Welcome to the latest edition where you'll find some fascinating canal facts along with head of boating, Mike Grimes, monthly column and some handy advice on how to keep your boat secure.
I start this edition by unashamedly preaching to the converted. As mentioned in the last edition we work with Drifters Waterways Holidays to, once a year, run Open Days around the country. It gives those considering a waterway holiday the chance to get out on the cut for free to see if it’s for them. Of course, most readers need no such enticement!
I am very pleased to report that this year over 3,000 people took the opportunity to go cruising – three times as many as did last year. And with Drifters reporting a 14% increase in bookings last year it seems that more and more people are getting the boating bug.
I don’t think the rising popularity of boating can be put down to just one thing but inspirational TV series such as Great Canal Journeys certainly help. In fact, that gives me a handy segue into the first article of this edition – it’s a review, of sorts, of the book that accompanies the first series of Barging Round Britain.
If you’re quick, you can read it and the rest of this edition before the second series starts tonight on ITV at 8pm.
Elsewhere in this edition you’ll find:
- Last week, this week - what’s happening on or by the cut?
- Armchair cruising
- Mike’s monthly column – Waterway Writers
- Keeping your boat secure
- Maintenance, repair or restoration work affecting cruising this weekend
- Bits and bobs
If there’s something you’d like to share with the boating community via this update then please drop me a line.
Since the last edition you may have heard, or seen, that:
- 11 Apr – In a bid to encourage better behaviour by all towpath users, we called for the reintroduction of old-fashioned manners on the nation’s towpaths.
- 12 Apr - Mike Clarke, founder and president of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society, had a lock named after him near Gargrave in North Yorkshire
- 15 Apr – We're delighted to announce that once again we're organising the Junior Canal Championship with the Angling Trust.
- 18 Apr - Boaters are being encouraged to join a flotilla taking a trip around the waterways in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, ahead of their reopening later this year.
- 19 Apr – Silt and debris from the bottom of Smethwick’s 190-year old Engine Arm Aqueduct has been sucked out of the canal by a giant hoover ahead of repairs to stop this Grade II* listed structure from leaking (other vacuum cleaner brands are available!)
Before the next edition is published you might like to know that:
- 23 & 24 Apr – If you’re one of those who’s been bitten by the boating bug but not yet fortunate enough to own one then why not head to Braunston this weekend for the National Boat Share Show?
- 23 Apr – Perhaps you’d like to go somewhere where there’s something for everyone? If so, the Family Fun Day at Red Bull Wharf might just be for you…
- 30 Apr to 2 May – This year's Norbury Canal Festival is back with a jam-packed weekend for you to enjoy with everything from bouncy castles, barbecue and beer to Austin 7s and canal memorabilia.
- 30 Apr to 2 May – Also happening over the Bank Holiday weekend is the capital’s biggest waterway event of the year – the IWA Canalway cavalcade at Little Venice.
- 30 Apr to 2 May – You won’t miss out if you’re in the north either – get along to the Skipton Waterway Festival where you’ll find a wide range of things to do, eat and buy.
Of course, there are plenty of other activities around the network so please visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.
As mentioned in the introduction, tonight sees the start of the second series of John Sergeant’s ‘Barging Round Britain’ on ITV. The first series, broadcast last year, now has an accompanying book which I’ve just finished reading.
I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, consider myself to be an expert on the history of canals. This is partly why I learnt, and enjoyed, this book so much – the detailed accounts of the cruises in the first series are peppered with historical commentary. In turn, the description of each cruise is punctuated with some of the more notable stories and people that bring colour to the canals and rivers mentioned.
Even if you’re not, by nature, someone drawn to history then your interest in boating means you’ll probably still enjoy reading about things such as:
- Josiah Wedgwood and James Brindley were close friends along with Erasmus Darwin – one of Charles Darwin’s grandfathers.
- Before using canals to transport his wares, and due to the pitiful condition of the road network, Wedgewood planned for two-thirds of the pottery he produced to be broken in transit.
- James Brindley is responsible for, if not the completion of, around 365 miles of canal.
- The longest canal in the world is the Grand Canal in China coming in at over 1,100 miles. Oh, and it’s also over 1,400 years old!
- ‘Bankers’ has history as a term of contempt. It was the original name for navvies (not used until 1832) who were often disliked by locals – one contemporary description was that they were ‘…generally the terror of the surrounding country…’
The above nuggets are just the tip of the iceberg. The book brings the varied, sometimes frenetic, history alive. Talking of which, if you’ve not yet planned out your May Bank Holiday weekends there’re two great opportunities to get some involved in some first-hand history.
First up, from 30 April to 2 May there’s the Black Country Living Museum historic tug boat gathering. There’ll be a celebration of these boats and the legacy of the canal network with a weekend of hands-on crafts, activities and fascinating talks.
Then, at the end of next month, from 28 to 30 May, you’ll be able to meet one of those mentioned above, James Brindley, at the UK’s largest inland waterway festival, Crick Boat Show.
It’s the 300th anniversary of his birth and there’ll be a costumed interpreter who’ll recount some of his most famous stories, such as his use of a Cheshire cheese to demonstrate to a Parliamentary committee how the Barton Aqueduct might be built!
It’s that time again – each month Mike Grimes, head of boating, picks up his pen (well, taps on his keyboard) to share his thoughts with us.
‘If you’re reading this edition on the day it was published (22 Apr) then there’s only 36 days until the Crick Boat Show. To some this may seem a while away but, to me, it’s now just round the corner. For a pastime, lifestyle or occupation that encapsulates escaping the rat race, time flies in the world of boating!
