Boaters' Update 23 Aug 2019

Welcome to the latest, bumper, edition of Boaters' Update. There are lots of prompts for you to get in touch - tell me what mooring tips you have and which lesser known canal is your favourite to name just two! Of course, there's lots more to read, and respond to, including the usual roundup of news, events and this weekend's stoppages.

Boat moored in front of bridge on Lancaster Canal Lancaster Canal

Welcome to the latest edition. With it being a bank holiday weekend I hope you’ll have time to read, and respond to, the articles below, because I’d like your feedback.

We start with a final summary of your advice on cruising past moored boats after which the topic shifts to mooring – it will be great to hear your views on the subject. And then, after reading about the history of the Lancaster Canal, now in its bicentenary year, I’d like you to tell me which other, perhaps lesser-known, waterways you’d recommend. Finally, and especially for those of you using bio-fuel or solar power for propulsion, you can read more about how we want you to help us respond to the Government’s request for information on boat emissions.

Aside from that there’s news of historic boats looking for new homes and, of course, you’ll also find out other ways you can get involved along with the regular news round-up and a look ahead at some upcoming events that you might be interested in.

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

Happy boating over the long weekend,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and upcoming events            

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

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.

  • Until 29 Aug – There are just a couple of chances left, before the summer holidays end, to keep the kids entertained with fantastic free sessions at Anderton Boat Lift in Northwich, Cheshire. Enjoy magic, puppet shows, donkey rides, craft activities, and favourite childhood characters brought to life. Every Tuesday & Thursday.
  • 24 to 26 Aug – Fill your August Bank Holiday with all things boating at the three-day IWA Festival of Water celebrating boats, boaters, and love of the inland waterways.
  • 31 Aug & 1 Sep – Go along to the Standedge Summer Fair to sample delicious food and drink stalls, crafts and activities and lots more fun for the whole family.
  • 1 Sep – The much-loved Angel Canal Festival is back and bigger than ever. Best of all - it's free. This year you’ll find kayaking and pedalos, provided by Islington Boat Club, boat trips, children’s entertainment including Punch and Judy, crafts and theatre, entertainment including live dance, music, theatre and comedy, a floating market and a food market offering a wide variety of street food stalls.

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Cruising speed and mooring up

This subject has clearly been one that many of you are passionate about. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the 30 pages of feedback. The whole topic came as a result of one reader writing in to ask that I remind others to slow down when cruising past moored boats.

Moored boatsSince then we’ve pondered over some basic principles that you’d like to see all boaters follow. The list is now whittled down to five general points which have evolved from your feedback:

  1. Cruise past moored boats at your slowest safe speed or, in any case, a speed that does not cause undue disturbance to moored boats. Reduce to this speed before you reach moored boats.
  2. Frequently check that you are not creating a breaking wash – ‘Watch Your Wash’.
  3. Keep an eye out for boats behind you – they may signal, sometimes with their horn, that they want to overtake.
  4. If a skipper has signalled that they wish to overtake you, check it is safe for them to do so before moving over to the side of the channel. If it is not safe, convey this to the skipper and wait for a more suitable opportunity.
  5. When mooring use spring lines – ropes set diagonally from the bow and stern – as well as your usual fore and aft lines.

A few associated points have been made:

  • It’s been suggested by a few of you that a general understanding of fluid dynamics would help underpin the importance of the principles above. So, if there’s a reader out there who can explain it in layperson’s terms (this editor needs such terms!) then do get in touch.
  • If you’re new, or just returning, to boating then it might be an idea to disembark a crew member, when out on your first cruise, so that they can walk along the towpath while you match their speed – this way you’ll get a rough idea of a suitable cruising speed (unless passing moored boats of course when, generally, you’ll be going slower!)
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the spirit of canal boating. Relaxing and tranquil are adjectives frequently used to describe a cruise. It would be strange to hear them used to describe a motorway drive and, in the words of one correspondent, ‘I just wish that people would consciously remove the motorway in their head’…

As you can see in the cruising principles, one of the points relates to mooring up. With this being such an essential part of life on the cut, this will be the next topic that I’m keen to hear your views on. To start with, are there particularly irksome mooring behaviours that you regularly see out on the cut? In contrast, are there others that you think should be more widely adopted? Whatever your views, and advice, are please drop me a line with them. Thanks!

