News article created on 8 February 2019

Boaters' Update 8 Feb 2019

Welcome to the latest edition where you can find out where you went boating most in 2018, what our direct services team were busy fixing in December, what changes come in to effect for boat licences on 1 April 2019 as well as a review of the 2004 and 2005 Crick Boat Shows, the latest news, stoppages and events. Enjoy!

Moored boats Moored boats

It’s that time of year again (no, not Valentine’s Day) when we find out which canals were the busiest last year. Where have you mostly been? Cruising the Caldon, pottering on the Pocklington or sojourning on the Shroppie? Read the 2018 Lockage Report to find out.

Elsewhere you’ll find out what our direct services team were busy fixing in December and why we’re postponing works at Hurleston Locks until next winter, what changes come in to effect for boat licences on 1 April 2019 as well as a review of the 2004 and 2005 Crick Boat Shows as the premier inland waterways festival nears its 20th anniversary.

The regular round-up of other boating news, stoppages and events are, as ever, here for you too. If there’s an article you’d like to read in a future event then do 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:

  • 25 Jan – We announced a host of celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the World Heritage Site designation of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and 11 miles of the beautiful Llangollen Canal.
  • 25 Jan – Boats are set to return to a stretch of Grantham Canal, for the first time in 90 years.
  • 30 Jan – We put a call out for volunteer otter spotters in the West Midlands – part of a survey to help us protect the animals’ habitat.
  • 31 Jan – Advance tickets are now on sale for the 2019 Crick Boat Show – celebrating its 20th anniversary, saving up to 15 per cent on the entry price. More on this below.

Below I’ve picked out some highlights to see and do over the next few weeks. Of course, 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.

  • 9 & 10 Feb – Come and visit Dukes Lock in Manchester as part of our winter open days programme where you’ll be able to paddle, fish and take the rare opportunity to walk through a drained lock.
  • Various Feb & Mar – Head along to Little Venice for the Puppet Theatre Barge’s production of ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse’ – a delight for young and old, told with rod puppets, music and sing-along songs.
  • 16 & 17 Feb – How about visiting a Scheduled Ancient Monument – Anderton Boat Lift. During its’ open weekend you’ll get a chance to walk down into the rarely entered dry well, the area where the boat sits at the bottom of the Lift and, if you’ve a head for heights, you can take a tour to the top of the Lift free of charge!
  • 22 Feb – Get your glad rags and party hat on and come help us celebrate the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal’s 200th birthday - enjoy family friendly activities including time travelling tours with actors bringing the canal’s past to life, craft activities and more. At 1.30pm a flotilla of boats will arrive at Victoria Quays and we hope everyone will create some noise to welcome them into the quays. All activities will be free and will run between 11am – 3pm.

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Lockage report shows the impact of hot and dry summer

We’re fascinated with the weather. It could be its changeable nature that keeps us enthralled like some slickly produced TV drama. More likely is that its impact can be far reaching and, at some point, affects us all.

Our recently published Annual Lockage Report for 2018 shows that the canal and river network couldn’t escape its ravages either as it details an 11% reduction across 150 comparison sites.

While lock usage was affected by the long hot summer and water resources shortages, which led to a number of lock restrictions and canal closures, on canals where there were no closures or restrictions, there was very little change in lockage, and some increases were seen.

The Report also highlights the success of our 1,114 volunteer lock keepers which were present at 111 registered lock keeper sites. Together they recorded just under 140,000 hours of lock keeping, with a survey suggesting that on an average week around 3,410 locks full of water were saved by their help.

Once again, Hillmorton Lock 2 & 3 was the busiest site on the network, with a total of 8,621 lockages, followed by New Marton Lock on the Llangollen Canal with 7,866 lockages.

Adam Comerford, national hydrology manager, comments: “The monitoring of lock operations across the Trust’s waterways remains an essential element in our water resources management as well as providing an insight into any changing patterns in use across the network.

“The reasons for variances in lockage numbers year to year can be numerous and complex. Last summer was the third driest and second hottest in a series since 1910. Water resources driven closures and restrictions led to local reductions in lockage.

“I’d like to thank the boaters and the teams of volunteer lock keepers who worked hard to minimise water usage as the dry period continued by sharing of locks where possible.”