‘The reason I mention Crick is because I’ve also had the pleasure of reading the book featured in the first article, it’s great, and it made me think of a new event, book readings, at this year’s show.
‘It’s a time-worn adage that the best way to learn is to get hands-on and just go do it. In general, I agree. The difference with boating is that there’re just so many aspects to it. For starters, you have the practical aspects such as navigating and mooring up – for this you can get expert tuition such as the boat handling sessions at the show.
‘What you wouldn’t expert though, just as you wouldn’t from a regular driving instructor, is a detailed biography of one of the main protagonists of canals while taking your lesson. For that you need historical experts such as Christine Richardson who’ll be reading from her book on Brindley at the show.
‘What about modern day life afloat? You wouldn’t assume that your instructor or a historical expert would be able to evocatively describe life, and its many quirks, afloat. For this particular need there’ll be Helen Babbs reading from her book ‘Adrift: A Secret Life of London's Waterways’.
‘Far from being just a parade ground for shiny, ultra-modern, boats (although they’ll definitely be there!) Crick is one of the few places, if not the only, to give you a 360 degree view of boating. My team and I will be there too so do pop over for a chat.’
Let’s be glass-half-full and assume that we’ve discarded the shackles of winter and early spring and are now well on our way into a long and languid summer. Please forgive the dreamy prose but it does seem a long time since the last one!
In any case, the weather will undoubtedly be warmer which will attract more people to the towpath. As things start to get busier, Mark Spearman, managing director of The Fit Out Pontoon Ltd, has some handy advice on how you can keep your boat, and gear, secure:
- Car alarms are based on 12VDC operation and so are the majority of boats. Therefore a good quality alarm system, appropriately advertised in your window, can be a deterrent to a casual thief. Top units will message owners if there’s a security breach.
- GPS trackers are also a deterrent as the most sophisticated units can automatically inform you and the police if your boat moves for any reason.
- Disable your engine.
- Chain your boat to an appropriate mooring whilst in urban areas. This deters those that wish to cast off the boat. Usually considered by the perpetrators as a harmless prank, this can be quite distressing if you are the victim.
- If it's not possible to use chain or steel ropes and a padlock, try heavy-duty nylon cable ties.
- Use close-to bollards and T-studs to clamp ropes together. These can be very effective at preventing casual casting off.
- Upgrade all locks to the best quality available and secure hatches and doors with heavy duty internal hasps.
- Use cylinder padlocks, such as high security van types, which are harder to casually pick than conventional keyed padlocks.
- Fit CCTV.
- Fit infra-red activated security lighting.
- Fit a locking fuel tap or a tank alarm. There may be a few hundred pounds worth of fuel in your tank!
- Don't leave valuable kit on the roof. Thieves rarely break in for it; it's often 'lifted' from the roof or deck.
- Chain up bicycles. Just because they are on your roof or deck does not make them impossible to steal.
In an emergency please call 999, otherwise please call 101 (the national police non-emergency number).
This is a new section of Boaters’ Update which I hope you’ll find useful. As you’ll probably know I publish a new edition every fortnight. While it’d be great if I could confidently tell you every piece of work that will affect cruising over the next fortnight, unfortunately, as we all know, life loves throwing those curve balls!
What is possible though is to list what we already know will affect cruising over the coming weekend. This list highlights those instances where, for one reason or another, cruising won’t be possible.
- Lancaster Canal – Stainton Aqueduct.
- Rochdale Canal – Lock 36 to lock 45, Sowerby Bridge to Summit.
- Calder & Hebble Navigation – Crowther Bridge to Salterhebble Guillotine gate.
- Shropshire Union Canal – Lower Basin Washwall to Wide Lock Approach, Ellesmere Port.
- Leeds & Liverpool Canal – Lock 62 (Johnson's Hillock).
- Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal - Junction with the River Irwell and Middlewood Deep Lock.
- Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal – Starks Lift Bridge No. 2, Whixall.
- Gower Branch of the Birmingham New Mainline Canal – Lock 1 Brades Double.
- Engine Arm Canal (Smethwick) – Engine Arm Aqueduct.
- Dudley No. 2 Canal – High Bridge, Netherton.
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 first item in this catch-all of other news is not in fact news. It’s actually a (big) request. The boating team are hoping that there’s a ‘roses and castles’ canal artist who is available to volunteer to help us at Crick Boat Show on 29 & 30 May. Your help will be part of an exciting project that we’re doing over the course of the weekend. Please drop me a line for more information. Lunch will definitely be on us!
- As mentioned in the last edition, in a week’s time (29 Apr) our plans for next winter’s maintenance plan will be published online (they’re not up there yet) for you to go through and hopefully you’ll have the time to let us know your views on them.
- Please note that the online boat licensing system is not available this weekend for those who will be registering for the first time due to essential maintenance of the IT system. If you already have an account you can use it as normal. The system will be back online for new users on Monday 25 April.
- After its head office was gutted by fire River Canal Rescue has announced that it’s now back in Baswich, Stafford (next to bridge 101 on the Staffs & Worcs). This is also where you’ll be able take part in its monthly boat maintenance courses. Covering everything from; diesel engines, transmissions, boat plumbing, boat electrics, lay-up and refit procedures they combine theory with practical demonstrations and participation. For more information visit its website.
- And finally, I was sent an interesting fundraising concept by the Chesterfield Canal Trust that I wanted to share. The Friends of Dawn Rose, a 70ft, 10 ton, wooden narrowboat, will be hand-pulled over the course of a fortnight along the Chesterfield Canal and you can raise funds (for your charity of choice) by getting yourself sponsored to pull it part of the way! Read more details here.
Last date edited: 29 April 2016
About this blog
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.See more blogs from this author