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The lovely Lancaster Canal

Now in its 200th year, it’s only relatively recently that the Lancaster Canal has joined the national waterway network, via the Ribble Link in 2002, giving boaters access to the longest lock free stretch – 41 miles – on the network.

Lancaster Canal at Blisborrow courtesy of Paul DysonEven though it is celebrating its bicentenary, the canal route was actually first surveyed 247 years ago, in 1772. It would be another 19 years before a final survey was completed by the great canal engineer John Rennie. An Act of Parliament was secured the following year and work commenced with Rennie as engineer.

By 1797 boats were able to navigate the 42 miles from Preston to Tewitfield. It took another 23 years until it was open all the way to Kendal, in 1819, and seven after that until the Glasson Branch was completed.

The canal was prosperous in its early years, carrying limestone and coal as well a broad range of locally produced goods.

Those familiar with canal history usually expect the advent of the railways to signal the start of the decline of a canal. This wasn’t, at least at first, the case with the Lancaster Canal. In a reversal of the usual ‘railway company buys canal company’, the owners of the Lancaster Canal decided to halve the tolls for goods carried on the canal thereby forcing the railway to depend on passengers’ fares, not freight, for its income.

It wasn’t enough and the canal company took over the railway company! Both operated in harmony until a new railway line, with much better links to the rest of the country was built. This, then, is where the story becomes more familiar. The canal company couldn’t compete and was eventually bought by the London & North Western Railway Company in 1885.

Cycling in LancasterWhile not being used for its original intention, the canal was still maintained as it was a good source of water for the railway company. However, just as the railways overtook the canals, road use quickly increased, and railways were soon struggling themselves.

As more freight switched from canal to rail to road the final cargo, coal from Barrow, navigated the canal in 1947. Due to engineering challenges – the canal was built on limestone into which huge amounts of canal water seeped – sections of canal were drained, ultimately leaving only 42, of the original 57, miles navigable.  

The future remained uncertain for all canals, including the Lancaster, until Barbara Castle, the then Transport Minister enacted the 1968 Transport Act which established a leisure future for the canal network and effectively further stopped closures.

Today, the canal still links Preston to Kendal and remains one of the country’s few coastal canals. And as mentioned in the opening paragraph, it offers 41 miles of lock free cruising as it was built as a contour canal, that is along the natural lie of the land. So, if you’ve never been, and fancy a break from locking, then why not go and take a relaxing celebratory cruise?

On that note, there are likely to be many, lesser-known, canals that you’ve cruised and would recommend that others do. I’d love to hear your suggestions and I’ll gladly profile your hidden gems in future editions!

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Toddbrook Reservoir update

As you might expect, it’s remained busy at the reservoir near Whaley Bridge. The reservoir is near-empty (see photo right) after more than a Toddbrook Reservoir drained August 2019billion litres of water have been pumped out. Water levels are many metres below the dam wall and therefore there is no risk to local residents.

Also in the photo you’ll see the pipes for 11 high-volume pumps that remain on site – these are there to pump out any rainfall that enters into the reservoir to ensure that it remains at near empty. They have the capacity to extract the equivalent of more than 12 bath tubs per second.

We are also carrying out a major fish rescue to re-home thousands of fish which have been affected by the draining of the reservoir. Coarse fish, such as bream, roach, perch and pike, have been captured in large nets by our fish specialists and transported mostly to Upper Bittell Reservoir, near Birmingham. 

With an estimated 30,000 fish (about 5,000kg) to rehome, this task is due to take another one to two weeks. The first phase of the fish rescue has been completed but on the advice of the experts the remainder will be removed and rehomed in about eight weeks’ time when the weather is cooler and it is much better for the health of the fish.

Upper Bittell reservoir has low fish stocks after it was drained and refilled following maintenance works two years ago and therefore is able to accommodate the large amount of fish without upsetting the local ecosystem.

Both the Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals are open to navigation and, because they are fed by three other reservoirs (other than Toddbrook that is), we don’t anticipate any issues for boaters during the remaining busy summer period.

We’re still working out arrangements to host special site tours for members of the public, which we will share more information on soon – stay up to date with the latest news on the dedicated Toddbrook Reservoir webpage.

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National Waterways Museum seeks new homes for boats

The National Waterways Museum (NWM) is seeking new homes for twelve vessels following a review of the historic importance of all boats currently in its collection.

