News article created on 22 February 2019

Boaters' Update 22 Feb 2019

Welcome to the latest update. In it you can read about the Boater Report, boat counting, birds and brilliance in the shape of the Living Waterways Awards. We also look back on Crick Boat Shows 2006 & 2007 as well as the latest news, events and stoppages.

Shropshire Union Canal, Gnosall, Staffs

Welcome to the latest update. You might say that this is the “‘B’ edition” – it talks about the first ever Boater Report and the National Boat Count and goes on to cover birds and what you need to know about them nesting on your boat.The final ‘B’ is ‘brilliance’, as news of our flagship awards programme, the Living Waterways Awards, is announced.

Crick Boat Show’s 20th outing gets ever nearer and I take a look at the 2006 and 2007 Shows in our countdown to the event. The regular round-up of other boating news, stoppages and events are, as ever, here for you too. If there’s an article you’d like to read in a future event then do please drop me a line.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and the fortnight ahead 

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

  • 13 Feb – Repair works, replacing the gates on two locks, started on Farmer’s Bridge Flight in central Birmingham.
  • 15 Feb – Together with local partners, and thanks to funding from Tesco’s Bags of Help, a new Healthy Walks trail in Southall will see a local GP practice prescribe a 1km health walk along the Grand Union Canal to patients.
  • 18 Feb – Lock gates recently removed from a canal in Yorkshire are being donated by the Trust for Welcome to Yorkshire’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden.
  • 18 Feb – We published a Boater Report which sets out how we generate our income, including the contribution from boaters, and how that money is invested in the network. More on this below.

Below I’ve picked out some Open Days where you can come and see what we’re up to (along with a whole host of things) over the next few weeks. Of course 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.

  • 23 Feb – Come and chat to our construction team at the Open Day on the Grand Union at Cowley Lock. They’ll be on hand to talk about the works taking place, what the repairs are, and why they're so important. Afterwards you can try your hand at canoeing or fishing.
  • 23 Feb – If you’re in the midlands then you could always pop along to our Open Day at Locks 1 & 2 on the Birmingham & Fazeley where you’ll be able to see the brand new hand crafted gates, made at local Bradley workshop, as well as visiting a heritage working boat to learn about what life was like for families who lived aboard. There will be activities for children and a chance to get involved with Greening Birmingham, a volunteer project to grow and protect Birmingham’s plants and wildlife.
  • 2 Mar – For those that love their history and British heritage, our Open Day at Northgate Locks in Chester will give you the chance to get up close and personal to the works taking place as well as taking part in family activities and chatting to the team from the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port.
  • 3 Mar – There’s the chance for a great day out along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at our Open Day at Finsley Gate Wharf in Burnley. Not only will you learn about the work that we’re doing, but you’ll also be able to try your hand at canoeing and fishing as well as visiting the Hard Hat Cinema on site.

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First Boater Report published

Have you ever wondered how much the boating community contributes to the upkeep of the waterways? Or perhaps you’re more interested in how we invest our income in the network? Well, answering both of those questions is a newly published Boater Report, that will be updated annually, that was produced with input from the boaters elected to our governing Council as well as boater volunteers on the Navigation Advisory Group.  

Jon Horsfall, head of customer service support, comments: “The Trust’s core purpose is maintaining the 2,000 miles of canals and rivers we look after and making the experience of using them as good as we can. Boaters play a central role in helping to fund the work with around 10% of our income coming from boat licences.

“The Boater Report is designed to give licence holders an overview of how much it costs to maintain the waterways, where the Trust’s money comes from and where it gets spent, for example how much gets spent on dredging, maintenance, vegetation management or on customer service and facilities.

“The report also includes information on licence evasion, the role of volunteering and the importance of boating on our waterways. We’ll be interested to hear feedback from boaters to understand what info they find most useful and if there’s any other aspects of our work that they’d like to see more of in future Reports.”

If you’re a boat licence holder then the Boater Report will be provided as a PDF along with your licence renewal or if you’re buying a boat licence for the first time. A small number of printed copies will be available for those without email or for use at events such as this May’s Crick Boat Show.

