Boaters' Update 28 June 2019

I'll keep this intro brief because I expect you're eager to get down to your boat or nearest towpath in this glorious weather! So, read on to find out about how we’re more contactable at the weekend; what the recent rain has done for water resources; a useful reminder of horn/light signals when cruising and what edible delights (amongst others!) you’ll find next to the towpath in our foraging guide. As ever there’s the regular roundup of latest news, stoppages and other events!

Summer boating Summer boating

Welcome to the latest edition. Before heading out on the cut to enjoy what’s forecast to be a glorious weekend, take five to read this bumper edition. 

In it you’ll find: how we’re more contactable at the weekend; what the recent rain has done for water resources; a useful reminder of horn/light signals when cruising and what edible delights (amongst others!) you’ll find next to the towpath in our foraging guide. As ever there’s the regular roundup of latest news, stoppages and other events!

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

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and upcoming events           

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

  • 13 June – A group of volunteers who help to clear rubbish from Loughborough’s waterways say they’ve been overwhelmed by the response to their appeal for more people to lend a hand.
  • 19 June – The Waterways Ombudsman Committee has announced the appointment of the new Waterways Ombudsman Sarah Daniel.
  • 19 June – We joined forces with the Environment Agency in a battle to save thousands of fish from dying in the Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Wigan after a pollution incident.
  • 21 June – We are working in partnership with Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service and Mel Goodship, whose son James tragically drowned in Lower Foulridge Reservoir in 2014, to highlight the dangers of swimming in open water this summer.

Below I’ve picked out some events, by region, 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.

  • East Midlands, every Friday – Join the South Derbyshire Towpath Taskforce team for an enjoyable morning on the Trent & Mersey Canal, supporting us in caring for our precious waterways. All tools and equipment will be provided, together with expert and friendly support and refreshments. 
  • London & South East, 13 & 14 Jul – Go along and support the vibrant community of roving canal traders at a floating market at Cassiobury Park (and treat yourself to something unique!).
  • North West, 6 & 7 July – Bootle Music Festival is back for another year. It’s a full-on weekend of amazing music with a family zone that also offers free canoeing, climbing walls, yoga, alternative therapies, meditation, visual art workshops and more.
  • Wales & South West, 29 June – Experience a Discovery Day in Devizes where there’ll be canoeing taster sessions, fishing coaching, learning about beekeeping, long & short walks led by Nordic Walking UK, and tai chi and yoga taster sessions among a host of others.
  • West Midlands, 29 & 30 June – The Coventry Basin Floating Market will enable you to pick up gifts and goods from an eclectic range of traders.
  • Yorkshire & North East, 29 & 30 June – The Leeds Waterfront Festival makes a welcome return to Granary Wharf with yoga, paddle boarding and live music among the range of free activities to be enjoyed.

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Customer service opening hours extended

From 7 July 2019 you’ll be able to get in touch with our customer service team seven days a week. The team will now be able to help from 8am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm Sat, and 10am-4pm Sun.  All customer service contact channels will be open across telephone, web form, email and social.

Stratford: boating on Bow Back RiversAs you may imagine, the team receives all sorts of enquiries including reports of damaged lock gates, licence enquiries, finding out if a section of canal is open, incidents of vandalism, and questions about how to get involved with volunteering and where to find information on events happening on the waterways – all of which they happily help with!

Jon Horsfall, head of customer service support, said: “Our customers have told us that it would be helpful to be able to speak to us over the weekend and I’m pleased that our customer service team will now be available seven days a week.  Many of our boaters do their cruising at the weekend, so it’s great that they’ll be able to talk to someone if they have a question or something to report when they’re out on the cut.  We think this added service will be of real value to boaters and all those who enjoy our waterways.”

Boaters can get in touch with the Trust by filling out a webform, calling 0303 040 4040, tweeting @CRTcontactus or getting involved in a local user forum.

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Rain helps water levels but conservation measures still needed

It’s not been a particularly glorious start to the summer (current weekend excluded!) which, if you’re a boater, isn’t such a bad thing. After last year’s record-breaking warmth, we needed some major downpours to refill reservoirs.

While levels have definitely improved we’re taking a prudent approach with water saving measures on the Leeds & Liverpool, Oxford, and Grand Union Canals – our aim is to strike a balance between making the waterways as accessible as possible for boaters while mitigating against future risk.

The recent rainfall has improved water levels on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and we’re lifting the restrictions in some locations. However, the reservoirs have not seen enough rainfall to refill them to a satisfactory level. 

Because of this, we’re removing the restrictions at Johnsons Hillocks and at Blackburn Locks as they do not rely solely on the summit reservoirs for their water supply. The restricted opening times at Barrowford Locks, Greenberfield Locks, Bank Newton Locks, and Gargrave Locks remain in place as they are solely fed from the reservoirs. 

Wigan Flight can, frustratingly, be prone to vandalism which, when it occurs, uses a lot of water and can cause problems for both you and us. The opening times remain in place to minimise this risk. 

In the south of the country, while the Oxford and Grand Union Canals also saw some improvements, we’re still cautious and will keep the restricted opening times in place to ensure the canals have the best possible chance of staying open throughout the popular summer months.

The opening times are intended to allow boats that want to move to do so whilst also protecting the canal from unnecessary water loss through paddles being left open.

Jon Horsfall, head of customer service support, said: “We will continue to monitor the water levels across the country, with a view to lifting restrictions when water levels are secure enough for us to do so.  Our water management team is keeping a close eye on the situation and we can react quickly to any changes – either to open the canals so boaters can benefit from unrestricted use, or to put in water saving measures where necessary to help try to ensure the canals remain open for boaters during drier times.

