Welcome to the latest, bumper, edition. There's something for everyone; read about our positive Annual Report (we've spent more this year than ever before - £132m - on maintenance), more measures to conserve water in the North, water safety and what spares you should have aboard (to name just a few!)
Welcome to the latest edition. You don’t need to read this introduction to know that it’s been, and continues to be, a bit on the warm side. Ok, that’s an understatement – apparently it’s the driest first half of a summer since 1961 and the UK as a whole has only seen 20% of the expected rainfull.
Despite this, 95% of the 2,000 mile network of canals and rivers in our care remain open for a relaxing and rewarding cruise. In the North West, where a hose pipe ban comes in to force on 5 August, we’ve just announced extra measures to conserve water – more on this below.
Elsewhere in this edition, you can read about our agreement with HS2 to address concerns at Fradley Junction, what spares you should be carrying when out on a cruise, and the regular roundup of other boating news, stoppages and events.
If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see in a future edition then please drop me a line.
In this edition:
Over the last couple of weeks you may have heard, or seen, that:
Below I’ve picked out some highlights to see and do over the next fortnight. 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.
We’ve published our 2017/18 Annual Report & Accounts charting a further year of progress. In particular, and thanks to those who’ve helped achieve it, it has been a record year for volunteering on the waterways with active volunteers now significantly exceeding the number of employees as you help us to deliver our charitable objectives as a Trust for the waterways and wellbeing.
In addition to volunteers clocking-up more than 600,000 hours, with a remarkable 96% satisfaction rate, the overall condition of our waterways continued to improve year-on-year with core spending on waterway infrastructure, maintenance and repairs rising to almost £132 million.
Richard Parry, chief executive, comments: “We have seen another strong year as the Trust works towards its vision of transforming places and enriching lives. Our continued growth in volunteering complements and enhances the vital work that our experienced and skilled colleagues deliver.
“Our work across the network has been underpinned by an increase in the number of boats together with strong investment and income performance which now sees the Trust generate more than £150 million each year in addition to our £50m Government grant. This means we can continue the underlying increase in spend on the care and repair of our waterways.”
The success in volunteering is in addition to community ‘adoptions’, and this year 225 community groups working alongside the charity with local people have been participating in the care of their local stretch, introducing their creative ideas and taking pride in where they live.
This year’s Report also details the work underway to rigorously evidence the wider benefits of waterways to society, including their benefits for wellbeing which will be critical for our approach in the years ahead.
Chairman Allan Leighton said: “Our waterways have a very special place in the public’s affection, but we need to instil a greater belief in their value to us all today, to reach out and connect with a wider range of people, to convince them of the need to extend their support to the Trust, so that the waterways will be cared for in perpetuity.
“As the Trust adapts its structure and aligns itself better to deliver more effectively at a local level, I’d like to thank our outgoing founding Trustees and the original Partnership Chairs who step down this year, as well as all our partners, supporters, volunteers and employees as we continue on this exciting journey.”
Highlights in the 2017/18 Annual Report & Accounts include:
You can read the full 2017/18 Annual Report & Accounts online and, planning ahead, you may want to come along to our Annual Public Meeting on Wednesday 26 September at Austin Court, Birmingham. Places are limited, so it’s best to register your attendance early.
We have secured an agreement with High Speed 2, the company responsible for the planned high-speed railway directly linking London, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester, which will significantly reduce the impact of the rail line on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradley Junction.
Under HS2’s proposals, a permanent access road would have been built adjacent to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Pyford Brook, in the popular Fradley Junction area.
Following extensive negotiations, HS2 has agreed to introduce an ‘Additional Provision’ to address our concerns. HS2’s access road will be rerouted to radically reduce the visual and aural impact on boaters and canal visitors in the area.
We have also reached agreement with HS2 on minimising the impact of construction works in the area. This includes reducing the impact of works on the canal towpath and minimising canal closures, especially during peak seasons, to facilitate works.
Peter Walker, our head of technical support, said: "The Fradley Junction area, where the Coventry Canal joins the Trent & Mersey Canal, is one of the busiest and most vibrant places on the waterways.