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National Boat Count

It’s approaching the time of year where you’ll see us out on the towpath carrying out our annual National Boat Count (NBC). We do it throughout March and it gives us an accurate view of how many boaters we have on our waterways.

Boats on the Chesterfield Canal, courtesy Richard CroftThe NBC involves sighting and identifying around 34,000 boats and is entirely done by our licence support teams across the whole 2,000 miles of our network. The first couple of weeks are spent patrolling every yard (on foot or bike, whatever the weather!) and identifying and recording each vessel.

Once the initial coverage is complete the information is reviewed any issues that need further investigation are highlighted and we set about resolving them before the end of the month.

As you can imagine it’s a huge undertaking and, while our teams are out on the towpath every week throughout the year, during NBC we need to minimise the chance of spending extra time on individual boats.

Narrowboat with lit stove in back cabinThis is where you come in and we’d really appreciate your help! The vast majority of boaters already clearly display their index number, which helps us identify boats quickly, but if, for example, you’ve tucked up your boat for the winter and have covers in place, we’d ask that you still display your licence number clearly: this will help reduce the time we need to spend trying to identify your boat.

Even though the number of boats on our water has increased year-on-year for the last few years (and we expect a rise again this year) licence evasion has remained below 5% for nine years in a row.

As mentioned in the article above, the Boater Report shows how important it is that we safeguard the contribution of boaters and the NBC helps ensure that we do this so that we can continue to maintain, and improve, our waterways for all to enjoy because life is better by water.

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Crick Boat Show’s 2006 & 2007

In the fourth of the series, this article takes a stroll down memory lane as we reminisce about the previous 19 shows as the country’s biggest inland waterway festival, Crick Boat Show, celebrates its 20th anniversary.

2006

Crick Boat ShowAs the dry winter was drawing to a close the £69 million Senedd, the Welsh Assembly’s debating chamber, was officially opened by the Queen. Later that February, however, nearly the same amount in cash (£53 million) was stolen in the largest ever cash robbery in British history. As the year progressed more positive thoughts turned towards outgoing manager Sven Goran Erikkson’s last tournament in charge of the national team. They were to be sadly wasted as England fell at the quarter finals (again) to Portugal (again). Daniel Craig brought some relief, though, in his critically acclaimed first outing as 007 in Casino Royale.

July’s heatwave lead to drought conditions in many parts of the country, and affected the waterways, with the Environment Agency (EA) warning of ‘the worst in a hundred years’.

The hot weather didn’t stop the continued restoration of the Stourport Basins, nor the installation of six new lock gates at City Mill Locks which would later go on to become part of the Olympic Park.

It also didn’t stop the IWA celebrating its 60th birthday. It would turn out to be a busy year for the waterway organisation though as, later in the year, it launched a campaign to challenge the Government’s planned cuts to its grants for British Waterways and the EA.

One review of the 2006 Crick Boat Show is titled ‘Fire, Floods and… Fun’. The number one song at the time – ‘Crazy’, by Gnarls Barkley – was rather fitting and although drought conditions persisted later in the year, the first day of the show saw torrential rain flood the site. An overnight fire at a nearby factory lead to the closure of the M1, the main route to the show, and 100 or so firefighters turned out to battle the blaze.

As most boaters do though, those who attended the show carried on regardless of the near biblical events and reports stated that show exhibitors turned in ‘healthy sales’.

2007

Crick and Grand Union CanalIn stark contrast to the mostly dry conditions of the previous year, storm Kyrill brought widespread disruption in the form of rain and gales in January, in what might now be seen as an indicator of what was to come.

The summer turned out to be the wettest on record. The West Country suffered widespread flooding and at one point British Waterways used its Supervising Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system to lower the level of the Gloucester & Sharpness by 18 inches to allow the Fire Service to pump 56,000 litres of water per minute away from a flooded electricity substation in Gloucester.

On the waterways, the IWA stepped up its campaign against the previous year’s cut in funding from the Government with a demonstration cruise, made up of boats from St. Pancras Cruising Club, passing the Houses of Parliament.

