Boaters' Update 28 July 2017
Welcome to the last edition of July. Below you'll find a summary of our positive Annual Report and how you can help conserve water when out boating. Of course, there's also the usual mix of events, stoppages and other boating news!
Welcome to the latest edition in which you’ll find news of our annual report. It’s been a rather hectic year since the last one was published so it’s great to be able to tell you that there’s lots of good news in it to tide you on your way into the height of the boating season.
On the note of heading into the main summer boating season, you’ll find some advice below on how, when boating, you can preserve water. Of course, you’ll also find the usual mix of news and this weekend’s stoppages as well as ways in which you can get involved. If there is something else you’d like to see in a future edition, then do get in touch.
In this edition:
- News round-up and the fortnight ahead
- Our Annual Report
- Going with the flow
- More ways to get involved
- Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend
- Bits and bobs
Over the last couple of weeks you may have heard, or seen, that:
- 22 Jul – A new exhibition opened at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port exploring life on the waterways through the stories of six very different boats, from an ice-breaker to a pleasure boat.
- 7 Jul – A new exhibition by Bristol-based photographer Barbara Evripidou opened at the National Waterways Museum Gloucester capturing the transformation of Sabrina 5, a 1944 steel barge, into an education and visitor centre.
- 24 Jul – Our 2016/17 Annual Report was published and records the highest levels of public support and investment in its 2,000 miles of historic waterways since they were transferred from state control five years ago. More on this below
- 25 Jul – We were celebrating, along with volunteer groups and individuals, after achieving Keep Britain Tidy’s coveted Green Flag Award status for 22 miles of the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire.
Below I’ve picked out some highlights of stuff 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.
- 29 & 30 Jul – Head along to the Dewsbury Canal Festival for a free fun day out for all the family!
- 29 & 30 Jul – Perhaps, if you see yourself as more of a cowpoke with a boat, you might want to head to the Anderton Boat Lift for a Wild West Camp reenactment & gunfights.
- 29 Jul – Boats, dogs, music and craft stalls are just some of the things you’ll find at Linslade Canal Festival.
- 4 to 6 Aug – Nottingham's biggest and most popular free festival weekend is back! Boat trips, fireworks, kids’ activities, steam engines, live music and a sport’s zone all feature at this year’s Riverside Festival.
Earlier this week we published our 2016/17 Annual Report. It records the highest levels of public support and investment in our 2,000 miles of historic waterways since they were transferred from state control five years ago.
A strong commercial performance during the year, including a further rise in the number of people donating to our work, was underpinned by a significant growth in volunteering which reached over half a million hours for the first time.
The year saw us increase the money we are able to spend on charitable activities by 6% to £157m. This included our biggest ever programme of lock repairs and gate replacements, as well as hundreds of thousands of minor repair and maintenance tasks such as vegetation management, servicing of bridges and vital inspections of embankments and hidden culverts.
Among other things, we made improvements at our museums, invested in flood remediation work and completed dredging across 22 priority sites. We also delivered a series of major towpath upgrades across the country and fixed the damage caused during the 2015 Boxing Day floods including major repairs of a breach and land slip in the Calder Valley and the complete dismantlement and reconstruction of the Grade II listed Elland Bridge.
Overall, we improved the availability of the waterways through a decrease in the number of days we had to close navigations to perform repairs. You also told us you were more satisfied (via our annual Boat Owners’ Views survey) and this sentiment was matched by an increase in visitor satisfaction.
Allan Leighton, chair of the Trust, commented: "Five years ago, the creation of the Canal & River Trust was a huge endorsement for the charitable sector. We were given responsibility for a national network that has the power to make such a positive impact on so many peoples’ lives.
"In that time, we’ve seen a charity that has gone from strength to strength, and this year’s Report highlights many of those successes. The Report also reminds us of the potential of our waterways to make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve. With 25 million people, from all backgrounds and demographics, right on our doorstep – and around 4.3 million regular visitors each fortnight – we are uniquely positioned to make a powerful impact across the country. I look forward to working with colleagues, friends and partners to make that happen."
Richard Parry, chief executive, added: "It has been another successful year for the Trust and I’d like to thank everyone for their support and hard work.
"We have been able to increase the amount of money we can spend on the waterways. Accordingly, we beat our target for unplanned navigation closures with a further reduction year-on-year and I am pleased with the improvement in both boater and visitor satisfaction which grew to 76% and 85% respectively.
"Our education teams continue to introduce the next generation to the waterways with 92,700 children reached by the programme last year. We have also been building a high-quality STEM learning programme which reached 3,000 secondary school children to inspire a new generation of engineers and waterway supporters.
