News article created on 23 March 2018

Boaters' Update 23 March 2018

In this fortnight's update you'll find news of the breach on the Middlewich Branch of the Shroppie, a round-up of what we've been fixing over winter, how to prevent pollution, the top nine things to do at this year's Crick Boat Show and much more besides!

Middlewich Canal Wharf Middlewich Canal Wharf

Well this isn’t the start to spring that we’d hoped for. First, we faced a battering from multiple storms that brought blizzards and power cuts. There’s been an ongoing environmental crisis on the River Lee as we – and an army of volunteers – have been fighting an industrial oil spill.  Then, at the end of last week, there was a breach on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

There’s an update on what we’re doing at the site of the breach below as well as a round-up of all the other stoppages we’ve been working on over the winter months. If you’re returning to your boat after a winter’s break from cruising you’ll also find out how to prevent pollution when readying your boat for its first spring cruise.

On a lighter note, you’ll also find out the top nine things to do at this year’s Crick Boat Show, along with how you could win free tickets (a must-read if you’re a die-hard ABBA fan!). Of course, there’s also the usual round-up of the latest news, events and stoppages.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and the fortnight ahead           

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

  • 9 Mar – We launched our 2018 National Boat Owners’ Views Survey, which is sent out to a third of our boat licence holders, and we're calling on boaters to share their thoughts and feelings about their experience of the waterways.
  • 12 Mar – A major new arts programme, inspired by the region’s canals and rivers, launched in Worcester, ahead of a summer of events and installations.
  • 15 Mar – We were presented with a coveted Transport Trust ‘Red Wheel’ plaque which has gone on permanent display at Froghall Wharf, on the Caldon Canal in Staffordshire.
  • 19 Mar – Bookings are now being taken for Britain’s biggest canal angling competition, the 2018 Canal Pairs Championship.

Below I’ve picked out some highlights to see and do over the next fortnight. In a break from this section’s usual format, I’ve listed the events based on their type. Of course, there are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities around the network: visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you. Or you may just want to escape out on your boat, in which case these cruising ring guides might be handy!

  • Wildlife and nature – On 24 Mar you’ll be in for a day of wild watery adventures at the Kennet & Avon Canal and nature reserve in Reading. The following weekend, 30 Mar to 2 Apr, we're looking for people to stroll along designated areas of canal in Worcestershire to help us undertake a wildlife survey.
  • Easter fun – From 27 Mar through to 12 Apr you’ll find Easter-themed fun around the country. Head to the Anderton Boat Lift, National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port, Dudley Canal or the Pocklington Canal to keep the little people entertained.
  • Retail therapy – You’ll be spoilt for choice if you want to indulge yourself this Easter – 30 Mar to 2 Apr – at either the Cassiobury Park (Grand Union) or Great Haywood (Trent & Mersey) floating markets.
  • Heritage & history – In spite of the breach on the Middlewich Branch, the hugely popular Easter Boat Gathering at Ellesmere Port will still be happening. Just down the road, in Liverpool Docks, you can celebrate the unique heritage of Albert Dock this Easter with Heritage on the Dock - a four-day event of free walks, workshops, live music and entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. 

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Middlewich Branch breach update

Thanks to everyone, staff and volunteers, who’ve already been working hard on site and to those who have already donated. As Mark mentions in the video, this breach is going to cost a lot of money to repair so we’ve started an appeal to raise funds to help us get this stretch back to its former glory so boaters can carry enjoying this special part of the waterway network. Please share this link - https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/canalrivertrust/middlewich - as far and wide as you can and help us get the word out!

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Winter repair and restoration work review

If you’ve been anywhere near a canal over winter then there’s a good chance you would have seen us, with our heavy-duty gear, fixing one Derwent Mouth Lock, Open Daything or another. Or perhaps you were one of the 16,000, like Flog It presenter Paul Martin, who came to see what we were up to at one of our Open Days?

Even if you came to an Open Day it can be hard to imagine the sheer scale, and variety, of work that goes on. To help with this I asked our man in the hot seat, Dean Davies, direct services manager, for some cold hard facts and statistics to convey what we’ve managed to get done (despite some rather grim weather!):

  • Projects spread over 17 weeks
  • 260 individual stoppages
  • Around 240 fish rescues before the work started
  • Around 1,000 people involved
  • Manufactured and installed 180 individual lock gate leaves
  • Moved around half a million bath tubs worth of water to enable work to start
  • Biggest single stoppage is the eight-month £2.5million Marple Makeover Project (including a rebuild of the chamber of the Grade 2 listed Lock 15 after a collapse and 88 other defects including lock repairs, paddle repairs, washwall repairs and rebuild, towpath resurfacing, lock grouting and vegetation clearance)
  • In the course of working on locks, bridges, aqueducts, sluices and culverts we’ve uncovered everything from guns to the more expected bicycles and shopping trolleys

Tees Barrage engineering works 2015Thanks has to go those who volunteered too. Around 5,000 volunteer hours, given in a huge range of ways, have helped us plough through the challenging programme of works. Even though we’re just finishing this year’s projects, our thoughts have already started to focus on the 2018/19 season.

