Boaters' Update 20 Nov 2020

This latest edition gives a roundup on the work we've been doing as part of our major, £45 million, winter work programme. You also get some winter safety tips, news of a major dredging project in Gloucester Docks as well as a request for your views on podcasts (among others!)

Autumnal colours on the cut courtesy of @KitWest Autumnal colours on the cut courtesy of @KitWest

Welcome to the latest edition. As things stand we’ve got a little under two weeks left of the national lockdown (running in England until Wednesday 2 December). As ever, we are keeping our guidance for boaters up to date and, by the time the next Boaters’ Update is published, we hope the majority of restrictions will have been lifted. It’ll be worth checking our dedicated advice page when the government announces its post-lockdown plans.

While this current lockdown has meant that many of you haven’t been able to get to your boat, it doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy out on the cut with our winter stoppage programme – repairing and restoring the network ready for when restrictions are eased and you’re able to get some time afloat.

With this in mind, this edition includes a round-up of what we’ve been working on, followed by news of a major dredging project, some winter safety reminders for when you are back on your boat, and an article asking for your interest in a waterways podcast.

As always, the routine round-up of news and stoppages can also be found below along with details of upcoming regional user forums.

If there’s something you’d like to see featured in a future edition, please get in touch.

Happy boating,


In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 4 Nov – We're going to remove approximately 12,000mof silt from Gloucester Docks in a six-week, £200k, project. More on this below
  • 1 Nov – Despite forecasting a reduction of income of around 10% (£20 million) due to the pandemic, our more-than-£45 million, COVID-secure, winter stoppage programme got underway. More on this below


Winter stoppage programme underway

This year has quite possibly been the most wildly unpredictable and disruptive of any in a generation. It can be easy to forget that most navigations have lived through similar world-changing events before – the Spanish Flu pandemic and two world wars, not to mention multiple workers tending to new lock gate in drained canalsweeping cultural and industrial revolutions.

They’ve only withstood these major events because of generations of dedicated and skilled crafts men and women who have spent, and continue to spend, long cold days mending and replacing the vital parts of the network that you need to enjoy your time afloat.

While the kit used may be radically different to those of the original navvies, the same tasks, such as replacing a lock gate, are still being done two hundred odd years later. Despite the coronavirus, this year is no different. Below you’ll get a taste of what we’ve started on since this year’s winter stoppage programme of over £45 million began a few weeks ago:

North west

  • Ashton Canal: Grouting work to reduce leakage through Beswick Aqueduct.
  • Leeds & Liverpool Canal: Bridge 36 Spencers Swing Bridge, Burscough, upgrading of the bridge safety equipment.
  • Llangollen Canal: Bridge 20, Wrenbury Bridge, Wrenbury-cum-Frith, improving the operation of the lift bridge. This includes fitting automated drop-arm barriers, additional safety fencing and a new user pedestal.

London & South East

  • Aylesbury Arm (Grand Union Canal): Lock 13, Aston Clinton, top gate and clapper post replacement, together with brickwork repairs in the chamber wall. 
  • Lee Navigation: Lock 9, Cheshunt Lock, replacement of both the top and bottom gates

Yorkshire & North East

  • Calder & Hebble Navigation: Sluice 2, next to Salterhebble Aqueduct, replacement of the sluice door and re-lining the bywash culvert.
  • Chesterfield Canal: Lock 24, Thorpe Bottom Lock, replacement of bottom gates.
  • Huddersfield Narrow Canal: Lock 10 East, Spring Garden, polyurethene grouting works to the lock chamber to prevent leakage and structural deterioration.

West Midlands

  • Digbeth Branch (Birmingham & Fazeley): Lock 3, Ashtead, top and bottom gate replacements, ladder improvements, brickwork repairs and bollard installation.
  • Oxford Canal: Lock 10, Napton on the Hill, top and bottom gate replacements, ladder improvements and brickwork repairs.
  • South Stratford Canal: Lock 33 and Lock 35, Yarningale Common, refitting the top gate and brickwork repairs at Lock 33; replacing the top gate and repairing the copings and quoins at Lock 35.

East Midlands

  • Leicester Line (Grand Union Canal): Bridge 43, North Kilworth, repairs to damaged masonry.
  • Leicester Line (Grand Union Canal): Lock 37, Blue Bank Lock, Glen Parva, replacement of the bottom lock gates.
  • River Witham: Lock 1, Stamp End Lock, Lincoln, refurbishment of the existing operating system for the guillotine gate arrangement.

Wales & South West

  • Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal: Lock 64, Lower Lock, Cwmcrawnon, replacement of the top and bottom gates and beams, grouting in the chamber to reduce leakage, and repairs to the cill, quadrants, towpath and weir.
  • Montgomery Canal: Pool Quay Lock, at Bridge 111, grouting work to reduce leakage through the lock chamber walls.

This is only a small proportion of what’s going on around the network at the moment and an even smaller proportion of what will be done between now and the end of March. You can check out the full programme on our website. Do please note that, given the tumultuous year we’re having, we do sometimes need to change our plans according to the availability of staff and resources – both of which are understandably affected by the ongoing pandemic.


Digging deep at Gloucester Docks

Gloucester Docks 30 Nov 2016As the article above shows, we carry out a huge range of work to keep canals and rivers in working order. Perhaps one of the more fundamental aspects of this work is dredging. Without it the network would, quite literally, grind to a halt as the bottom of the canal would gradually become too close to the top for boats to navigate.

For those eagerly planning a post-lockdown trip in the west country you’ll be pleased to hear that this won’t be a problem in Gloucester Docks. We're going to remove approximately 12,000m3 of silt from the Docks and the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal between Llanthony Bridge and St Ann Bridge. The £200K project will take around six weeks to complete.

