This latest edition includes information about accessing coronavirus vaccinations if you live on your boat, a summary of the havoc wreaked by Storm Christoph and an update on the London Mooring Strategy along with the routine roundup of news, stoppages and ways to get involved.
Welcome to the latest edition. With January drawing to a close and the widespread snow across the network receding, the national vaccination programme continues its momentum. As we’re all coming to expect, this doesn’t mean we can predict what will happen in the next month, or even week, and we remain firmly locked down with a roadmap of our route out of the restrictions not expected until at least 22 Feb.
The first article relates to the above with some advice about accessing your vaccination as well as a reminder of the key principles we all need to follow when out on the towpath and talking to Trust staff.
Vying for column inches over the last week has been Storm Christoph, so you’ll find a roundup of how we prepared for it along with the damage it left in its wake and our response. With a fair chunk of winter still to go you’ll also read how we need your help when the next storm rolls in and how best to get help if you’re on your boat when it happens.
Finally, for those in and around London or those looking to visit as and when restrictions allow, you can read a progress update on the London Mooring Strategy. As always, the routine round-up of news, stoppages and ways to get involved can also be found below.
There’s also a treat for those of you who listen to podcasts – our chief exec, Richard Parry, was interviewed by Waterways World and discussed our achievements and setbacks in his seven years at the helm as well as how both the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and climate change are posing new challenges to our work.
PS Thank you to all those that have responded to the Waterways Chaplaincy Appeal and don’t forget that donations, to support your fellow boater in need, are still being accepted.
In this edition:
Recently you may have seen that:
By the middle of February, the Government is aiming to have around 15 million people in the most vulnerable groups vaccinated against COVID-19. In order to get yours, regardless of whether you fall in to one of the groups classed as vulnerable, you will need to be registered with a GP surgery.
If you’re not – perhaps because you are continuously cruising - you can temporarily register with a GP near to you. You do not need proof of a ‘bricks and mortar’ address to register. Visit the NHS site for more information, and if you are having problems registering, call the NHS England Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 22 33. Appointments are being arranged by text and/or letter, so please make sure your details are up-to-date and your post is being checked.
Some parts of society, specifically those adults least at risk, aren’t expected to receive their first dose of the vaccine for some time. It’s also not yet known whether you continue to spread the virus even if you’ve had the vaccine. For this reason it’s important, as reiterated at every daily government coronavirus briefing, that we all continue to follow the social distancing principles.
There’s some good ‘Hands-Face-Space’ advice on the Government’s website which also states that ‘Approximately 1 in 3 people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and could be spreading it without realising it’. With this in mind, when you come across a member of our team on the towpath please follow the social distancing principles of staying at least two metres apart.
Even though we’re working hard to complete the winter works programme, some of our plans have been delayed directly due to the virus, so we need your help in minimising the risk, not only to our maintenance plans but, more importantly, our teams working on them.
If you have any other coronavirus-related questions question then do please read our FAQs as the answer may be there. If you do need to get in touch with our customer service team - available 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday (0303 040 4040) - please bear in mind that it may take a little longer to answer your call due to the current circumstances.
It would have been hard to miss the coverage as Storm Christoph swept through the country last week. Flooding, storm-force winds and snow played havoc across swathes of the UK and the waterways were no exception. Below you’ll find a summary of some of the damage it caused but, first, here’s an overview of how scores of colleagues across the network helped to prepare for it:
Since the storm we’ve been walking every stretch to assess the damage. In some places we still need the water to recede further before we will know the full extent of the damage. The following list highlights just five, to show the scale and range, of some of the major impacts the storm has had and doesn’t cover every fallen tree (of which there were many) or dislodged coping stone, scour damage etc.:
As mentioned above, these five examples only scratch the surface of what we’ve been doing since the storm hit – inspections of every culvert, weir, lock, embankment, bridge (and so on) continue as the water recedes and teams have already been out around the network starting to fix some of the damage caused by Storm Christoph.
The cautionary tales
When disruptive storms roll through, we benefit from the help of boaters. Our storm weirs, and other structures, used to combat the deluge work best when good boating practice is observed on the cut.
Two unfortunate examples from last week best highlight what we mean:
*If you’re caught out on your boat in the wild weather and things are turning into an emergency situation then your first action should always be to call 999. When you have received a response from the emergency services, then inform us on 0800 47 999 47. A more detailed description of who to call and when can be found on our website.
Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering (when coronavirus permits), donating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded litter. In whatever form your volunteering takes place we’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you. Your support helps make life better by water.
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 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 to make an ‘essential journey’ this weekend (no other types are permitted in lockdown):
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. 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.
We’ve also improved the stoppages mapping and resolved an issue where the historic notices appeared on the canal maps. However, the best way to check for stoppages that might affect your cruising plans is via our stoppage notices webpage.
If you have any questions about a specific closure, or spot an error in our system, please just get in touch.
Last October we featured an article about how we’re working to manage the capital’s increasingly busy waterways. Quite a few got in touch as a result and said you’d be interested to read updates as the project progressed. Well, here it is!
Before we get in to the detail, did you know that, each year, we invest around £2.2m in maintaining and managing London’s waterways. To date, around £125k has been invested as part of the London Mooring Strategy. There is more to do, and we are committing a further £190k to continue with customer service facility improvements, including water points, bin stores, and boater waste facilities, and putting in new mooring rings, in 2021/22.
We will be carrying out dredging survey work and wall inspections in the spring, installing new mooring rings from summer with the aim of completing the majority by the end of the year.
Throughout 2021 the team will be laying down plans for the new customer service facilities, including onsite investigations, service searches, and developing specifications for the sites, with additional funds allocated in the 2022/23 budget for their installation.
The Strategy, which was published in 2018 to help manage the increasing demand for boating in the capital, acknowledged that if boat numbers continued to rise then additional measures would need to be investigated to ensure the waterways are managed safely and are available fairly for everyone.
Improving our waterways
Ros Daniels, our regional director, says: “The London Mooring Strategy is a collaborative effort between the Trust, boaters, and other waterway stakeholders, to facilitate best use of London’s increasingly busy waterspace for all types of boating.
"Over the past few years we’ve been able to put into place a number of improvements suggested by those who use the capital’s canals, and we hope that’s gone some way to making the London boating experience smoother.
"Being on and by the water makes people less stressed – something the current times have shown us is needed more than ever – and we want to make sure we’re doing all we can to ensure boaters’ time in London is rewarding.
“We continue to face challenges from the growth in boat numbers, with little sign of this trend reversing. This makes the fair and safe management of London’s waterspace more important than ever.
"With that in mind, we are continuing to carry out the works identified in the mooring strategy, and we have started a new discussion with boaters and other stakeholders about how we, and they, may be able to address the issues caused by more boats trying to fit into a finite space.
"Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the initial online engagement sessions or by completing the online survey. We’re reviewing the initial feedback before we publish details of the next steps in this work.”
Improvements already made
Physical improvements already made as part of the London Mooring Strategy include:
Improvements already made to moorings to fairly share waterspace between different types of boater:
 Total operational spend for London & South East region in the financial year 2020/21: £3.6m
Last date edited: 29 January 2021
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