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News article created on 6 October 2017

Boaters' Update 6 October 2017

Welcome to the latest edition. Believe it or not you'll find mentions of vodka, elephants, monologues and the Oscars of the Waterways! Oh and the latest boating news and this weekend's events and stoppages... Enjoy!

John Craven on the Llangollen Canal, courtesy of BBC Countryfile Magazine, Jason Ingram

Over the last couple of editions you’ve been sending in your thoughts on guidelines for boaters. Thanks to everyone who’s got in touch – it’s all coming together and the discussion continues in this edition.

I want to draw your attention to a topic on which we also really want to hear your views. I’ve mentioned previously that there’s a three-stage consultation about how we licence boats in the future. Some of you will have already been involved but now it’s a chance for every boater to take part. The final stage of the consultation will be opening in the very near future and you’ll be receiving an email or letter inviting you to have your say.

Along with talk of dredging, hedges, ash, and spring lines, you’ll also find the usual news round-up, this weekend’s stoppages, and 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:

Happy boating,

Damian

News round-up and the fortnight ahead

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

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.

  • 4 to 21 Oct – Head along to watch Natasha Langridge perform her uncompromising monologue 'In memory of leaves' at three special locations across London.
  • 7 to 15 Oct – Come and see us at Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum to take part in South Northamptonshire's fourth annual art trail.
  • 13 Oct – You’re invited to join us for the Annual Showcase of the North Wales & Borders Waterway Partnership which is a great opportunity to see some of the groups, projects and initiatives taking place on and around the waterways in this area.
  • 15 Oct – Whether you do it with family, friends or colleagues the Leeds Eco Trail Trekker 2017 is a community sports event promoting health, wellness, fitness, team spirit, commitment for excellence and contribution to the community.

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Your boating guidelines 

Boats moored along towpath on River Soar, with walkers passing byThanks to all who’ve stayed with this discussion thread for the past few editions. If you remember, in the last edition, I suggested a condensed ‘GOODBOAT’ mnemonic and asked for your thoughts on it.

The feedback you gave was positive and constructive, thanks. I’m now hopeful that the tweaks you suggested have been incorporated and gives us this final list:

  • Go slow before, and during, passing moored boats
  • Only run your generator between 8am and 8pm and be neighbourly and considerate
  • On mooring up at busy spots check you haven’t left a big gap and don’t overstay
  • Don't moor opposite winding holes, on bends, or near to bridges
  • Bag it and bin it (especially your dog’s) – never fly tip on the towpath
  • Only stay on a water point or a lock landing when you’re filling up or locking through
  • Ask to share locks (and the work) and don’t steal those set against you
  • Take time to check all paddles and gates are shut after you’ve used a lock

There were a couple of other notable suggestions such as allowing others to overtake and giving due respect to the fabric of the waterways but I couldn’t shoe-horn them in anywhere. If you think you could, while still keeping the list short, snappy, and able to fit on a postcard then definitely let me know!

I’m hopeful that the list above captures the spirit of all the correspondence I’ve received on this subject and I’ll aim to share some postcard designs in the next edition.

Spring lineAlong with these guidelines there’s also been a lot of talk about mooring spring lines. Many of you got in touch with photos (see right), thanks. I was also reminded that a diagram can be found on page 14 of the Boaters’ Handbook and that there’s a lengthy thread over on the CanalWorld Forum on the subject. Why use spring lines? Well, thanks go to boater Adrian Stott for this concise explanation.

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Foraging the towpath

In the course of exchanging emails about spring lines (see above) boater Keith Bucknall mentioned that he’d been having a bumper harvest this year and would like to see an article about canalside foraging.

With Keith’s foraging skills, and passion, evident in his emails I asked if he’d be kind enough to pen one… He was:

“What a great time for foraging autumn 2017 is proving to be. The hedgerows are laden with fruits of all kinds just begging to be picked and prepared by those willing to try. I am wondering if the factors that Apples and Hazelnuts make scrummy, moist Apple and Hazelnut loafhave this year enabled many of our farmers gather an early, if light, harvest have also affected the wild harvest.

“I would encourage any would-be forager to get out there with some reliable field guides and one or two books at home about how to use your gains. Of course, if you don't feel confident enough to use a field guide look online and find out who near you is running courses on foraging.

