Boaters' Update 19 April 2019

However you’re spending the glorious four-day weekend, I hope you find time to read this latest edition. In it you'll find our dredging plans, how we manage canalside vegetation, a review of Crick Boat Shows 2014 & 15 (and news of this year’s, the 20th, show) as well as water saving tips for new boaters, a new boater’s handbook, turtles, north west office changes and the regular latest news, stoppages and events sections!

Spring photo of Staffs & Worcs Canal, Coven

Welcome to the latest edition and Happy Easter! For some of you the boating season never ends. For others, this four-day weekend marks the start of your annual time afloat. Whichever group you fall in to I hope you have an eggcellent (I promise that’s the only one…) time out on the cut in what’s forecast to be a glorious weekend.

However you’re spending it, I hope you find time to read this latest edition in which we continue with the topic of dredging and talk about our plans for this year. There’s also an overview of how we manage canalside vegetation, a review of Crick Boat Shows 2014 & 15 (and news of this year’s, the 20th, show) as well as water saving tips for new boaters, a new boater’s handbook, turtles, north west office changes and the regular latest news, stoppages and events sections!

If there’s an article you’d like to read in a future edition 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:

Below I’ve picked out some events you might be interested in 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.

  • 19 to 22 Apr – Dozens of boats will moor up across the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port’s seven-acre site this weekend for the stalwart of the boating calendar that is the Easter Boat Gathering. While the beautiful historic vessels, lovingly restored by dedicated owners, will be a central attraction, there’s plenty more to do for the whole family.
  • 19 to 22 Apr – Take a stroll next to the Grand Union Canal (Great Haywood) or the Trent & Mersey Canal (Linslade) for some retail therapy at a floating market.
  • 28 Apr – A different type of stroll, one of history, can be had if you join the Montgomery Canal heritage discovery walk for a medium-ability circular walk.
  • 28 Apr – Of course, you might like your towpath time to be more active. If that’s the case then why not help us celebrate the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal Bicentenary, in partnership with Accelerate Running, by taking part in a 5-miler out from Victoria Quays to the Olympic Legacy Park and back.

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Our £8 million dredging plans

In response to the last edition’s article on why, when and how we dredge, the most common question you sent in was ‘when are you dredging near me?’ Well, read on to find out!

The comprehensive £8 million programme for the next 11 or so months covers locations identified by boaters, as well as the places that need dredging every year.

We will be carrying out dredging work on the following canals over the next year:

  • Oxford Canal (various locations between Enslow and Wolvercote)
  • Grand Union Canal (various locations between Bull’s Bridge and Boston Manor)
  • Upper & Lower Peak Forest Canal (River Tame to Whaley Bridge)
  • Macclesfield Canal (at various lengths)
  • Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal (Sebastopol to Usk Road)
  • Coventry Canal (Coventry Basin to Hawkesbury)
  • Worcester & Birmingham Canal (Diglis to Lea End Lane)
  • Llangollen Canal (spot dredging)
  • Chesterfield Canal (River Trent to Babworth)

Annual maintenance dredging will take place at these locations:

  • the River Weaver (including Hunts Lock),
  • the Ribble Link
  • the River Severn
  • the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and
  • throughout the Yorkshire and North East region

And we’ll be clearing these areas:

  • the River Thames approach to West India Dock
  • the River Mersey approach to Canning Half Tide Dock
  • lock approaches on the River Trent

Dredging at Red BullWe’ll also be supporting feeder improvement works at priority locations across the network to maintain water feed – more important than ever given the dry weather over the past few years. Alongside this, we will take on jobs that arise throughout the year and investigate sites for work in the future.

Jon Horsfall, head of customer service support, said: “Any boater will tell you how important dredging is, and we agree. It’s a never-ending task, and a necessary one, as we as work to keep the waterways navigable and stop them becoming silted up. We listen to boaters’ feedback and we target our dredging accordingly: if we get lots of reports of a problem spot, it will go onto our priority list. This year we’ll be tackling plenty of places that boaters have told us could do with a little extra attention. We’ll also be focusing on supporting our charity-wide water saving work by using dredging to help clear feeder channels in key spots.

“Please do share your knowledge and experience with us. Together we can make sure we target our resources to make the biggest difference we can to your cruising, so you can relax and enjoy your time on the water.”

We will continue to evaluate the needs of the whole network and in some cases the projects may change. 

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Managing the green stuff

Spring is here and with it the sound of lawnmowers. As we begin the first grass cutting of the season (over the year we will cut towpaths and other areas at least six times – a total of over 24 million m2) we look back on the winter vegetation management works and what we have planned for 2019.

Vegetation management is probably the most visible part of our work and affects visitors and boaters alike. We spend around £7 million every year on keeping vegetation in check. The main reason we do it is to provide safe access to the towpath and for navigation, prevent damage to structures, and to maintain landscape and wildlife values.

