. Look out for more details in the next Boater’s Update.

Notes from previous meetings:

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Oscars of the Waterways

The winners of Canal & River Trust’s 2019 Living Waterways Awards were announced at a gala ceremony in Birmingham last week. Sponsored by Kier, Amco Giffen, Arcadis, CPC Civils, Fountains, Land & Water and Vinci, the Awards recognise the most exciting and inspiring waterway-based improvement projects across the UK. 

Saxilby Waterfront Project, 2019 Living Waterways AwardsSue Wilkinson, Canal & River Trust trustee and chair of the Award’s assessment panel, explains: “Canal & River Trust is once again proud to announce the winners of our annual national Living Waterways Awards. These awards give us the opportunity to celebrate the tireless efforts of those who are helping to transform the nation’s rivers, canals, lochs, lakes, and reservoirs, making life better for millions of people across the UK.”

A rigorous assessment process saw the expert judges travel across England, Wales and Scotland before selecting the finalists.

From inspirational community programmes and innovative engineering projects, to exciting arts initiatives, the winners of these prestigious awards are:

1. ART, CULTURE & EVENTS (large scale) – Winner: The Ring, Worcestershire

Runner-up: Youth Urban Games & Glasgow Canal Festival (Scottish Canals)

2. ART, CULTURE & EVENTS (small scale) – Winner: The Village Butty, London

Commended: Muddy Waters Children’s Books (Windlass Publishing)

3. BUILT ENVIRONMENT – Winner; New London Bridge Staircase, London (Bere Architects)

Runner-up: River Thames Footbridge (Knight Architects)

Commended: Stanthorne Breach Repairs (Canal & River Trust)

4. ENGAGING COMMUNITIES Winner: Reconnecting Sheffield (Canal & River Trust)

Runner-up: Pride of Sefton 2 (Sovini);

Commended: Saxilby Waterfront Project (Saxilby Parish Council) and A new life for workboat Python (Chesterfield Canal Trust)

5. HERITAGE & CONSERVATION Winner: Claverton Pumping Station (Canal & River Trust)

Runner-up: Marple Makeover (Canal & River Trust)

Commended: Recording Gwendoline (National Waterways Museum)

6. LEARNING & SKILLS Winner: Fosseway Heath Nature Reserve (Lichifield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust)

Commended: Young Curators (National Waterways Museum)

7. NATURAL ENVIRONMENT Winner: Lugg Wetland Gem Project (Herefordshire)

Commended: Aston Nature Reserve (Land & Water)

8. SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD Winner: Maidenhead Waterways (Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group)

9. OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – Ian Edgar

Further details of the 2019 Living Waterways Awards including short films of the winning projects can be found at: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/living-waterways-awards-2019

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Single-handed boating advice (and dog poo!)

In the last edition I summarised four topics that you’d been getting in touch about. I asked which of those you’d like to read more about, thanks to the many who got in touch, and, as the title suggests, single-handed boating and dog poo piqued the most interest.

There’s quite a lot on both subjects so I’ll get right to it, starting with single-handed boating. It’s worth noting that there are plenty of detailed suggestions, for things such as traversing locks, operating bridges etc., in the full list of feedback on this subject so it’s worth a read. In summary though, your top tips and advice are:

  • Be extra vigilant as, especially in remote locations, you have no back-up.
  • When you encounter a lone boater, please ask if they would like assistance before rendering it.
  • Read, and keep a copy on board, ‘Going it Alone’.
  • Never rush, always maintain a pace that you are comfortable with and leaves you in control.
  • If ever in any doubt about performing a particular action (such as traversing an unfamiliar lock) wait for another boat to come along.

One single-handed boater who got in touch asked about the boating etiquette example I gave in the last edition:

Short stay or visitor mooring signageOn arriving at a visitor mooring there was space to moor up so said boater started the process of doing so only to be told that the space was being reserved for two boats that were shortly about to arrive, a 70ft and 50ft, and that they, in their 58ft boat, should squeeze in to a space further down the stretch. Seeing as though the space was really small it was suggested that the soon to arrive 50ft boat was better suited to the small space further down. The suggestion was unpleasantly rebuffed and left the boaters in the 58ft boat the choice of a tricky manoeuvre to get into a space that barely had a foot to spare at each end or moor elsewhere.

Specifically, the boater asks: “In your example you are referring to a couple and therefore I would expect the dynamic to be very different, because I’m a single-handed female boater, and I would really like to know how people deal with it.” Please do write in with your thoughts.

On to our second subject, dog poo, and it’ll come as no surprise that correspondents universally agree that it’s still an issue out on the towpath. The full list of comments can be found here.

