Boaters' Update 31 May 2019

In this latest edition you can read great news about the Montgomery Canal and Marple Lock Flight. There's also a must-read article on safety, news of our repair and major works plans for winter as well as the usual roundup of other news, events and stoppages.

Leicester Line, Grand Union Canal May 2019 Leicester Line, Grand Union Canal May 2019

Welcome to the latest edition. What a busy couple of weeks it’s been! I, along with thousands of boaters, spent last weekend at Crick Boat Show – you can read a brief report below – while others were at the Gloucester Tall Ships Festival or maybe the Bike and Boats Festival at the National Waterways Museum. If only I knew how to teleport between them …

There are still loads of things to get involved in out on the cut! – check out the new look events section to find out what’s going on near you.

This edition’s lead article focusses on safety starting with a picture of someone crossing a lock that has caused quite a stir on social media. You can also read about the huge progress that’s been made on the Montgomery Canal restoration and, in other positive news, you can about the reopening of the Marple Flight.

You can also find out how to give us your views on the Trust’s plans for the coming winter repair and major works season. 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 the fortnight ahead               

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

  • 16 May – This summer, in a celebration of blooms by the water, we are encouraging boaters and others to relax amongst the blooming boats, hedgerows, and gardens along their local canal or river, get involved in some community gardening, or simply spread the love by sharing photos of blooms by the water.
  • 23 May – Andrew Bridgen MP met local volunteers who’ve been helping to keep the busy Sawley Locks moving.
  • 23 May – Volunteers have been helping to remove the invasive Floating Pennywort from the River Soar at Cossington and Loughborough.
  • 24 May – The biodiversity of the Regent’s Canal, which weaves through central London, is getting a boost with the installation of over 75 metres of floating islands.

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, 1 & 2 June – Leicester Riverside Festival, now in its 22nd year, returns on the first weekend in June. Spread over four areas this free two-day festival features fun on and off the water.
  • London & South East, until 29 June – A Child's Garden of Verse is a great new experience brought to you by the Puppet Theatre Barge in Little Venice. The narrative is driven by a selection of beautiful poems by Robert Louis Stevenson and others, illustrated and brought to life with puppets and music.
  • North West, 1 & 2 June – IWA Trailboat Festival & Country Fest 2019 is marking this special bicentenary year for the Lancaster Canal by hosting the Trailboat Festival on this wonderful waterway.
  • Wales & South West, 1 & 2 June – Montgomery Canal Foraging Walk will give you food for the soul and body! Come and join us on this free wild food foraging walk led by a local guide, to learn how to forage safely, and how to identify edible plants, roots and berries found along the canal.
  • West Midlands, 13 to 16 June – Gardeners' World Live 2019, at the NEC, is not strictly on the canal but we are teaming up with award-winning garden designer Chris Myers and volunteer lock keepers to create a 'Making Life Better By Water' garden at the show.
  • Yorkshire & North East, 19 June – Free 6-mile guided walk along Pocklington Canal is one way to escape the hustle bustle of everyday life and give your wellbeing a good boost.

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Staying safe

Jumping over lockThe photo on the right shows someone stepping across a partially open, and partially drained, lock. As you might guess, it’s attracted quite a lot of commentary on social media.

We’re using it here exactly for that reason – it’s an evocative image that should make us all think about our safety when out on, or by, the cut.

The comments on social media range from ‘I’d never do that’ through to ‘I’ve done that on a dry day’. Would we recommend you do it? Definitely not. It’s not a question of agility, surefootedness or experience. Put simply, it’s a question of chance:

  • Who’s to say that as you step across your eye doesn’t catch that slippery bit of moss on the opposite side of the lock?
  • Or perhaps the tread on your footwear isn’t as good as when you last checked a few months ago?
  • Perhaps someone with an oily hand last touched the handhold you reach for as you step across and you can’t grip it?

The list above just skims the surface. Given a few minutes I’m sure you could add another dozen to it without trying.

Ultimately, it only takes a momentary lapse in concentration for accidents to happen. We want every single boating experience to be enjoyable and fulfilling, and for everyone to end the day feeling better for being on the water. All we ask you to do is to think safety first.

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Major leap forward for Montgomery Canal restoration

Thanks to a four-year, £4 million project, boats should soon be returning to a section of the canal near Oswestry for the first time since the canal was closed due to a breach in 1936.   

