Boaters' Update 13 Aug 2021

Welcome to the latest edition where you can read about what we've been working on for boaters, how we care for our historic waterway buildings, how boating is booming, Crick Boat Show and, as usual, your guide to the latest news and this weekend's stoppages (and more besides!).

Crick and Grand Union Canal Crick and Grand Union Canal

Welcome to the latest edition. While the wall-to-wall blue skies of early summer seem to be on their own August holiday, I’m pleased to report below that this hasn’t stopped many of you from making this a bumper boating season.

Also in this edition, find out what we’ve been working on for boaters in the North West and Yorkshire & North East, as well as an update on work heritage buildings and structures.

 And don’t forget to read the last, but not least, ‘Bits & Bobs’ which has important information on Crick Boat Show, mooring on bends and more besides (no pun intended!).

As always, a round-up of news and stoppages can also be found below.

Stay safe, happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 27 July – An army of 2mm-long weevils has been called-in to prevent the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal from being overcome by a problematic water weed.
  • 28 July – The network will benefit from a £1.7 million grant awarded from the Government’s £40 million second round of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, a multi-million pound boost for green jobs and nature recovery.
  • 3 Aug – Loughborough MP Jane Hunt has been meeting some of the young people helping us to care for Leicestershire’s 200-year-old waterways.

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Grafting for boaters in the North West

Even if you haven’t been boating in the North West, for many, one of its diverse range of navigations is likely to be on your bucket list.

Being ever-popular waterways means boaters are always in touch about one thing or another ahead of a visit.  Recently, one of the top things you’ve been asking about is booking passages and facilities; whether booking a journey on the Ribble Link, which connects the once isolated Lancaster Canal to the rest of the network, to staying in the iconic Salthouse Dock in Liverpool (via the bookable Liverpool Canal Link) or passing through the “Cathedral of the Canals” itself, the Anderton Boat Lift! There are other bookable things in the North West such as booking passage on to waterways managed by other organisations:

Another common reason for getting in touch has been to ask about the progress of some of our maintenance and repair works.

Shropshire Union breach repairAlthough it seems longer, it was less than six months ago when Storm Christoph hit and, aside from the wider chaos caused, damaged parts of the North West’s waterway network. One such impact was a, now repaired, breach between Lock 10, Wharton's Lock, and Lock 11 on the Shropshire Union Canal. Above and right.

Sadly, the damage wasn’t restricted to just the Shroppie. There was a Trent & Mersey Soot Hillsignificant slip of material, right and below, into the Trent & Mersey from third party owned land resulting in the navigation and towpath, between Bridge 200, Soot Hill and Bridge 201, being closed. There’s still work to be done on the embankment but we’ve endeavoured to get the navigation open and safe for boaters. A big thank you goes to colleagues and Trust volunteers as repairing both of these examples, and the countless other impacts, such as multiple fallen trees and blocked culverts, during a period highly impacted by coronavirus.

Soot Hill Trent & MerseyOne immense, multi-million, project in the North West that also deserves a mention – because we’re diligently working to get the right solution that’ll help protect boating in the region for generations to come – is Toddbrook Reservoir which feeds the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals.

You may remember that the dam auxiliary spillway was damaged after intense rainfall (which meant, as a safety precaution, over one billion litres of water had to be pumped out). Since then we’ve done a huge amount of work and, after public consultation, a few months ago we published our final plan. You can read more about this on our website or watch regional director Daniel Greenhalgh explain:

Paddle drum at Salterford LockAs with other regions around the country, it’s not just storm damage that we’ve been working on. A couple of examples show the range of work; we’ve been maintaining the huge paddle drum at Salterford Lock on the Weaver, along with extensive works at Lock 82, below right, on the Trent & Mersey – damaged, or missing, fenders on the tail gate were replaced and, due to the gate losing water and draining the pound, the head and tail gate were Lock 82 Leeds & Liverpool Canalboarded out to conserve water and give the gate a longer life span. At the same time the head gate was mitered and the cill was refitted with additional capping pieces added for a greater seal. 