Northgate locks, Chester, Shropshire Union Canal‘Lockage’ can be defined simply as lock usage through the filling and emptying of a lock chamber, which in turn allows the movement of water and passage of boats. It is important to distinguish lockage from boat movements, which are the actual number of boats which travel through a lock. We separate boat movements from lockage to acknowledge that averages can be skewed by the boat:lockage ratio (in the case of a typical broad lock, the ratio can be between one and four boats per lockful of water used).

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Changes to Licence Terms and Conditions from 1 April 2019

A couple of years ago, in 2017, we embarked on a comprehensive  three stage consultation which resulted in over 11,000 of you getting in touch to tell us how you thought boats should be licensed in the future. The results were announced early last year and, here we are, a year later with the first set of changes nearly upon us. From 1 April, the following changes come in to effect:

Prompt payment discount rate

The discount applied for prompt payment will be 5% (reduced from 10%). The first renewal notices for April, where we remind you that your licence needs renewing, will be generated shortly and arriving with customers within the next week or so.

Short term licences

One day licences will also no longer be available from 1 April 2019 and, as agreed in the consultation, we are currently reviewing the costs related to administering other short term licences.

Licensing Q&A’s

Rather than just give you the cold hard facts of the impending changes, I also thought it might be useful to run through some of the questions that our customer services and licensing team are commonly asked:

Q: Is it easy to renew your licence online?

A: Yes, really easy. There are lots of pop up windows to help you through the licensing journey online. Currently around 70% of licence holders now renew their licence online and 80% of those rated the experience as excellent or good. Of course, should you need it, our customer service team are always happy to help.

Q: Can I pay through a licensing agent?

A: Yes. One thing to bear in mind is to make sure that your details are all up to date in our licensing database – you can do this online. This will ensure that your Agent can process your payment. For those who renew via Club Agents, we hope to have the new Agents Portal online in the coming months which will considerably speed up your licensing process.

Q: I don’t always have access to a printer, can you send licence documents (for fixing to my boat) through the post?

A: We most certainly can. You can arrange this by updating your preferences on your online account or by calling our customer service team on 0303 040 4040 who will be happy to help.

Q: Will you let me know when my licence is up for renewal and how much it’ll cost me?

A: Yes. As mentioned in the prompt payment discount section above, we do get in touch with licence holders, by their preferred contact route, around six weeks before their licence expires. If you didn’t receive one, then it’s worth logging in to your account and checking that we have up to date contact information for you and that your account isn’t blocked – if it is just give your local licence support officer a call to find out more. Alternatively contact our friendly customer service team who will be happy to help you do this.

Q: Why do you ask for my date of birth?

A: We ask this when licensing your boat as an additional security measure to help us protect your personal information. If you contact us to amend any of your details you will be asked to confirm certain security information to confirm that you are the account holder, your date of birth could be one of those security questions.  

Keeping in touch

We’re here to help so do please let us know if there are any changes to your details or circumstances or you need some support or assistance. There are plenty of ways you can do this:

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What we’ve been fixing

As a boater you’ll notice more than most that we have a big planned programme of repair and restoration jobs that we do at this time of year while the canals are less busy. Of course, if you’re out cruising on a regular basis then you’ll know that not everything goes to plan – we sometimes have to emergencies to respond to.

More often than not our direct services team step in to save the day. If nothing unexpectedly breaks, leaks, ruptures or collapses (wouldn’t that be nice?!) then there’s always something else that they have to get on with. Below, is a brief summary of what the team did in December:

  • 56 planned construction projects were completed, with a further nine emergency jobs also accomplished
  • 1,500 volunteer hours recorded at construction works
  • 12 lock gates have been manufactured in our workshops ready for installation

The specific work highlights were:

  • Huddersfield Narrow Canal – Lock 17 West
  • Overwater Marina – culvert repairs
  • Grand Union Canal – Osterley Lock and Heronsfield Feeder
  • Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Culvert 11
  • Calder & Hebble Navigation – collapsed wall at Double Locks Anchor Pit Stoppage

As you can see from the list above, our direct services team got through bundles of work in December but, as someone who enjoys spending time on a 200+ year old network, you’ll know that everything doesn’t go to plan 100% of the time.

Hurleston LocksThis has been the case at Hurleston Lock 4 (the junction between the Llangollen and Shropshire Union canals). We just haven’t made the progress on site that we had expected and it’s become clear that the work programme would need to be significantly longer than planned, with works likely to run until the end of May at least.