"The Annual Report show how canals and rivers can create a strong sense of place and have a vital role in contributing to community wellbeing. As such, we have commenced a project with leading academic and professional bodies that will, going forward, help to better quantify and measure that important contribution."
Since launching in 2012, the Canal & River Trust has made a valuable input to the waterways and communities it serves. Successes include:
- Increased annual visitor numbers by 33% to 396m with visitor satisfaction hitting 85%
- Increased volunteering by 264% to 540,000 hours in 2016/17
- Increased volunteer lock keeper numbers by 278% to 750
- 180 communities have adopted a stretch of canal or river
- Over 235,000 children have been reached through the Trust’s education programme
- Numbers of Friends have grown to 22,000 and donations are now £2.9m p.a.
- Around 33,000 licenced boats on our network
- Over £645m spent maintaining and restoring our waterways
- Reduced unplanned navigation closures by 62%
- Set up partnerships with a range of household names including M&S, Google, Rolls Royce, People’s Postcode Lottery, The Scout Association, Help for Heroes and National Trust
- 350,000 supporters welcomed (including digital supporters, donors and volunteers)
- Grown awareness of the Trust to 1 in 3 people
Our Annual Public Meeting will be held at the Bond in Birmingham on 21st September 2017, 10am to 1pm. A limited number of places are available to book, please visit Annual Public Meeting 2017 for more information.
For those with a thirst for detail, you can find all 113 pages of the Annual Report on our website.
Competing demands for water or a lack of water have dogged the canals from the very beginning of the canal age:
“Most canals are distressed for want of water, because either they are above the springs, or they are not permitted to derive a supply from mill streams.” Wrote an early canal commentator.*
Whether it was millers arguing with the proprietors of the canals over routes and water back in the 18th and 19th Centuries, to the lawyers who drafted the Canal Bylaws regarding the operation of locks, to the engineers who developed ingenious water saving side-ponds, everyone associated with the canal and river network has been concerned to avoid a lack of water in the cut.
Just add water
From the earliest days of “Canal Mania”, the number of boats using the canal increased beyond what had initially been envisaged by many of the canal’s engineers, requiring improvements to be made to cope with demand until commercial traffic reached its terminal decline after the Second World War. Examples of water supply improvements include the building of more reservoirs to cope with traffic over the Tring Summit on the Grand Union Canal and the installation of back-pumping at lock flights during the drought of 1934.
A precious resource
The long-range forecast for the next couple of months looks dry so if we want to be boating all summer long, as ever we’d better look after the water. With more boats on the network than during the height of the industrial revolution, all boaters need to work together to save water. If you’ve been on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal recently you will be aware of the THRIFT code which sets out some simple steps that boaters should follow for everyone’s benefit.
- Two in a Lock? - Share locks
- Help keep it in – Make sure gates and paddles are shut
- Report any leaks – tell us
- Invite oncoming boats through – Don’t empty or fill locks if someone else can make use of the water
- Find another favourite – Explore less busy parts of the network
- Think ahead – Plan cruises to minimise use of locks
Although we’ve only issued the THRIFT code on the Leeds & Liverpool it’s also worth remembering as good boating practice wherever you are on the network.
'Most canals are distressed for want of water, because either they are above the springs, or they are not permitted to derive a supply from mill streams.'
William Smith; On the Utility, Structure and Management of Canals; by Joseph Townsend: published in "The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, Vol. XX, July-Dec 1813" and referenced from this wonderful canal history website if you fancy a more in-depth read.
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, there’re always other ways you can get involved:
- Winter stoppages – The revised version of our winter maintenance and restoration programme is now on our website. You have until 4 August to give us any further thoughts which we’ll review before publishing the final plan, a couple of weeks later, on 18 August.
- Seen a boat stunningly bedecked with a dazzlingly display of flowers? If so, why not take a quick snap and post your photos on our website – there’s just three days left to nominate a green fingered boater for the chance of winning a special prize. We've had quite a few posted already so if you’re wondering what the competition looks like…
Keeping your canals and rivers ready for you to enjoy is a year-round job. From time-to-time this includes some major engineering that we need to temporarily close the navigation for. Below you’ll find a list, by region, of anything that’s happen that may affect your cruising.
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.
- I can’t take credit for finding this news item but when a colleague sent it on to me I thought you’d appreciate it. It appears that even computers think canals are beautiful (in particular the Erewash!).
- And finally, for all you boating anglers, our fisheries team have added the European Sturgeon to its fish species guide. Even as someone who doesn’t fish very often, I found the blog post really interesting (I never knew it used to be so prevalent in the UK)
Last date edited: 28 July 2017
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