Boaters' Update 7 Sep 2018

Welcome to the latest edition! It's with no small measure of joy that the first article details how, now there's been a little rain, we're able to relax some of the navigation restrictions in the north. Among the latest news, events and stoppages, you'll also be able to read about the Trust's 2018/19 winter moorings.

Brentford Lock West Brentford Lock West 1

Welcome! For the last few months, when I’ve sat down to write Boaters’ Update, I’ve had that Groundhog Day feeling – still hot and still no rain. Whilst there still hasn’t been any sort of consistent deluge there is a small droplet of optimism for boaters in the north west – read about the relaxation of some of the navigation restrictions in this edition’s first article.

Elsewhere there are details of this year’s winter moorings available from the Trust and the regular roundup of other boating news, stoppages and events. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see 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 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.

  • 8 & 9 Sep – The canalside village of Stoke Bruerne is all set to go back in time to the days of the Second World War. This award winning re-enactment weekend is hugely popular, probably due to its unique atmosphere which sees living history groups and individual re-enactors combining with historic working boats to tell the story of what life was like in wartime Britain.
  • 8 & 9 Sep – We’re taking part in England’s annual celebration of local history, architecture, and culture and will be opening our doors for free with Heritage Open Days at the National Waterways Museum Gloucester and the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port.
  • 8 & 9 Sep – As a boater you’ll be familiar with the huge breach we had on the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. This weekend you’re invited to come and learn about the skilled repair works our team of experts are undertaking to get this wonderful waterway back open.
  • 20 Sep – We are opening up a discussion to find out more about disabled boaters’ experience of boating on our waterways. We’re inviting disabled boaters and/or their carers, partners, or family, to a meeting on 20 September in Oldbury, West Midlands, to talk about their experience and how things could be improved. If you’d like to find out more please contact Matthew Symonds. If you can’t attend we’d be keen to hear from you with any questions, comments, or suggestions – just click on Matthew’s name to drop him your views.
  • 15 to 23 Sep – Taking in three counties and 46 miles of towpaths over nine days, the Chesterfield Canal walking festival is tipped to be one of the biggest canal walking events ever run along a single canal. Time to dust off those walking boots?

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Sections of canal reopen following recent rainfall

Anyone who spent more than a few minutes outside during June and July wouldn’t have been surprised to hear, from the Met Office, that this summer was the hottest ever in England. It wasn’t only hot. It was dry too. You have to go back over half a century to find a drier first half (1961).

As regular readers will know we’ve been using targeted navigation restrictions to make what little water there’s been last as long as possible. Thankfully, August resembled something more akin to a traditional summer – it wasn’t a wash out by any stretch of the imagination but it did at least bring some rain.

Countryside near Gargrave, Leeds & Liverpool CanalThis rain has enabled us to reopen some stretches for boaters to use. Specifically, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal from Gargrave (below lock 30) to Newlay on the edge of Leeds (above lock 13) will be navigable within set opening times.

Boaters will once again be able to use locks at Bingley Five Rive and Bingley Three Rise. Passage down in the morning will be between 10am and 12noon. Passage up in the afternoon will be between 1pm and 3pm. Boat movements will be managed on a first come first served basis by lock keepers.

The Staircase Locks at BingleyElsewhere, the eastern side of the Rochdale Canal has also been helped by the recent rainfall and is subsequently able to reopen between locks 1 and 34. Overnight closures will be in place between locks 5 and 13 with navigation possible between 9am and 4pm every day. Tuel Lock flight will return to normal operation. The canal between locks 34 and 48 will remain closed while water supplies recover and we carry out repairs to reduce water leakage through the locks.

Next week we’ll also be trialling a partial reopening of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, opening selected locks to boaters booked to go through Standedge Tunnel on Wednesday 5 September. The situation will then be reviewed to see whether we can do this on a weekly basis – details will be published on our website.

Water resources on the Lancaster Canal have also started to recover and the Glasson flight is now available for boaters to use between 8am and 2pm each day.  We’ve also been providing opportunities for boaters to make their way across the Ribble Link. 

After the year we’ve had – snow in March followed just six weeks later by the start of the hottest May on record which turned into a lasting heatwave – we will be keeping a close eye on the reopened sections, the weather, and the impact of increased boat usage on water resources. All other closures on the northern network will remain in place until the water resource position improves.