With Easter traditionally seen as the start of the main boating season, and with this stretch being so popular, this extension would have disrupted the plans of many of you so we have suspended works until the next winter stoppage programme starts in November. The lock will be reopened on 22nd February.

We’ve been told, over recent years, of the difficulty some boaters have had in getting through this lock. With this in mind, we’ll have seasonal and volunteer lock keepers to help boaters through.

While we don’t think the lock shows any signs of worsening significantly we will be onsite throughout the year, with specialist lasers, to track any movement in the structure.

In the meantime we’ll review and refine our plans for the next winter stoppage programme. If you use the lock while it’s unmanned and have any difficulties then please get in contact with us immediately on 0303 040 4040.

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Crick Boat Show’s 2004 & 2005

This article follows on from the last edition – we’re looking at the previous 19 shows as the country’s biggest inland waterway festival, Crick Boat Show, celebrates its 20th anniversary.

2004

While it may have been the year that London’s skyline got a quirky addition in the shape of a gherkin, buildings down in Boscastle, Cornwall, were washed away (and anything else in its path) by flash flooding. Around this time, football fans were introduced to the polarising ‘Chosen One’, now un-chosen, as Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho took over at Chelsea. It was his home country’s team that knocked England out of Euro 2004. Perhaps fans found consolation in one of the year’s movie hits; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or Shrek 2?

Better news could be found for those with a boating passion as the Dundas Aqueduct restoration, on the Kennet & Avon Canal, was completed and the basin at Llangollen was opened.

Crick Boat Show’s fifth outing was another resounding success with reports of the time judging that ‘more people than ever before’ had visited the show and, in turn, ‘traders reported even better business than the previous year’.

2005

Crick Boat ShowUnlike the year before, national events occupied the front pages in 2005 – the next in line for the throne, Prince Charles, married Camilla Parker Bowles, we voted in a Labour Government for the third consecutive time and Flintoff & Co had the Barmy Army in raptures as England beat Australia in the Ashes.

On the water, after a two year project, boaters could now cruise into Bugsworth Basin on the Peak Forest Canal. It was also the year in which both Blisworth Tunnel and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct celebrated their 200th birthday. In case you’re wondering, Blisworth (25 Mar) is just over eight months older than Ponty (26 Nov).

Visitors to Crick Boat Show were welcomed with a ‘Nature of the Waterways’ theme although many probably spent 99% of their time looking round the huge range to be found in the 40-odd exhibiting boats. The remaining 1% may have been spent, neck craned, looking skyward as Europe’s only professional wing walking team performed a display.

In the next edition we’ll look back at the 2006 and 2007 shows. If you have memories of these, or any other past show, then I’d love to hear them – please just drop me a line.

In the meantime, did you know that advance tickets are now on sale for this year’s show? You’ll save up to 15 per cent on the entry price for the event, which takes place at Crick Marina, near Daventry in Northamptonshire, during 25-27 May, with an extra Trade & Preview Day to be held on Friday 24 May in association with LeeSan.

Thanks go to Waterways World for its help in providing archive material for research.

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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:

  • The Great Big Boating Bog Surveyis the most comprehensive survey of loos on boats ever! It’s an entirely self-funded project by boater and public health researcher, Kate Saffin and it’s independent of the Trust, the EA, any boating organisation and any manufacturer or supplier of any kind of boating toilet. Kate would love you to take part no matter what type of boat you have or how much boating you do – more information can be found on Facebook.
  • We’re inviting disabled boaters and/or their carers, partners, or family, to a meeting on 22 March in Leeds, to talk about their experience and how things could be improved. The informal meeting will take place at 2pm at our offices at Fearns Wharf, Neptune Street, Leeds LS9 8PB. If you're not able to attend but would like to contribute, we’d still like to hear from you. You can send questions, comments, or suggestions – please get in touch. The notes from the last meeting, held in London, can be found here.

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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.

Of course, now we’re into our winter stoppage programme there’s a hive of activity repairing and restoring a variety of things. 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

  • You may recall that throughout last year we ran a series of boat maintenance articles - thank you to everyone who got in touch to suggest topics. To make these articles more accessible for your future reference there’s now a new section on our website, and we should finish adding all the articles published so far within the next couple of weeks. Our thanks, again, also go to River Canal Rescue for their expert advice.

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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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