Specialist machinery will float in the Docks, with a water-borne plough pulled by a tug. This loosens the sediment at the bottom of the docks, allowing it to be removed by a huge pump housed on a floating pontoon. The sediment will be returned whence it came - the River Severn.

Mark Evans, our director for Wales & South West, explains: “Dredging is an example of the crucial work we do to keep our canals open. If we don’t dredge the waterways become silted up meaning boats cannot move around.

“With more and more people enjoying spending time on or near our beautiful waterways, we want to ensure the canals are working properly and looking their very best. Dredging is central to this and it’s photo of Disney, Alice Through the Looking Glass filming at Gloucester Docksa never-ending task for the team as the Severn’s huge tidal range means that it constantly deposits large amounts of silt in the canal and Docks.

“The safety of our colleagues and contractors remains a priority, with this project designed to be safely carried out within the Government’s coronavirus guidance.”

The Docks, and canal will remain open, but there may be some delays while equipment is brought into place. Anyone wanting to move their boats post-lockdown are asked to contact Gloucester Lock on 01452 310832 and check our website for updates.


Winter safety

Sunrise on a snowy canalWhile going boating is much like riding a bike (but nicer) in that you don’t usually forget how to do it, there’s never a bad time to refresh your memory about being safe on or by the water this winter.

On the move

  • Wear a life jacket if you are single-handed, especially in icy conditions
  • Take extra care when crossing locks as surfaces may be icy
  • Watch out for ice around the paddle spindle when using a windless – you may think the windlass has a grip but it might hurt you if it slips

On the roof

  • If you have to get on the roof to adjust your TV aerial after bad weather, be aware if it’s particularly wet or windy...or read a book instead
  • Be careful when retrieving or handling heavy items on the roof of your boat such as coal, wood and bikes
  • When clearing snow off the roof to provide ventilation through your mushrooms, take extra care not to slip
  • Avoid walking along the gunnels in icy or snowy conditions – super slippery

On the towpath

  • Be careful getting on and off your boat, especially if you have a traditional style stern – there isn’t much room for error  
  • Check the conditions - you may get on and off your boat every day but there may be fresh ice or snow making that small step different from the day before
  • Beware of steep slopes and icy steps when returning to your boat at night, particularly if government restrictions have allowed you to meet up for a few drinks with friends
  • Take a torch and wear sensible shoes, you will need the grip and it’s helpful to see where the water starts and bank ends, especially if covered in snow
  • Take a whistle with you when you are going out for an evening. If you get into difficulties on the walk back (i.e. fall over or in the water) use it to draw attention and get help
  • Remove cratch covers before trying to change a gas bottle to give you more room to manoeuvre
  • Have a plan for how you or someone else can get out of the water – consider investing in a safety ladder and a throw line

Share your winter water safety tips with us, we'd love to hear what advice you'd give to new or returning boaters - @CRTBoating.


Maintenance, repair and restoration work 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 to make an essential journey 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. 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.

We’ve also improved the stoppages mapping and resolved an issue where the historic notices appeared on the canal maps.  However, the best way to check for stoppages that might affect your cruising plans is via our stoppage notices webpage.

If you have any questions about a specific closure, or spot an error in our system, please just get in touch.


Get involved (digitally!)

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering (when coronavirus permits),  donating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded litter. Whatever form your volunteering takes, we’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you. Your support helps make life better by water.

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:

Hear from the boating team and/or your local team (and ask questions!):

  • On Wednesday 2 December a digital meeting will be held for disabled boaters and carers, to find out what the Trust is doing to support disabled boaters across our network and give feedback about your experience of boating. You can register for this meeting, which starts at 4pm, by following this link.
  • Later on the same day (2 December), from 6pm, there will be a meeting of the London & South East User Forum, followed by a separate meeting, to focus on the specific subject of managing the increasing number of boats in London, from 7.30pm to 8.30pm. To join the meeting sign up to the Eventbrite
  • On 10 December, from 6:30pm until 9pm, the North West team will share updates on some of its work over the past months, as well as discuss the priorities for the coming months. Register online and, if you have one, submit your question to the team by 28 November by emailing

Give us your views:

  • Don’t forget that we’re running a consultation about boat licence terms and conditions. If you haven’t already, you can have your say by visiting We ask those who may need specific support to complete the consultation or without computer access to contact Customer Servicesto make arrangements to complete the survey. The consultation started on 28 September and runs for 12 weeks.
  • As mentioned in the previous edition, you’re invited, as are other stakeholders, to use an online survey, in writing, or via a virtual meeting,to share your views on what approach you think we should take to deal with the specific challenges associated with London’s busy waterways.


Podcast potential?

It wasn’t so long ago that the only way to listen to someone talk about a particular subject was to attend a lecture, listen to the radio at a specified time, or buy a book on cassette. While some still prefer the Credit REUTERS: Urban Fishing interview with John Ellisold methods, new media has spawned a burgeoning podcast industry.

Towards the end of last year Ofcom’s research showed that around 7.1 million people in the UK now listen to podcasts each week (that’s one in eight!). That was a rise of 24% on the previous year.

The breadth of topics, frequency of broadcast and length of programme vary on a huge scale. So, with all of the above taken into consideration, there’s a good chance that a decent proportion of you, dear readers, are podcast listeners!

What I’d like to know is how much of an appetite there is for one from us?! It would be greatly appreciated if you’d take a couple minutes to fill in this short survey which asks about your listening habits and, if you do, what you might like to see featured in one about the waterways. Please feel free to drop me a line if you have an interest in contributing or helping produce (when coronavirus allows) any potential podcasts.


Last date edited: 20 November 2020

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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 as important safety announcements and upcoming events.

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