Further south, on the Oxford Canal, which has not benefited from much recent rainfall, we’re reducing the opening times at selected locks to further protect reservoir levels. From September 10 locks at Napton (locks 8-13) and Marston Doles (locks 14 – 16) on the North Oxford will be open between 10am and 4.30pm (last entry on the flight 3pm). On the South Oxford locks at Claydon (locks 17-21) will be open between 10am and 4pm (last entry on the flight 3pm). These precautionary measures should allow time for all boat traffic to travel through these sections whilst providing maximum time for water levels to recover overnight.

While the position is improving in some places if you’re out on the cut you’re urged to keep using the water-saving THRIFT principles such as sharing locks, inviting oncoming boats through locks which are already set and, unless advised otherwise, making sure all gates and paddles are closed after use. Look out for waterside posters showing how you can help.

Jon Horsfall, head of customer service support said; “The recent rainfall has given a slightly improved picture in some parts of the north and it’s good news that some sections have reopened so boaters can enjoy those parts of the network.

“It’s a welcome respite in what has been an exceptional and challenging summer for water supplies, and we’re pleased that boaters on these sections can get on the move once more.

“Of course, whilst this is certainly a gradual step in the right direction we are some way from a complete recovery and the situation remains very sensitive to future rainfall. We know that if exceptionally dry conditions were to return then we may unfortunately have to review things again. We’re also conscious that not all sections of canal have responded to the recent rainfall in the same way, and we’d like to thank those on the sections still closed for their continued patience.

“We’re keeping a close eye on the situation and if other practical opportunities arise to reopen sections of canal then we will do that. In the meantime it’s imperative that we all continue to make the best possible use of the water available to us and so we’re again asking boaters to help by using water carefully.”

For more information, and a map showing navigational restrictions, please visit our drought FAQ’s page.

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Winter moorings

The blistering heat of June and July may still be brightly scorched into our memories but those of you who continually cruise may soon need to shake that thought and start planning for the frostier times ahead – earlier this week we published the list of sites we’ll be offering for winter moorings in 2018-19. 

Shropshire Union in snow, courtesy of Terry O'BrienMatthew Symonds, boating strategy and engagement manager, said: “Cruising in winter can be a wonderful experience, with bright blue skies, frosty foliage, and the feeling, on many stretches, that you’ve got the waterways to yourself.  However the weather can be harsh and, every year, many boaters decide that they want the security of staying in one place and choose to take a winter mooring, from the Trust or the many other mooring providers. 

“Sites are spread across the country so boaters can have as wide a choice as possible, including sites near facilities, as well as more secluded spots for boaters who want a bit more peace and quiet.”

The press release and dedicated winter moorings webpage have lots more information if you’re interested in booking one. But, before you do, please check our winter stoppages list to ensure that stoppages will not prevent you reaching or leaving the winter mooring site.

Winter mooring permits go on sale at 6am on Wednesday 3 October on a first come, first served basis via our web licensing site. For those without an account on our web licensing site, but who are a current licence-holder, please make sure you select an option to register under ‘I am an existing Canal & River Trust customer’.

If you have any questions about our winter moorings please call customer services on 0303 040 4040 or drop us a line.

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

  • From the 17 to 23 Sep it’s Gas Safety Week so what better time could there be to give your views in the BSS consultation regarding the mandatory inclusion of Carbon Monoxide detectors in the Boat Safety Scheme certification.
  • Why not join us and the Chesterfield Canal Trust (CCT) to help clear overgrown vegetation along the canal between Kiveton Park and West Stockwith. The project starts in a few weeks time so if you want more information just drop the CCT a line!
  • We are opening up a discussion to find out more about disabled boaters’ experience of boating on our waterways. We’re inviting disabled boaters and/or their carers, partners, or family, to a meeting on 20 September in Oldbury, West Midlands, to talk about their experience and how things could be improved. If you’d like to find out more please contact Matthew Symonds. Even if you can’t attend we’d be keen to hear from you with any questions, comments, or suggestions – just click on Matthew’s name to drop him your views.

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

As someone who’s out, or by, the water more often than most you’ll know that there are times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. Or when it doesn’t rain as much as usual. 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.

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

  • There’s an extremely dramatic account of the Middlewich Breach on BBC 1’s new daytime series Close Calls on Camera (03/09/18) featuring an interview with the boater whose boat was left teetering on the brink.  Available on iPlayer, forward to 10m: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bj7v8k

Last date edited: 7 September 2018

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The boaters' update

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