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News article created on 6 April 2018

Boaters' Update 6 April 2018

Welcome to the latest edition, where you’ll find out what’s going on at the site of the breach on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, what, as a boater, you should know about rivers in flood, and how you can encourage others to try out boating for free.

Staffs & Worcs Canal, Planks Lane, Wombourne, Staffs

Welcome to the latest edition, where you’ll find out what’s going on at the site of the breach on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, what, as a boater, you should know about rivers in flood, and how you can encourage others to try out boating for free.

As ever, there’s a round-up of the latest news, events and stoppages. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see in a future edition then please just drop me a line.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and the fortnight ahead          

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

  • 23 Mar – We have launched an appeal for funds following a breach on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal on Thursday 15 March which swept away a 70-metre section of the 200-year-old canal.
  • 26 Mar – A £2.9m scheme to improve cycling and walking access on West Yorkshire’s canals got underway.
  • 27 Mar – We've joined forces with Middleport Matters Community Trust to launch a new community fishing club on the banks of the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire.
  • 6 Apr – Earlier today, people in Birmingham were invited to join a canal clean up with a difference as a floating cyclist took to the waterways to raise awareness of the problems caused by plastic pollution.

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. Or you may just want to escape out on your boat, in which case these cruising ring guides might be handy!

  • 10 Apr – Free 'learn to fish' sessions from our Level 2 professional angling coaches. They’ll show you the ropes - or at least the rods, baits and nets - by bridge 129 on the Shroppie (Chester). It's a fun family day by the water!
  • 13 Apr – Join Trust ecologist, Laura Mullholland, at Saul Junction on the Gloucester & Sharpness to learn more about the fascinating flying mammals that are bats and, if we're lucky, you may even see some flying around.
  • 14 & 15 Apr – With around 50 stall holders now signed up, live entertainment confirmed, Sawley Marina is set to host its biggest and best Spring Market yet!
  • 15 Apr – We're teaming up with Drifters Waterway Holidays and offering people the chance to try canal boating for free at 19 locations across England and Wales. More on this below.

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Middlewich Branch breach update

For those who don’t know, a few weeks ago a breach swept away a 70-metre section of the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. Before giving you the low down on what’s been going on since then, we’d like to give thanks for the fantastic response we’ve had from the community – boaters and locals – with offers of volunteering, free use of meeting rooms, and, of course, the people who've helped in fundraising.

As you’d imagine, there’s still a mountain of work left to plan and do but good progress has been made:

  • A fish rescue moved 300lb weight of fish to the Trent and Mersey Canal
  • Around 20 large trees were removed from the embankment and the River Wheelock
  • A dam has been put in place across the canal bed at Middlewich Aqueduct
  • 4 pumps have pumped up to 865,000 litres of water back into the canal to help the stranded boats move onto the Trent and Mersey Canal
  • Ecologists have completed a survey looking at the breach's impact on the local wildlife
  • 4 truckloads of debris were collected and removed.

We're in regular contact with boaters who've been affected to keep them up to date on progress. The waterway chaplains have also been on hand on site, offering help to boaters that live on board.

Locally our team has been working extremely hard to update nearby residents, as well as local landowners. It’s been one of our priorities to advise local schools of the safety precautions to make sure they understand the current situation regarding the breach. Safety signs and barriers are now in place around the site.

You may have seen in the news section above that we've launched an appeal - the Shropshire Union Canal: Emergency Appeal - to help people who use the canal - whether it's using the towpath to get to work or school, visiting to get some peace and quiet, or boating on the 200-year old waterway - to do so again.

You can support our appeal directly online by going to our JustGiving page or by texting LEAK515 to 70070 to give £5 (you'll be charged £5 + one message at your standard network rate) or even by snail mail to FREEPOST RSXX-XSGE-KKUE, FAO: Shropshire Union Appeal, Canal & River Trust, Station House, 500 Elder Gate, Milton Keynes, MK9 1BB. Every penny we receive from your donation will go toward restoring this beautiful and treasured canal. 

It’d be great if you could spread the word about the appeal as far and wide as you can to help us restore this beautiful part of the network.

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Respecting rivers

In any other year I might have considered starting this article with a reference to April showers and increasing rain causing rivers to go into flood. Ok, so that might happen. But seeing as though the weather has, at best, been unpredictable in 2018 I’m just going to say that if you ever consider boating on a river then the following article kindly authored by the Residential Boat Owners’ Association’s Beryl McDowall is a must-read:

“Having helped “rescue” a couple of boaters, one in a dinghy with an Flood water being run off through the lockoutboard (which he didn’t try to start until he had cast off from the bank) and the other a 60ft plus narrowboat, during the floods a couple of weeks ago, I suggested to Damian that I could share some of the things I have learnt over the years, many of them when I was living and working on cargo-carrying craft.

“Little did I expect to be sitting here on my boat two weeks on, once again surrounded by water. Yes, the River Soar is in flood again, as are many other rivers around our waterways’ system. The Soar may be a relatively small river but judging by the tree branches and other assorted items that are whizzing past, there is obviously a lot of deep, fast-flowing water heading downstream - much of it via the surrounding fields and roads! 

“Here are a few tips which may help keep you and your boat safe in flood conditions:

Checking the water level

“If you know the river and see that there is a bit of “fresh” on - you may notice that the water is flowing faster than normal, or is slightly higher than usual when you look at the bank - it may well be safe to set off.  But if you’re unsure stay where you are.