It will first offer the boats free of charge to accredited museums and then to individuals and private organisations who are able to meet the demands of caring for the vessels.

Like all museums, the NWM faces the challenge - from funding and conservation to exhibition options and storage - of looking after large numbers of objects in its care and, following a review by an expert panel, plans to focus its resources on a reduced number of the most historically significant vessels.

The decision to let any object go is not taken lightly. However, the Trust has identified the boats it needs to re-home. These range from the iron hulls of icebreakers to a salmon fishing boat. In some cases, the museum already has better examples of that type of vessel, while other boats don’t play a significant role in telling the history of the waterways that the museum focusses on, and so are likely to be better suited to a new home. Some boats are of less interest as they have been changed so much over the decades that very little original material remains.

Graham Boxer, head of collections and archives explains: “As a collection of national significance we have specific obligations around the 68 boats in our care. Our dedicated staff and volunteers have strived to find solutions to the many challenges in caring for such a large fleet, but ultimately, with limited funds and storage space, we need to reduce the number of boats in the collection to focus our efforts on those of the greatest historic importance, and so re-homing some is the right option. We anticipate that there are museums that may be interested to take some vessels, and there are many enthusiasts who could provide the right loving homes for these displaced vessels, as they do for many of the most historic boats still in use on the waterways today.

Hannah Cunliffe, Director of National Historic Ships UK said: “We support the approach being taken by the Canal & River Trust in reviewing its large collection and implementing changes necessary to ensure a sustainable future for the most significant craft.  We are pleased that the Trust has chosen to adopt the principles set down in our guidance publications to inform this process and are happy to work with them during the decision-making period.  We hope that a heritage solution is found for the vessels made available to re-home and would be glad to offer further advice to any individuals or organisations considering taking these craft on.”

It is hoped that new homes will be found for all twelve boats. If this is unfortunately not possible, some may have to be recommended for documented deconstruction, applying the Trust’s expertise in recording historic vessels to compile detailed records of the boat to preserve the boat’s story for future reference and potentially inform future conservation or restoration work on other historic boats.

The vessels are being offered free of charge, with the new owner being asked to pay only the transport costs. The deadline for expressions of interest is 2 November 2019. Details and an application form can be found on the Canal & River Trust website.

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Get Involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteeringdonating, 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 part of work to develop its clean air strategy the Government has recently published Air Pollutant Emissions from Domestic Vessels and Inland Waterways – A Call for Evidence. The intention is to collect a body of evidence that will allow the government to understand more clearly the extent of emissions from vessels which do not currently fall within the remit of environmental regulations. In addition to the development of its clean air strategy the Government has also published Maritime 2050 and the Clean Maritime Plan: the Government’s ambition for a zero-emissions maritime sector by 2050. We’re working with partners to prepare a submission to the call for evidence. As part of this, we’re developing a series of boat profiles to better understand the emissions from a range of boats and the measures that will be needed to ensure the inland waterway sector is supported through any transition to a zero-emissions economy by 2050. At this stage we’re really keen to hear from you if you use bio-fuel or solar power for propulsion. If this is you or you think you have an uncommon power set-up then do please get in touch.
  • Don’t forget that the Government is consulting, until 9 September, on how it intends to implement the European Commission judgment that requires private pleasure craft to use white diesel for propulsion. Before responding to the consultation, you might like to read more information about it in the last edition of Boaters’ Update.
  • Alarum Productions, renowned for ‘Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways’, among others, has a new project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund - seeking out the unheard stories of women in canal campaigning and restoration between the end of the war and the 1970s. It has lots of opportunities to join in as a volunteer and they’d love to have modern boatwomen involved. At the moment they'd just like to hear from anyone who might be interested (no commitment at this stage)so that we can share more details in due course. Things on offer include: Learning and conducting short oral history interviews (training provided), summarising interviews - training provided and can be done remotely, audio editing for podcasts (ditto), documentary research - training provided, will be mostly at Ellesmere Port so one for someone local to there (perhaps!), helping at reminiscence, workshop and sharing events in the Black Country plus a final event at Ellesmere’s 2020 Easter gathering and proof reading. The training and activities will be between September and Easter next year (roughly) along with some creative writing workshops in the spring. If you’re interested in any of those please email idigcanals@alarumtheatre.co.uk and you'll be added to the list for further information.

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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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Happy boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 23 August 2019

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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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