More boats than ever before were exhibited at that year’s Crick Boat Show and, judging by reports of the time, more people than ever wanting to have a look around them – some exhibitors reported that they had nearly all their allotted viewing slots booked up for the three-day show after only a couple of hours!

In the next edition we’ll look back at the 2008 and 2009 shows. If you have memories of these, or any other past show, then I’d love to hear them – please just drop me a line.

In the meantime, did you know that the headlining acts for both Saturday and Sunday evening have been announced – check out the show website for more detail. It’d be a shame to miss such a fantastic line up so why not book your advance tickets now and save up to 15 per cent on the entry price for the event, which takes place at Crick Marina, near Daventry in Northamptonshire, during 25-27 May, with an extra Trade & Preview Day to be held on Friday 24 May in association with LeeSan.

Thanks go to Waterways World for its help in providing archive material for research.

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Get Involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering (such as those who contributed to the 1,000 hours of help that our construction team had in January) or donating. 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:

  • The Great Big Boating Bog Survey, the most comprehensive survey of loos on boats ever, is soon coming to an end! It’s an entirely self-funded project by boater and public health researcher, Kate Saffin and it’s independent of the Trust, the EA, any boating organisation and any manufacturer or supplier of any kind of boating toilet. Kate would love you to take part no matter what type of boat you have or how much boating you do – more information can be found on Facebook.
  • We’re inviting disabled boaters and/or their carers, partners, or family, to a meeting on 22 March in Leeds, to talk about their experience and how things could be improved. The informal meeting will take place at 2pm at our offices at Fearns Wharf, Neptune Street, Leeds LS9 8PB. If you're not able to attend but would like to contribute, we’d still like to hear from you. You can send questions, comments, or suggestions – please get in touch. The notes from the last meeting, held in London, can be found here.
  • Has your waterways project made a splash? If so we’d love to know about it. Our flagship awards programme, the Living Waterways Awards, is now open for entries. They shine a spotlight on the amazing work being done to transform canals, rivers, lakes and lochs across the UK, helping to make life better for millions of people on and by the water. There are six categories up for grabs: Art, Culture or Events; Built Environment; Engaging Communities; Heritage & Conservation; Learning & Skills; and Natural Environment. Visit our website for entry forms or, if you have any questions, drop Justine Lee a line.

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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.

Of course, we’re still working on our winter stoppage programme and, as you can see by the list below, there’s a hive of activity repairing and restoring a variety of things. 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 & bobs

  • I hope I’m not tempting fate in saying this but, astronomically speaking, we’re less than four weeks from the start of spring (20 March is the spring equinox, after which the days start to be longer than the nights). Most of us associate the chirping of chicks with spring and there are very few places where this is better heard than on or by a canal or river. While we all enjoy this advent of changing seasons did you know that, by law, you will not be able to move your boat until the baby birds have left the nest? I’m sure you can imagine the havoc this would play with your cruising plans. Rest assured, there’s a handy article giving guidance on how you can best protect your boat from nesting birds.
  • As many of you will have seen out on the cut, the number of wide beam boats has been increasing. This means that some of them will be brand new boaters who will want to know how wide their boat is because it won’t be suited for narrow canals (see this article for more information). So, for clarity, boat dimensions include permanently fixed fenders as reasonably required to be used when the boat is moored or underway, bowsprits, boarding ladders, davits including their loads, stern drives, out drives, rudders, anchors, pulpits, push pits and any other extensions fore and/or aft of the boat. Because side fenders are not used when underway, and are not usually permanently fixed, they shouldn’t be considered when assessing your boat’s width.
  • And finally, Benjamin Franklin once wrote, ‘in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’. Well, I’d add admin to that list. No matter what it is you do in life, filling in forms and keeping everything paid for and up to date is inescapable. That’s why, to help relieve this burden (if only in a small way) we’ve put together seven tips to help make your boat licence renewal go smoothly.

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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 important safety announcements and upcoming events.

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