“If you are unfamiliar with the river, check the water level boards found immediately below most river locks.  If the water is in the green section, it’s safe to proceed; if it’s in amber, and rain is forecast, it’s worth considering whether you really want to move on; and if it’s in red, stay where you are.

“If you are cruising, and heavy rain is forecast, aim to moor within range of facilities such as a water tap and a shop. It’s always a good idea, particularly in the winter months, to keep on board some back-up supplies of food, and fuel for your fire.

“If you want to keep up-to-date with whether or not a river is in flood, sign up to the Trust notice alerts. You can select a specific waterway if you wish, and you will then receive notices of any stoppages on that waterway, which includes rivers closed due to flooding.

Points to remember

“Before getting into some detail about setting off, please note that it is wise to wear a lifejacket, especially when operating in flood conditions.

“When preparing to leave the following may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many boaters don’t appreciate them until they’ve experienced the problems that can be caused;

Untying the boat

“Don’t untie your boat until you are ready to set off.  That includes things such as putting your tiller in place, lifting side fenders, making sure that your anchor is safely attached to its fixing point on the boat, positioned ready for use in an emergency, and then, most important, particularly on a river, starting your engine!  

“On a river, loose off the downstream rope(s) first, leaving the upstream rope(s) to be the last to untie. That way, the upstream end of your boat tends to be held to the bank by the passing water, so you can untie and then step on board safely.  Remember to hold onto the handrail whenever stepping on or off your boat.  

Mooring

“Make sure your ropes are strong enough to hold the weight of your boat.  If in doubt, seek advice from a specialist supplier.  When moored in flood conditions, it is wise to use two ropes from the T-stud or dolly of whichever end of the boat is at the upstream end (so from the bow if you are travelling upstream, and from the stern if travelling downstream).

View across the river at Stoke Lock“One of these ropes should run to a point a little way upstream of the boat, and the other tied in the normal way. Having two ropes does mean that you have back-up if one should fail for any reason.

“Many boaters these days seem to use a centre line for mooring. Whilst a centre line can be very useful, especially if you are a single-handed boater, when working locks, it can stop your boat rising with the flood water if used for mooring, and tied straight down to an adjacent bollard.  If you want to use the centre line for extra back-up, make sure you leave plenty of slack in it, thus allowing the boat to rise with the water.  

“Remember, also, that there is the possibility that your rope may lift off a bollard as the boat rises on flood water.  One way to avoid this happening is to pass the running end of your rope through the eye to form a noose, which you then place over the bollard. When you pull on the rope, the noose tightens on the bollard, and you then tie the rope off on the T-stud or dolly on your boat. The other rope from that end of the boat should be tied in the normal way, for ease of casting off when you are ready to leave.

Further advice

“If you are new to boating, it is worth considering booking yourself on a boat handling course, specifying that you will be travelling on rivers as well as canals. There are a number of instructors who are river-based, so look for one who is convenient to your area.”

Thanks Beryl!

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Pass on your boating bug at Drifters’ national open day

You may have a relative or friend who’s shown a passing interest, or more, in your boating life and so, on Sunday 15 April, all you need to do is point them towards one of 19 locations for them to see if they catch your boating bug.

Narrowboat moored on the canalWe're teaming up with Drifters Waterway Holidays to offer people the chance to try canal boating for free. The taster sessions will include free short trips on skippered narrowboats, as well as boat tours and holiday discounts. People of all ages are encouraged to take part and no advanced booking is required.

Tim Parker, chairman of Drifters Waterway Holidays, explains: "Travelling at just 4mph through peaceful countryside, sleepy villages and vibrant waterside towns and cities, canal boat holidays are often described as ‘the fastest way to slow down’.

"Close to 400,000 people go canal boating each year, almost double the number 10 years ago* and there are now more canal boats on our waterways than at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

"Last year, over 3,800 people got afloat at our one of our open day events and we look forward to welcoming thousands more visitors this year, to discover why canal boat holidays are so special."

Boating on the Llangollen CanalGareth Stephens, our National Boating Business Manager says, "We believe that waterways have the power to make a real difference to people’s lives. Spending time by water makes us all healthier and happier and early research is showing evidence of this.

"Thousands of people already enjoy boating holidays on our beautiful 2,200-mile network of inland waterways, and these free canal boat taster sessions are a great way to see if this sort of holiday could be for you, before committing to a weekend or longer break."

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More ways for you to 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 I thought you’d like to know about other ways you can get involved:

  • The Boat Owners’ Views survey is now live – the third of licence holders taking part have until tomorrow (7 April 2018) to complete the survey, so if that’s you please spare some time and give us your views now!

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

We’ve almost finished our £38million winter restoration programme – where we get out our big toys and restore things while you’re less likely to be out on the cut. Of course, there are other times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. So below you’ll find a list, by region, of anything that’s happening that may affect you if you’re planning on an early spring winter cruise.

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.

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Bits and bobs

  • Did you know that if you have a boating business you can now manage your licence requirements using our online licensing system? Existing business licence holders can renew online as well as update their details and make any amendments to their licence requirements. Please note that if we have your email address then we’ll be in touch that way so keep an eye on your inbox!
  • Spring is in the air and many water fowl are feeling amorous. As a boater, you need to be aware of the love lives of your local birds, or else you could find your boating plans thwarted by a nest where you don’t want one. So if you don't want to get stuck with a duck, read colleague and boater Debbi Figueredo’s blog!

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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 important safety announcements and upcoming events.

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