Over time, work to look after the network sometimes results in external recognition. One such example, and the first in England, is at Royal Albert and Salthouse Docks which were recently awarded the prestigious Marina Blue Flag status. The docks qualified for the world-renowned Blue Flag Award in recognition of the highest standards of environmental information and management, safety and services.  The International Blue Flag, gratefully received by the team, below right, is a quality mark which means those visiting can be sure that the Marina Blue Flag statussite is well managed, the water is clean, safe and meets the highest environmental standards. 

If you are in the Liverpool area and have some free time between 20 and 22 August you might consider joining us for a packed weekend of activities including paddle sports, guided walks, family learning activities, boat trips (let someone else take the tiller for once!) and angling taster sessions. Find out more here.

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Caring for our waterway heritage

As a boater you’ll appreciate more than most that the waterway network is home to many historical buildings. In fact, the Trust has 2,663 listed structures and buildings and 46 scheduled monuments to care for. Each and every one needs a bespoke care plan and through these we’ve been able, since 2005, to remove 122 buildings from the ‘Heritage at Risk’ register with only three remaining on the national list in 2019 (with plans, for example at Birmingham’s Roundhouse, to improve these).

Man abseiling over bridgeSome of the work we do on these precious structures is, let’s say, not run-of-the-mill stuff. Let’s take Dundas Aqueduct on the Kennet & Avon Canal for example. A specialist abseiling team is working with us to repair this historic Grade I Listed aqueduct.

Suspended on ropes 12m (40 feet) above the Avon Valley, the team of stone masonry conservators are carrying out specialist repairs to the Georgian Bath stone mouldings. Decades of exposure to the elements have left their mark, with some mouldings showing signs of cracking caused by freeze and thaw damage. Extensive restoration work was carried out in the early 2000s but the elements continue to take their toll on the fragile carved and decorative stonework of the classical detailing.

Morgan Cowles, our heritage and environment manager, explains: “For decades this elegant structure carried narrow boats bearing coal, timber, Bath stone and other goods between Reading and Bristol. Commenced in 1796 it was built to take the canal across the Avon Valley, thus allowing a nine-mile long stretch from Bath to Bradford on Avon be completed without locks.

“In 1954 it developed a leak and was taken out of use. In the 1960s and 70s it was completely drained, meaning people were able to walk along it. It was re-opened, complete with water, in 1984 and since then has taken on a new life, welcoming hundreds of leisure and lived-on boats to gently cruise along its 140m length.”

View of a boat yard next to a canalWhile you won’t be able to get up close to the finished work on Dundas Aqueduct, you will be able to at another upcoming Heritage Open Day. The recent £2.9 million restoration of Burnley’s historic Finsley Gate canal wharf, symbolic of our commitment to improve our huge range of heritage buildings, goes on show on Saturday 28 August. You will be able to drop into the new education room to try willow weaving craft workshops, see a professional blacksmith at work on the restored forge in the old stable block and learn more about the fascinating heritage on a guided tour led by the centre’s sawmill worker.

The main warehouse has now been converted into the Finsley Gate Restaurant and the Sawmill café bar, and both will be open, serving lunches and light refreshments.

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Busy boating bonanza!

A couple of editions ago I talked about how boating has made a massive resurgence since the last lockdown. So much so that it’s actually busier on the cut than the last ‘normal’ year in 2019.

Two people enjoying a canal boat ride around BirminghamIf you’ve been on your boat recently you’ll know that this trend continues. This time last year we were out of lockdown and boaters were making the most of their chance to go boating having been restricted for much of the previous five months. However, when comparing this year’s counts to 2019, the last year of data which was not influenced by the pandemic, there’s a 7% increase.

Wondering which region has seen the biggest bounce in boating? Well, that’ll be the East Midlands – over the last month lockages have been 43% higher than in 2019.

It’s not just lockages that reflect the increase in boating either. After recently signing a new contract with us, our main waste removal contractor, Biffa, has also reported an 8% increase in the amount of rubbish it’s been collecting from our canalside waste disposal points!