"We’re pleased that our extensive negotiations with HS2 have produced an agreement on protecting the canal and, as such, we have been able to withdraw our petition against the High Speed Rail (West Midlands – Crewe) Bill.
"We’re not against HS2, but it’s really important that the impact on the canal network is minimised and that is what we have been able to achieve."
Separately, we’re continuing to work with HS2 and other interested parties through the newly-created Sow Parklands & Cannock Chase AONB Landscape Group to address the design of the Great Haywood viaduct.
Peter Walker comments: "A HS2 viaduct will cross the Trent Valley at Great Haywood. This is going to be a critical interface which will have an impact on this historic landscape.
"The design of this viaduct will have to be sympathetic to the local area, minimising the visual and physical impact on the canal.
"We’re looking forward to working with HS2 through the new Group to ensure the design of this viaduct will reflect the historic landscape that it will pass through."
Speaking about future phases of HS2 Peter Walker continued: "The Trust will continue to engage with HS2 over the coming months and years to protect the interests of the waterways, not least on Phase 2b, covering Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds."
Who would have thought, when we were all shivering through the snow and coldest March since 1962, that just four months later we’d be sweltering in a heatwave? Not me!
These extremes of weather do have an impact though. While 95% of the canal and river network we care for remains open, we have just announced a further package of measures on targeted sections of canals to manage the severe water shortages in parts of Northern England as the exceptionally dry weather continues.
June was the third driest month since records began in 1910 and this has continued into July, placing extra pressure on reservoir holdings and depleting other sources of water that feed the canal network.
As you may remember from the last edition, we’ve already introduced heightened restrictions on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to conserve water and have plans to temporarily close the locks, between Wigan and Gargrave, from Monday 30 July.
With reservoirs continuing to drain at abnormal rates, we’re now implementing further measures as water supplies for the Huddersfield Narrow, Rochdale, Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals reach minimum levels.
Although we’ve been carefully managing the water feed from our own reservoirs, and maximising the amount of water we’re entitled to take from the third party-owned reservoirs which feed both the Rochdale Canal and Huddersfield Narrow Canal, the lack of rainfall has meant that this has not halted the decline in water levels.
Under normal weather conditions the Rochdale Canal is also supplemented by feeder streams and rivers. However, the flows from these feeder streams have also been depleted.
So, with no change in the weather, we’re reluctantly closing sections of the Rochdale Canal and Huddersfield Narrow Canal to boats from Monday 6 August. The closure on the Rochdale Canal will take effect between locks 1 and 48 (from Sowerby Bridge to Littleborough) – with the exception of a short stretch between locks 6 and 19 (east of Mytholmroyd to Todmorden) where navigation through locks will be restricted to the period between 10am and 2pm under a local booking system.
The Huddersfield Narrow Canal will be closed to boats between locks 24 West to 1 East (from above Uppermill across to Huddersfield).
STOP PRESS: Just as Boaters’ Update was published it was announced, with regret, that we’ve had to bring forward the temporary closure of a large section of the Rochdale Canal with immediate effect. The temporary closure between locks 1 and 48 (from Sowerby Bridge to Littleborough) was due to take effect from Monday 6 August; however in practice, with water supplies continuing to decline, we can no longer support anything other than very local boat traffic in this section. The closure will also now include the stretch between locks 6 and 19 which the Trust had originally planned to keep open for a period every day. Instead the Trust will liaise closely with all boaters on this section to ensure they can access vital services when possible, offering restricted, controlled passage. Other than this all locks will be secured and out of use.
Overnight restrictions were introduced on the Bosley Flight (locks 1 to 12) on the Macclesfield Canal earlier this week, , where use is being limited to between 8am and 2pm. Whilst this will conserve water in the short term, it’s likely that we’ll have to temporarily close the Canal at Bosley, and in addition – on the Peak Forest Canal - will need to close off access to Bugsworth Basin, both from Monday 13 August. The Marple Flight (locks 1 to 16) on the Peak Forest Canal is already closed due to movement in the lock walls at Lock 11 and will remain closed until they can be re-built. Boating on the Lower Peak Forest (below Marple) and Lower Macclesfield Canals (below Bosley) will remain unrestricted.