“Boaters play an important part in helping us save water. When you’re out cruising you can make the best use of the water available by sharing locks where possible and ensuring paddles are fully closed once you’ve passed through – with a few exceptions that are signposted locally. Please make sure gates are fully open as pushing them open with your boat can damage the gate lining and increase leaking. Thank you for your understanding and your support.”

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Honking and flashing

If you’re relatively new to boating you may not know that there’s a formal way of communicating your presence, and intentions, by way of your horn or lights – this is common practice if you ever go anywhere near commercial shipping.

Camden, Regent's CanalFor some parts of the waterway network, such as London, it’s need to know knowledge!

There’re not too tricky to memorise but perhaps it’s an idea to have a small laminated version stored somewhere on the stern deck just in case you need a reminder:

One short blast – manoeuvre to starboard (right).

Two short blasts – manoeuvre to port (left). This would be used, for example, if you need to pass an oncoming craft on the left side (port). It’s standard procedure to always pass on the right (starboard). 

A prime example are the refuse barges coming out of Camden which do not have the depth of water to move over to the right as they head out west from Little Venice, or the approach to the Maida Hill tunnel when heading east.

Three short blasts – I have engaged reverse; the craft may still have forward movement, but I am in reverse.

Four short blasts followed by either one or two short blasts – I am turning around, either to port or starboard as indicated by the final one or two blasts.

The above signals are used everywhere but, in addition, on Trust waters and the River Thames, there’s another:

One long six second blast – a warning, here I come. If heard on a blind bend, it could be considered good manners to reply with the three short blasts and gently engage reverse: if it is something big coming around the corner it will help them to know you are there.

For more information check out the Inland Waterways Guide webpage on COLREGs – the internationally agreed regulations designed to prevent waterborne collisions.

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Picking your dinner (literally)

Imagine the scene. You’ve been on a cruise and you’ve moored up in the middle of nowhere. You start to contemplate what to have for dinner and decide to take a stroll to work up an appetite. On your way you manage to find accompaniments, fruit for dessert and ingredients for herbal teas. Wouldn’t that be great? Well now you can with this handy guide to foraging!

It’s the perfect time of year to do it so we asked our senior ecologist, Paul Wilkinson, what we could forage for along our rivers and canals over summertime.

Blackberries

When: August, September

There is nothing quite so satisfying as standing on the very tips of your toes and reaching for the highest, plumpest blackberry and carefully teasing it off the bush without squashing it. Super as an ice-cream sauce, in crumbles, smoothies or freshly picked.

Elderberries 

When: August, September

Packed full of vitamins, ripe elderberries are great for making juices. Boiled up with sugar and water, Elderberry Syrup has been hailed as a natural remedy through the ages to treat coughs, colds and flu.

Meadowsweet

When: June, July, August

Often found in wet or damp habitats, this lovely plant can be used to add flavour to jams, sauces and beverages. Don’t mistake it for Water Dropwort that can also grow by the water’s edge. Try adding a couple of the flower heads of Meadowsweet to a cup of hot water and a drop of honey for your own herbal brew.

Apples

When: September

Many an apple tree can be found along our towpaths, bearing new variety apples from discarded cores because apples don’t grow to the original variety of their seeds. Walk along the Great Canal Orchard between Birmingham and Wolverhampton and enjoy the many apple trees that we have planted along the way.

Damsons

When: July, August

Often associated with old lock cottages, damsons grow in back gardens or wild in hedges and provide fantastic fruit for both eating on the spot or in jams, preserves, or summer fruit juice drinks. If you’re really lucky, you can occasionally find the closely related greengage with its green outer skin and yellow inner flesh.

Watermint

When: June, July, August

Watermint grows in and alongside canals and can be used like any other mint. It has a pleasant taste and the fragrance is fantastic for attracting pollinators. Pop some of the leaves in boiling water for some delicious herbal mint tea.

Horseradish

When: spring through to autumn

This was introduced and now very firmly established along many of our canals. The leaves are tall and lush green and have a sharp taste but dig up the root to add a hot flavour to your sauces.

Hazelnuts

When: late August, September

Hazelnuts will be ripening towards the end of August, but you will be in close competition with your local squirrels to find and eat these delicious nuts, so haste is of the essence.

Dandelions

When: May, June, July

Both the leaves and the flowers of the dandelion plant are edible, and children especially find it very exciting to give them a try once they know they can eat them. They do taste quite bitter and become more so as the summer draws on. Dig up the roots and grind them up to make a coffee substitute.

Foraging top tips

  • Never pick anything that you can’t identify
  • Be mindful not to take more than you can eat
  • Wash your plants before you eat them
  • Don’t pick anything by the roadside or close to herbicide use
  • Try a small amount of the plant before you cook with it to check your tolerance
  • Pick with care, try not to trample on other local foragers

If, like me, you were unsure what meadowsweet looks like, check out the main foraging webpage with pictures of all of the above. Bon Appetit!

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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:

  • Like to get dates in the diary early? How about our Annual Public Meeting on 19 September? It’ll be held at the Kingston Theatre in Birmingham and tickets will be available to book from early July.

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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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Bits & bobs

  • Always a hot talking point, a boater got in touch recently to ask that I mention speed. Well actually, I was being asked to gently remind those cruising that the 4mph limit isn’t aspirational! The correspondent said that tickover, on most occasions, is plenty. Who wants to ‘speed’ past such stunning scenery in any case…

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Happy Boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 28 June 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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