“Now is the time to gather hazel nuts, if the squirrels haven't got there first. Blackberries are just about past their best, but you can still get some elderberries or Guelder Rose berries and there are apples a plenty; not every wild apple is a sour crab apple, but what if they are? Make crab apple jelly!

“Once they've been softened by the first frosts, sloes to are good for sloe gin and even the humble haw makes a wonderful substitute for HP sauce. This year, for the first time, I have made Guelder rose berry jelly, despite its slightly un-fruity smell, it is a good meat accompaniment.

“How about helping to remove some of those problematic invasive aliens? Seed pods of Himalayan balsam are good in stir fries and the seeds themselves make a tasty curry. In spring the young shoots of Japanese Knotweed can be cooked smelling and tasting like a lemony rhubarb, but remember to burn the leaves so they don't become the basis of a new colony. It’s also important, when collecting green plants, to make sure they have not previously been sprayed with herbicide.

“In the mid-1970s, in late spring, I noticed big “meaty” mushrooms growing around our college campus. Too early for field mushrooms but they looked good to eat so I was keen to identify them [Editor’s note: Some can be deadly so follow Keith’s example and make sure you’re 100% sure which variety it is]. A raid on the college library and I had the tools I needed to identify St. George's mushrooms and they were good to eat, if a little flatulent!

“I also had a copy of Richard Mabey's classic: 'Food For Free'. I was hooked and I've been foraging the hedgerows on and off ever since. Now I am retired and living on my narrowboat 'Dragons Meet'. Autumn on the Mon & Brec CanalAutumns are a joy along the canals because wherever I go I see all kinds of hedgerow goodies just waiting to be picked.

“I have gathered hazel nuts and chestnuts, plums, apples, pears, greengages, blackberries, and more. In turn those hedgerow offerings have become all kinds of crumbles, cakes, chutneys and one must not forget the delicious damson vodkas. I often ask myself why do I see so few other boaters doing the same? So much wild fruit just goes to waste trodden underfoot by unknowing others to say nothing of the delicious fungi I have seen smashed to bits for no reason that I can comprehend.

“So go on be brave, pick some wild fruit. But whatever you do, leave enough for our wildlife too.”

Thanks Keith. Damson vodka – now that’s got be reason enough to learn the art of foraging! If you like reaping nature’s bounty and would like to share a recipe or two with the rest of the boating community then please do send them in and we’ll create ourselves a ‘recipe corner’!

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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:

  • As mentioned, keep an eye out for your email or letter inviting you to share your thoughts on the future of boat licensing – this is likely to be before the next Boaters’ Update.
  • Many will know, especially if you boat in the capital, that we’ve been working on a dedicated mooring strategy for London’s ever-popular waterways. A broad range of users have been helping with this and the proposed strategy options are being published within the next week. Please do find the time to have a read through and let us know what you think.

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

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 means we need to temporarily close the navigation. Below you’ll find a list, by region, of anything that’s happening 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.

Please note that in the past if you’ve wanted stoppage notices for the Leicester line, and associated arms, then these were selected separately (rather than as part of the Grand Union Canal). However this has been changed so if you are planning on cruising the GU and want to receive notices for the Leicester Line then please log in to your MyTrust account and check the box next to Leicester Line which you’ll now find under the GU. If you already receive them you’ll continue doing so.

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

  • 2,800 elephants are being removed from the Macclesfield Canal. Ok, so that’s actually the equivalent weight (17,000 tonnes) of dredgings that we’ll be removing in the first phase of a £1.3million dredging project to make boating easier…
  • It won’t have passed you by that it’s already getting dark at 6.30pm and we’re only a few weeks away from getting the first autumn frost. This means that you’re more likely to be stoking up your fire on a regular basis. However, a colleague has been in touch reporting that hot ashes, on two occasions, have been tipped in to the base of a hedgerow and caused a fire which had to be extinguished by passers by – one of whom was a boater who also got in touch. Under no circumstances should hot ashes be dumped in hedgerows. Instead, carry (and use!) an ash bucket to keep ash in until it is completely cold and then dispose of it.

Happy boating!

Damian

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The boaters' update

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