It’s not clear how long these closures will have to last for, but it’s likely to be throughout August, and potentially beyond if there is no significant, sustained rainfall. While the closures will prevent use of these stretches of canal by boats, you can still enjoy them if you want to do some fishing or canoeing or if you just fancied a stroll.
We’re continuing to work with boating businesses in the affected areas to put contingency plans into place so that people can still enjoy a boating holiday. We’ve also published some frequently asked questions (and answers!) and maps detailing where restrictions or temporary closures are in place so that you can plan your summer’s cruising.
Jon Horsfall, head of Customer Service Support for the Trust, said; “There’s just no getting away from the fact that we haven’t had enough rain and that’s affecting our ability to supply certain sections of canal in the North with the water they need.
“We’ve been trying to make the water last as long as possible by restricting opening times but each time a boat goes through a lock it uses around 300,000 litres of water. Without rainfall to replenish our reservoirs it’s becoming a real challenge to provide these vast quantities of water in some parts of the northern network.
“Of course, visitors and the local community can still enjoy the towpath, canoeists can go for a paddle and anglers can fish. Boaters too can still make limited use of lock-free sections, or venture further afield to unaffected parts of the network.
“We’re continuing to work with boaters and boating businesses to try and minimise the impact on them as much as we possibly can, including giving them information to help plan their cruising. We’d like to thank them for their help and understanding in these exceptional circumstances and can assure them that we will re-open canals for boats to use as soon as the water supply is back to a sufficient level.”
Boaters can help conserve water by:
As someone who’s regularly on the cut you can’t help but noticing that boating continues to see a renaissance with 34,000 licensed boats on our canals and rivers – more than at any time in recent history. Boat licence payments contribute around £20 million to looking after our wonderful waterways – around 10% of our total income.
One team is there to guide boaters through any struggles they may be having with their licences – whether it’s helping people understand the terms and conditions, sorting things out when mechanical or medical emergencies happen, or generally working with boaters to ensure they can keep their boat licensed and on the water. They also follow up with unlicensed boats to make sure everyone is paying their fair share towards the upkeep of the waterways they use.
Step forward the boat licence customer support team! With 67 people spread across the country you’ve probably met them on the towpath, or perhaps they’ve helped you out when something has gone wrong. While the team as a whole does a fantastic job, in July Richard Parry recognised the sterling work of the South East team, as they scooped the internal award for best embodying our values. We spoke to SE boat licensing customer support team members Glyn and George to find out more about their work:
At the start of the year I asked you what you’d like to read about. The most popular choice was boat maintenance and upkeep. Since then, and with the help of the experts at River Canal Rescue, we’ve covered everything from boat maintenance schedules through to prop-shafts and keel tanks.
In this last one you might be pleased to hear that no elbow grease is required if you’re to follow its advice. Instead, you might be wearing out some shoe leather as you go on a shopping expedition to buy the things needed to complete the full complement of spares that you should carry on your boat:
The following are useful to have on board;
With this kit River Canal Rescue says you should be able to manage the majority of maintenance issues.
Of course, if you have the room, it’d be even better if you carried common or engine specific spares such as; morse cables throttle and gear selection, fan belts, impellers, spark plugs, fuel and oil filters, bulbs, bolts and fuses, plus a supply of oil and ‘Stop Leak’ or putty for those unexpected hull breaches.
So, there you have it. If you’ve followed, and carried out, the maintenance jobs that we’ve covered then you’re all set to go out and do what makes you happy – go boating, because life’s better by water!
As the great Noël Coward suggested, only ‘Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’ (in these enlightened times I’m sure it’d be the more gender neutral ‘Only mad dogs and the English…’)
In the midst of a heatwave, and especially at high noon, this can make canals, rivers and reservoirs look like a tempting place to cool off. As a boater, though, you’ll know that the only thing that should be swimming in them are fish.
This is the message we’ve been promoting to those who aren’t so familiar with the dangers of taking a dip. In particular we’ve been saying:
If you do see anyone in the water, or contemplating it, you may like to direct them to our water safety pages which also have a couple of hard hitting videos that should make them think twice.
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:
As someone who’s out, or by, the water more often than most you’ll know that there are times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. Or when it doesn’t rain as much as usual. 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.
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.
Last date edited: 27 July 2018
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