Tree work taking place along the Pocklington CanalDuring the winter the key works are to trees and hedgerows as this is the best time of year to do this – when plants are dormant and we can avoid most disturbance to wildlife. We have too many trees to count them all but estimate there are over 1 million in total. These range from 200-year old oaks planted in towpath hedgerows (reportedly for use as future lock gates) and specimen trees like the Redwood of Llangattock through to self-set woodlands on embankments and cuttings. Nestling under those trees is about 1,200 miles of hedgerows.

We routinely inspect trees close to the towpath, channel or other areas of public access to identify any works required for public safety. This mammoth task is now showing returns in reduced requirements every year and we have just finished the 5th year of significant investment in bringing offside vegetation back to standard to maintain a good width of open water and keeping branches well clear of the water.

Overall this year we’ve improved just under 140 miles of offside vegetation through contractors and with the help of volunteers. In all we have spent over £1.3 million on tree works this winter and we are seeing the benefits of this investment in improved boating conditions in many areas.

Our safety works will be reducing the number of our trees that may be blown over, but as many windfalls are actually third party trees (on land not owned by the Trust) and numbers of trees falling is very dependent on the weather conditions, there is no discernible pattern.

When they do come down, we treat fallen trees blocking the navigation or towpath as highest priority and both staff and contractors are diverted from other works to clear them as soon as possible.

volunteers laying hedgerowsHedgerows don’t have the same dangers so are managed differently. They are trimmed back to provide a clear walking route on the towpath for the spring and summer and any overhanging branches that would obstruct towpath use or access to and from the water are also taken back.

Not all hedges are topped every year – only those which are already at a low height – but we have been working with volunteer groups all over the country to re-introduce hedgelaying as well as planting up gaps to make hedges continuous and adding diversity to hedgerow plants for wildlife.

Neither of the above is our biggest spend though. Grass cutting takes up nearly a third of the budget at £2 million. We cut towpaths and associated grassland six times a year, with three extra cuts added in during the year for lock landings and high footfall areas.

Grass cutting laybyNumerous teams are out on site for most of the summer as it takes about three weeks to get round the whole network by which point it is nearly time to start again! We have a small number of standard specifications for grass cutting – edge to edge cutting every time for busy areas, especially with lots of mooring points. Other standards leave the water’s edge untouched in quieter locations (and where the bank is softer and not so good for mooring) or the back verge where the boundary is set back from the path. However, as you can see from the photo (above right), even where we don’t cut to the water’s edge every time, we still cut “layby” points at least once every kilometre – usually at the best places to moor.

Whatever specification is selected, there will always be at least one “hedge to edge” cut every year – this is usually at the end of the season, but may also be done during the winter in association with the hedgerow works or even as the first cut in the spring to leave the bankside cover for water voles over the winter.

Birmingham plantingAlthough these are nationally standardised specifications (which helps plan the work and costs), they are selected locally to fit with the character and level of use of the waterway. We can also vary requirements in specific areas to meet specific needs such as where we have carried out landscape planting as here in Birmingham (right).

In the next edition we’ll cover aliens. I’d bet you never thought you’d read that in Boaters’ Update! Without wanting to dash your hopes too much, I’m actually talking about non-native invasive species which are alien (and damaging) to our country’s environment.

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Your water saving tips for new boaters

Thanks to everyone who got in touch in response to my request for water saving tips for new boaters.

  • Use water from the shower for loo flush water.
  • Use water from cooking vegetables to make gravy instead of boiling a separate kettle of water.
  • Use stale water from the dog bowl to water indoor plants.
  • Use canal water to water outside plants.
  • Turn off taps when brushing teeth.
  • Run a shallow sink of water and keep the plug in so you can wash your hands in the same water during the day to save running the tap too often.
  • Buy appliances such as washing machines with the lowest possible water consumption.
  • Consider a dishwasher. One boater said that they put theirs on about every four days and it uses less than 10 litres of water - a lot less than washing-up every day and, as a nice byproduct, also helps to keep the work surfaces clear of crockery!

Are there any others you’d like to see added to the list? If so, just drop me a line and I’ll share an updated list in the next edition, thanks.

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New boater's handbook published

We have launched a new edition of the Boater’s Handbook in partnership with the Environment Agency. First published in 2002, the Handbook is written for boat owners and hirers and contains lots of 'getting started' tips as well as important information about how to boat safely.

Jon Horsfall, head of customer service support said: “The Boater’s Handbook is an incredibly useful resource for any boater, from novices to old hands alike. It contains a wealth of information about how to boat safely, as well as all the basics that can be of particular use to new boaters. 

“The updated Handbook contains some new information on which waterways are suited to wider craft and which ones only narrow boats should use, with a map that shows which canals are suitable for each. There’s also pointers on the extra factors owners and hirers of wide beams need to be aware of when navigating and mooring.