While we don’t have the powers or resources to monitor and fine dog owners for not clearing up after their pooches, local councils do. A few years ago, in Boaters’ Update, I outlined the legal context and I understand that it’s still the same today:

Since 2006 Local Authorities have been able to make Dog Control Orders for controlling dog related issues.  The Fouling of Land by Dogs order makes it an offence for the person in charge of a dog to fail to remove dog faeces from the land.  The Orders can be made to cover Trust land as they can be applied to all areas of land that are open to the air and to which the public are entitled, or permitted to, have access within the area of the relevant authority. 

Many Local Authorities have introduced authority wide orders that include Trust land.  Prior to 2006, the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 applied.  Designations on Trust land made under this act still apply until the Local Authority makes a Dog Control Order on the same land.

It’s also worth noting that we do not support the ‘stick & flick’ method, i.e. turfing the waste into the canal, as it will degrade the water habitat for a whole range of wildlife and may make any boater who accidentally gets a dunking quite ill.

One final subject, also mentioned in the last edition, was hull blacking. A few got in touch but it’ll still be good to get your experiences and advice. One boater though was keen to get your views on a specific aspect of hull maintenance: “In my experience anodes in fresh water seem to be of limited or no value, perhaps, alongside blacking, you could ask the question 'how effective are anodes in canal water?” Do let us know! Thanks.
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Let’s fish!

Want to learn to fish? Through support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we'll get you up and netting in no time! It’s a great way to unwind and spend time outside in the fresh air with your family. So whether you've never fished before or are getting back into it, visit one of our award-winning, free Let's Fish! events this year. Everything you need to enjoy a fishing session is free on the day, such as tackle, bait, a rod licence and your fishing permit as well as expert coaching from one of our licensed Level Two coaches.

girl smiling at camera while holding a fishing pole, other people fishing further down canal bankJohn Ellis, national fisheries & angling manager for the Trust, said: “Research tells us that just spending time by the water is good for our health and wellbeing but fishing is particularly good at helping us to feel happier and healthier. 

“We want more people to feel those benefits for themselves and, thanks to the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we’ve held almost 300 Let’s Fish! events across the country this year. These events have given around 8,500 people the chance to have a go at fishing – many for the first time – and to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of being by water. 

“The events coming up over half-term are a great opportunity to enjoy some quality family time and give the kids a chance to catch their very first fish. It’s a great way for people to discover the amazing waterways that are right on their doorstep and available for everybody to enjoy.”

Sanjay Singh, Senior Manager of Environment at People’s Postcode Lottery said “Our players have supported many initiatives by Canal and River Trust since 2012 and Let’s Fish is another wonderful event to engage the local communities whilst encouraging families to spend some quality time together learning a new skill. It’s great for everybody, no matter your background to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of doing something outdoors in your local area.”

Did you know that during 2017 and 2018 alone, the People’s Postcode Lottery draws generated £4.5m for the Trust and supported priority projects such as works at the Grade 1 Listed Marple Aqueduct, Montgomery Canal restoration, bridge repairs in Birmingham, habitat protection at Sites of Special Scientific Interest, along with emergency repairs to the breach on the Shropshire Union Canal at Middlewich?

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Get Involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering,  donating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded plastic. As you’re such an integral part of what makes waterways so wonderful, and life better by water, I thought you’d like to know about other ways you can get involved:

  • As detailed in the last edition our Council elections are about to get underway. We’re looking for four private boater representatives to join our Council and the nomination process begins next week (21 Oct) and runs until 18 Nov.
  • Stephen FryAs a boater you’ll know that if you’re close to a canal then you’re only a simple step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Even in the heart of the busiest cities and towns, you’re never far from a cool, calm canal. But, on a recent visit to Birmingham, Stephen Fry was taken aback by the peace and tranquillity of the canal which inspired him to send out the tweet on the right. What I’d like to know is where your special place on the network is?

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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:

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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Bits and bobs

  • The ever busy Montgomery Canal Partnership is moving ahead with plans to rebuild the demolished and filled in Schoolhouse Bridge on the Shropshire part of the canal. As part of this, it is looking to augment the management team by recruiting volunteers as a Site Manager and a General Foreman. More information can be found online (along with a wide range of other volunteer opportunities all around the country!)
  • A group for Grand Union Canal boaters to donate and find free things has opened. The new Grand Union Boaters Freecycle group has been set up by boaters to reduce waste on the waterways, save money and free up storage. Boaters can advertise things that they don’t want and are willing to give away for free, which others may collect for free. You simply join the Facebook group and post your items with a picture and location, or watch out for free items to pick up for yourself. The inspiration for the Grand Union Canal group came from its sister group in London, called London Boaters Freecycle / Tat Spotting.

Happy boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 29 October 2019

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