In fact, in a little over six weeks, we’ll be asking you to do the same as we publish the first draft of our proposals for next winter – we’ll want to know what you think of them. As soon as they’re published I’ll write about them in Boaters’ Update and mention it on our Facebook Boating page.

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How you can prevent pollution

Did you know that, in 2017, we recorded and responded to 275 water pollution incidents? 60% (165) of these were recorded as oil pollution incidents. While some of these are big spillages from adjacent land, the vast majority (90%) are minor spills from boats. The other notable statistic is that most of those from boats happen around Easter as boaters return from a winter away from their boat to get ready for the warmer cruising months ahead.

River Canal Rescue has battled with high spring callout rates for a long time, and gears up in preparation for the new boating season, so who better to ask for advice on how you can prevent pollution from your boat:

“The correlation between spring time breakdowns and a spike in pollution activity is well known to us. It is not necessarily the fault of the boat owner, but pollution could be greatly reduced if there was greater awareness of the issue, coupled with an understanding of how to prevent it.

“The reason for such a spike in spring pollution is due to the harsh realities of winter which can be attributed in equal quantity to;

  1. Long ‘rest’ periods where boats are left with no maintenance until the new season begins.
  2. Frost damage causing spillages of harmful substances within the vessel.
  3. Lots of rain in the spring.
  4. New season preparations (cleaning the vessel, servicing and maintenance).

“Separately, these issues are unlikely to cause much of a problem, however when combined together, some or all are a recipe for environmental damage. For instance, oil and fuel which may have gathered in the engine tray is unlikely to make its way into the canal unless the bilges fill with water causing the oil and fuel to spill out of the engine tray and into other bilge compartments. This filling with water is usually caused by a combination of autumn leaves blocking deck drains and high spring rainfall.

“Fortunately, a few simple checks and maintenance tasks can greatly reduce these events occurring. When leaving your vessel for a long period, turn off the fuel stop valve and ensure any tanks, pipes or components containing harmful substances, such as diesel or antifreeze, are well protected. This includes batteries which contain acid. A bit of carpet or a blanket makes all the difference.

A lady carrying out maintenance on a boat engine“When returning to the vessel, check the engine room and ensure no harmful substances are present in the bilge area. If harmful substances are present, remove before allowing the bilge pump to evacuate its contents into the waterway (otherwise these substances will be pumped out along with the built-up water).

“Before leaving the vessel over winter, ensure the deck drains (also known as the gunnel drains) are clear. Re-check these and clear them if necessary on any subsequent visits.  Blocked drains not only cause environmental damage, as the bilges excessively fill during periods of heavy rain, but a high build-up of water can lead to the vessel sinking – a common occurrence during winter.

“When starting your spring maintenance use an environmentally-friendly boat wash. Fairy Liquid and other household cleaners can be as damaging as oil and fuel. When undertaking servicing and fluid changes, thoroughly clean any spillages and make sure they do not enter the area occupied by the bilge pump.

“It is the responsibility of the waterway community to protect our environment from damage, so that all who may wish to use it in the future can enjoy it as much as we do. These simple checks and maintenance tips are the minimum standard every waterway user should follow.”

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Top nine things to do at Crick Boat Show

The last time I mentioned the weather on our Facebook Boating page it snowed solidly for a day in the north. I was rightly reprimanded for tempting fate! I’ve learnt my lesson, so instead of suggesting that you Crick and Grand Union Canaldream of warm sunny days surrounded by like-minded people in a beautiful setting just read the below and I look forward to seeing you there… Oh dear, I think I’ve done it again…

The 2018 Crick Boat Show & Waterways Festival is held over the late May Bank Holiday (26-28 May) at Crick Marina, near Daventry. It’s the UK’s biggest inland waterways festival and offers a fantastic day out by the water for all the family.

With around 300 exhibitors from across the canal world, the annual event is organised by Waterways World in partnership with us, the Canal & River Trust, and Crick Marina.