Thank you to boaters and volunteers

“I’d like to thank the volunteer boaters on our Navigation Advisory Group and our elected Boater Reps who have shared their expertise, and all the boaters who have given us feedback.”

All leisure boaters will be emailed about the updated Handbook. 

View a downloadable copy of the Handbook and a video setting out key information

The infamous patchiness of internet connections while cruising can be avoided by ordering a free hard copy from the online shop which you can store on your boat. All hire boat operators will be sent hard copies for their boats and first-time licence holders will receive a copy with their licence.

If you’re the owner of a wide beam then you might be particularly interested in the PDF of the updated waterway dimensions

The Handbook was originally commissioned by British Waterways in partnership with the Environment Agency and the British Marine Federation. An expert group was commissioned to develop key messages and content, drawing on other published sources and relevant empirical evidence.  Since then, there have been several re-prints which incorporated best practice updates.

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Crick Boat Shows 2014 & 2015

It’s now only five weeks until the country’s biggest inland waterway festival takes place. This year we’re celebrating the 20th Crick Boat Show by looking back on past Crick Boat Shows. In this edition it’s the 2014 & 2015 shows…

2014

What turned out to be the warmest year in the UK on record actually started with the wettest January. England’s World Cup efforts matched the dismal start to the year by leaving at the group stages without winning a game.

Crick Boat Show 2018Better news came in the form of the best Winter Olympics showing since 1924 and, if you were north of the border and wanted to stay part of Great Britain, you were probably found smiling after the country voted no to independence in September.

More smiles could be found on the waterways. Especially on the Wey & Arun and the Stroudwater Navigation after boats cruised sections previously unreachable for the first time in 100 and 70 years respectively. It was also the year in which Allan Leighton, former CEO of Asda and chairman of Royal Mail took up the hot seat as chair of the Canal & River Trust Trustees.

Crick Boat Show enjoyed a fabulous weekend which featured the first ever Crick Beer Festival. Many of the 24,000 who attended no doubt took the opportunity for some light refreshment while enjoying headline act Toyah Wilcox…

2015

Journalists were kept busy in 2015 as Jeremy Clarkson left Top Gear and the country voted, once again, for a Conservative Government. The latter probably just edged it in column inches.

Crick Boat ShowIn amongst it all we celebrated two major anniversaries as the Magna Carta turned 800 and Queen Elizabeth II became the country’s longest reigning monarch of all time. Praise was also reserved for Tim Peake, who became the first British person to visit the International Space Station and Chris Frome who won the Tour De France.

Although a quieter year on the waterways it was notable for the bicentenary of the Northampton Arm and a £1 million makeover of the National Waterway Museum Gloucester. It also witnessed one of the largest ever cargoes on the River Trent as a 270 tonne electricity transformer, for a power station, made it’s way up the river. Oh and it was the inaugural barge pulling championship

Seminars were hugely popular at the year’s Crick Boat Show with over 2,500 attending one. School was well and truly out after the seminars though as reports state that the evening entertainment had revellers dancing on the tables.

Talking of entertainment, this year’s show might just have the same effect. One of the UK’s most popular live touring bands, Los Pacaminos featuring Paul Young, will be playing the very best in Tex Mex Border music from The Texas Tornadoes and Ry Cooder to Los Lobos and even Roy Orbison. It’s likely to be an unforgettable experience so why not book your advance tickets now and save up to 15 per cent on the entry price for the event. It 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:

  • Herpetologist and liveaboard boater (for over 15 years) Tony Jones is asking boaters to take part in the Turtle Tally. Tony says “It's worth remembering that these animals are considered 'non-native' rather than 'invasive' due to the fact that they cannot successfully breed in the UK's cooler temperatures. Most of the turtles and terrapins we see on the waterways were once pets which have been released when their owners could no longer care for them as they get to be too large and require costly equipment and regular maintenance in order to keep them properly. Recent regulations mean that some larger species cannot be bred, sold or transported, although they can now be rehomed quite legally. And, contrary to popular belief, turtles will rarely take ducklings for food. The ducklings that disappear underwater are usually taken by pike, not turtles.”

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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.

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 & bobs

  • Our North West customer services are changing. Our Northwich Office will no longer be taking payments for licences or selling facilities keys, pump out cards and other items. Instead please visit the beautiful Anderton Boat Lift, Lift Ln, Northwich, CW9 6FW, which is only a couple of miles away. The opening times are, seven days a week, from 9:30am to 4pm. For more details can be found on our website.
  • A boater got in touch to report that they’d seen another boater who’s roof was dangerously overloaded and bits were likely to fall off when the boat set off on a cruise. This is just a gentle reminder to make sure that anything stored on your roof doesn’t block your vision or cause your boat to become top heavy and unstable. It goes without saying that everything should be firmly secured so that it can’t be blown off or knocked off into the canal…

Last date edited: 19 April 2019

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The boaters' update

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