Crickheath basin restoration, Montgomery CanalWe have been working with volunteers from the Shropshire Union Canal Society and contractors to upgrade nearly five miles of towpath, restore 1¼ miles of the canal to navigation from Maesbury to Crickheath, including the creation of a winding hole. Construction of the winding hole has just been completed and the basin is currently being filled with water, which will take about three weeks.

For the first time in a canal restoration, two nature reserve lakes have been constructed parallel to the canal channel at Aston Locks, near Queens Head, to provide a protective home for rare aquatic flora and fauna removed from the canal. Wildlife such as damselflies, dragonflies, otters and water voles, and rare aquatic plants like Floating Water Plantain Luronium natans will all be preserved in this unique, ground-breaking nature project.

Montgomery SSSISo far around half of the 35-mile canal is currently navigable but the entire length is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest on both sides of the border. The entire length in Wales is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, showing that it is one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe.

This latest major phase, which should be completed by 2020, is being funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, and delivered by us with support from the Montgomery Canal Partnership.

Project manager David Hennessey explained: “The Montgomery is a very special canal and its restoration has required a unique solution. The absence of boat movements over the last 80 years has allowed the man-made channel to become colonised by a wide range of rare flora and fauna. By creating a new three hectare wildlife habitat, we will be able to protect and conserve these species for generations to come, while enabling boats to return by excavating the main channel into a navigation again.

“Completion of the winding hole is a particular milestone as this will allow boats to travel another 1¼ miles along the beautiful canal. Slowly but surely, we are achieving the major goal of connecting the mainline Montgomery down to Welshpool.”

We work with 15 partner organisations which make up the Montgomery Canal Partnership. The Partnership aims to restore the canal fully within the next decade as a haven for people and nature.

Montgomery Canal Partnership chair John Dodwell said: "This is a great step forward and will mean 60% of this historic, lovely canal has been restored. We look forward to more support from the public - both by volunteers and by donations - to enable us to make further progress."

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Marple Lock Flight reopens after major emergency repairs

The Grade II listed, 215-year old, Marple Lock Flight reopened last weekend (24 May). Working on such historic structures is never straightforward and this particular project was no different.

Marple Lock image 2Towards the end of last summer the chamber walls of Lock 11 started to move. Never a good sign. But, in this case, they’d moved so much that boats could no longer navigate through safely. We had no choice but to shut the flight and effect repairs.

While we would have loved to, metaphorically speaking, dive right in and start work we couldn’t. We had to go through a three stage process:

  1. Firstly we had to get a proper understanding of the site. This involved drilling boreholes to confirm the ground conditions, trial pits to establish the location of the wall buttresses, and coring of the lock walls themselves to identify their exact depth.
  2. The information from the first step was then used to draw up a detailed design for the repair.
  3. Finally, and because the lock is a listed structure, we had to get consent for the proposed repairs to commence.

As with all of our repairs, wherever possible, we try to future-proof against the same issue rearing its ugly head again. With Lock 11 this meant installing concrete retaining structures on either side of the chamber first before carefully taking the walls down to base level.

Marple Lock image 1Once we’d done this, they were then re-built, like-for-like, to the original alignment to reinstate suitable width to the lock, with the retaining structures behind providing the necessary ground support to prevent future movement of the reconstructed walls.

We appreciate how frustrating closures can be for everyone so we’d like to thank all those affected for their patience and understanding.

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Crick Boat Show success

In a milestone year for Crick Boat Show, as it celebrated its 20th birthday, over 27,000 boaters descended on the sleepy hamlet of Crick to enjoy a three-day extravaganza of all things boaty.

It wasn’t just boat-orientated attractions pulling in the crowds though. The beer and music festival, combined with an eclectic mix of vendors in the food and craft marquee, kept those with other passions more than happy.

For us, it was great meeting so many boaters – some for the first time while others were old friends. We hope everyone who came to our marquee found it fun (and worthwhile!). If there’s anything you’d like to see in there next year then do please drop me a line. In the meantime, enjoy this time-lapse video (and if you did come to see us around Saturday lunchtime then you just might feature for a split second!)…

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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, 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.
  • There’s now just a couple of weeks left to give us your views on our plans for the 2019/20 winter repair and major works stoppage season - we’d love to hear what you think of them (and the new front end of our stoppage notices system!).

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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 and Bobs

  • Attention all angling enthusiasts! Did you know that you can now buy your Waterway Wanderer Permit on online? For those that don’t know, these are the permits you need if you want to fish on one of our unrented stretches of canal or river. For the rented parts, you’ll need to contact the relevant angling club

Last date edited: 31 May 2019

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The boaters' update

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