Here are the top nine things to do at this year’s show:

  1. Take a boat trip - visitors to Crick can take a free boat trip along the Grand Union Canal aboard canal boats run by volunteers from the LNBP Community Boating. The half-hour trips run every 10 minutes from 10.10am each day of the show. Visitors can book their free trip at the Trip Boats Marquee on the Quayside when they arrive at the show.
  2. Find out what it’s like aboard the latest luxury boats – today’s canal boats are equipped with all mod cons, and over 40 boats on display at Crick will showcase all the latest lifestyle extras, space-saving ideas and technological developments. From king-sized beds, baths and drinks fridges to LED lighting, underfloor heating and solar panels, visitors to the show can see the very latest in on board luxury.
  3. Listen to live music – 15 live bands will be performing throughout the Show in the Wheatsheaf Bar Marquee, with the ‘ABBA Revival’ tribute band headlining on the Sunday evening (27 May), and the ‘Dizzy Lizzy’ tribute act on the Saturday night (26 May).
  4. Take a boat handling lesson – hour-long boat handling training sessions with a qualified boat trainer will be taking place throughout the weekend. Lessons will cover the basics of casting off, mooring up, boat etiquette, rope handling, boat jargon and lock navigation.  Places are limited so advance booking via crickboatshow.com is essential.
  5. Enjoy some retail therapy - with close to 300 exhibitors, Crick is Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, showcasing the very best of the canal world. So, whether you are a boat owner or just a dreamer, let your imagination roam free with dozens of new boats to look round, all the latest products and gadgets to admire, and outdoor clothing, jewellery, hats and hand bags to revitalize your wardrobe.
  6. Step back in time – historic boats at the show offer visitors the chance to find out how working boat families lived in such a tiny cabin and the journeys they made to make their living. And, in the Canal & River Trust Marquee, visitors can learn about life in 19th century Ellesmere Port with the help of costumed characters, and meet a costumed interpreter of John Nash, the English architect responsible for the Regent’s Canal.
  7. Get expert advice on boating - the Show’s free seminar programme will feature advice from Waterways World’s Technical Editor Mark Langley on buying a new or used boat, selling a boat, as well as general boat maintenance.
  8. Take part in some kids activities - children aged 16 and under can visit the show for free and take part in a variety of special activities in the Canal & River Trust Marquee, including ‘build a canal’ challenge, Roses & Castles painting and finding out about the wildlife that lives on our waterways.
  9. Vote for your favourite boat - the Favourite Boat of Show competition is a long-standing Crick tradition. Visitors to the show vote for their favourite and the result is announced mid-afternoon on Monday 28 May. Everyone who votes is entered into a prize draw to win a £100 Marks & Spencer voucher and Waterways World subscription. The winning exhibitor receives a trophy and a bottle of champagne.

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More ways for you to get involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering or donating. 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:

  • Anyone who’s spent a day calmly chugging down the cut will tell you how much better they feel for doing it. What I’d like to know is what specific benefit you think you get from it. Is it like one long meditative session or does it make you feel closer to nature? However it makes you feel better, do please drop me a line and let me know.
  • The Boat Owner’s Views survey is now live – The online survey is accessed via a link in an email or letter (where the Trust does not hold email addresses) which has been sent to a third of boat licence holders. Our aim is to have contacted most boaters on our waters over a three-year cycle. Those taking part have until 7 April 2018 to complete the survey. If you’ve received a link but would prefer to complete a paper version of the survey, please contact the customer service team on 0303 040 4040.

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

We’ve almost finished our £38million winter restoration programme – where we get out our big toys and restore things while you’re less likely to be out on the cut. Of course, there are other times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. So below you’ll find a list, by region, of anything that’s happening that may affect you if you’re planning on an early spring winter cruise.

Just click on the one where you’ll be and a webpage will open listing any stoppages for that region (if your region isn’t listed then, yay, there aren’t any navigation closures there!). If you’re not quite sure which region your planned cruise falls in to please take a look at this map.

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. If you have any questions about a specific closure then you’ll find the email addresses for our regional offices on our contacts page.

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Bits and bobs

  • Did you know that if you have a boating business you can now manage your licence requirements using our online licensing system? Existing business licence holders can renew online as well as update their details and make any amendments to their licence requirements. Please note that if we have your email address then we’ll be in touch that way so keep an eye on your inbox!
  • If you’ve got this far then you deserve a reward! While all I can offer is a ‘thank you’ for reading. Insure4Boats can give you the chance to win a year’s free boat licence! Simply follow this link, enter you name and email and you’re done. Good luck! Of course, as an independent charity, we’d like to point out that other boat insurance companies are available…

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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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