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work 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 what may affect you if you’re planning to get out on your boat this weekend:

Division One National

The pinnacle of the match angling calendar, the Angling Trust Division One National is being hosted by Northampton Nene Angling Club on the Grand Union Canal tomorrow (14 August). While there aren’t any navigation closures in place there will be long lines of world class anglers battling for glory. To avoid disruption to your journey, it’d be best to travel early in the day or after it finishes (it runs from 11am until 4pm). Full details of the location can be found on this notice.

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. You can set up your smartphone to automatically notify you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. Check out this guide to setting it up.

If you have any questions about a specific closure, or spot an error in our system, please just get in touch.

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Update on major maintenance work in Yorkshire & the North East

Over the past six months we’ve had to deal with unexpected failures of waterway components as well as some pretty horrendous stormy weather in the north of the country. We appreciate the adverse impact this has on boaters in the region and have been working tirelessly to get things back to normal as soon as we can.

Ariel shot of repair works on riverRepairs to the breach at New Bridge on the Aire & Calder Navigation are almost complete. The navigation will re-open on 23 August. A silver lining of this big project has been that we were able to take the opportunity to do other work on the navigation, which will minimise future disruption, during the stoppage:

  • Lemonroyd Sluices – Work to repair the sluices is still underway but the lock will be operational for the re-opening of the navigation. A further 1-day stoppage in September will be required to complete the work. This will be planned around freight movements.
  • Ferrybridge Lock – Gate replacement work finishes today (13 August).  
  • Dredging – Hydrographic surveys and sampling are complete and dredging is planned to commence next week from 16 Aug at Lemonroyd. Dredging at Ferrybridge will not commence until October to comply with environmental conditions. It is difficult to say exactly when the dredging will be complete as we, much like the rest of industry, are facing a shortage of lorry drivers which will impact dredging disposal. When the navigation opens all freight passage will remain on a reduced draft. Given the long period with no freight activity we would not recommend loading deeper than 2.0m (6’ 6”) with some ballast for the first few trips.
  • Dredging (South Sheffield & Yorkshire Navigations) – Survey work has been completed and potential areas for dredging identified.  A couple of the locations identified will be picked up as part of the spot dredging works. 
  • Edge Piles – Our engineers will continue to monitor the piles until remedial work can be undertaken. At this stage we do not anticipate any disruption to freight barge movements.

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Bits & Bobs

  • With only a week until Crick Boat Show, there’s now only two days left to take advantage of advance ticket purchase and save 20% or more off on-the-gate prices! Wondering what you’ll be able to enjoy when you visit the show? Check out the article in the last edition and you’re likely to find something that’ll interest you!
  • With a busier year than usual on the cut it’s important that we all do as much as we can to use the network in the most considerate and safe ways. Mooring in appropriate locations is an essential part of boating, especially when we get a bumper season of boating! This means not mooring on bends, which can create a hazard for other cruising boaters as well only using lock landings and facility moorings (such as water points) only when you’re using the associated facility.
  • Not that most of you need it but here's a reminder about displaying your index number. As you’ll know we have teams all around the country who are out on the network taking boat sightings. This enables us to ensure that every boat on the water is licensed (which in turn means insured and safe). A boat’s index number allows us to quickly log each individual boat but without it, it can take a lot of work to identify the owner which, as you can imagine, is time we’d rather spend ensuring that every boater is paying their fair share. It should also be noted that displaying your index number is a requirement of your licence as stipulated in Section 10.1 of the Terms & Conditions.
  • Baswich-based River Canal Rescue (RCR) is giving the Stafford Riverway Link (SRL) a boost by hosting a £100 cash prize draw on its website.  RCR is keen to raise awareness of SRL’s work to re-connect the one and a half mile waterway link between the river Sow and Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, enabling boats to enter the centre of Stafford. To enter the draw, click on the Stafford Riverway Latest News  link on River Canal Rescue’s website, answer a question about the work of the SRL and input some contact details. The winning entrant will be selected on 10 September.    
  • Finally, the Environment Agency is currently running a consultation on their Boat Registration charge proposals from January 2022. They value views from all users of their waterways and are encouraging them to have their say. You can review the proposals and respond online. The consultation closes on 16 September 2021.

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Happy boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 16 August 2021

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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 as important safety announcements and upcoming events.

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