Boaters' Update 19 June 2020

Welcome to the latest edition where you’ll find a a roundup of the latest waterway news, coronavirus-related reminders, news of our winter stoppage consultation, an article on how to prevent the spread of non-native species, save water and, if you’ve got some spare time on your hands, why not test your canal knowledge and take a virtual cruise.

Boats on the Chesterfield Canal, courtesy Richard Croft Boats on the Chesterfield Canal, courtesy Richard Croft

As you may notice, with this latest edition, we’ve returned to the pre-lockdown format and to a fortnightly frequency. Life on the cut is slowly starting to resemble what it used to be so we thought Boaters’ Update should do too.

While many things have started to return to normal we know there is considerable frustration for most leisure boaters at not yet being able to stay on your boat overnight and hence only able to enjoy very restricted use of the navigation.

We continue to press Government about this as it seems to us to present very low risk of virus transimission – especially when non-essential shops and major attractions like zoos are now able to open - but there continues to be no confirmation about the timing for the resumption of overnight stays on boats (other than if you’re living aboard as your main residence) in either England or Wales.

Previously the Government has said that, as part of the recovery strategy, and if all the ‘tests’ are being met, then in Phase 3, from 4 July, we could see camping resume in England - which would regard as also giving consent to staying overnight on a boat.  We will of course keep you updated as soon as we receive any further information.

Below you’ll find a a roundup of the other latest waterway news, a summary of coronavirus-related reminders, news of our winter stoppage consultation, an article on how to prevent the spread of non-native species, save water and, if you’ve got some spare time on your hands, why not test your canal knowledge and take a virtual cruise.

Stay safe,


In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 22 May – Costing over £1.5 million, repairs to the Lune Embankment on the Lancaster Canal have finished after six months as engineers had to face storms Dennis and Ciara and restrictions as a result of the coronavirus.
  • 2 June – Public safety at Carr Mill Reservoir, on the outskirts of St Helens, has had a boost with the installation of three new safety throw lines on the banks of the popular Merseyside beauty spot.
  • 4 June – With swimming pools closed due to coronavirus, and with the summer weather ahead, we are urging people not to take a risk by swimming in canals, rivers, reservoirs and other open waters.
  • 8 June – We were pleased to announce our grant fund for small waterway-based charities is now open for applications.


Coronavirus and boating reminders

  • All Government guidelines, including those in Wales, should be followed – this includes regular handwashing, especially before and after using any facility or structure, social distancing, and only members of your household being on your boat.
  • Unless your boat is your primary residence (i.e. you permanently live on it) overnight stays on your boat are not currently permitted.
  • All mooring stay times should be followed. If, for any reason, you’re unable to do this please get in touch with your local boat licence support officer.
  • Please bear in mind that it will take time to get the entire network fully operational. As you will expect, booking for some passages and services will be required. Some sections and structures may be closed for a further period. This page details which waterway structures fall into those categories.
  • Much of the network’s infrastructure had not been used for a good couple of months – we have done all our safety checks but with more active use we expect there will be some niggles and issues as boats begin to cruise further afield. If you come across any, please do let us know.
  • You may prefer, as much as possible, to use the facilities you have on your boat rather than ours, which we continue to maintain, or those of a third party. All service facilities, such as showers and elsan points, remain open unless a specific stoppage notice has been issued.
  • We have been providing the latest coronavirus updates via the Boaters’ Update.  If you aren’t receiving it direct to your inbox, sign up here.


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:

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.


Preventing the spread of non-native species

As boaters start to return to the waterways now’s a good time to remind ourselves of what boaters can do to prevent the spread of non-native species.

Animals and plants from around the world have been introduced to Britain by people for hundreds of years. Many are harmless but 10-15% aren’t and become invasive – harming the environment and impacting the economy, while some can even pose a risk to our health and the way we live.

Close up of Japanese knotweed growing out of waterOn our waterways Japanese knotweed and signal crayfish cause serious damage to structures, floating pennywort blocks navigation, and giant hogweed can cause harm to people.

Invasive non-native species (INNS) come with a considerable cost to control them. We have to control their growth and repair the damage they cause. Some, such as Japanese knotweed, can seriously increase the complexity and cost of a simple maintenance job. Sometimes we also have to put in place special measures or restrictions such as temporarily closing a navigation so we can clear away something that shouldn’t be there which, for you as a boater, can bring added frustrations.

As you may know the spread of many INNS is due to human activity. This can be as seeds, young animals or bits of plant  on people’s clothes, equipment and boats; or through the dumping of plants in the wild. Often it’s done without even noticing.

Of course, it is difficult to clean a boat of INNS as it usually stays on the water. That said, there are some general rules you can follow while moving around and especially if you go on to other bodies of water. You can help stop the spread with the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ philosophy:

  • Check the boat, equipment and clothing for mud and live organisms - particularly in areas that are damp or hard to inspect.
  • Clean everything as thoroughly as you can, pay attention to fenders, prop, and the lip around the boat.
  • Drain water from every part of your boat, and dry everything for as long as possible before using it elsewhere. Some species can live for many days in moist conditions. Make sure you don’t transfer water elsewhere.
  • If you are getting your boat lifted out of the water, for reblacking or transport, please ensure that ALL the hull is jet washed including the bottom. This should be done as soon as it comes out of the water.

If you ever do take an INNS out of its habitat, under the law it is illegal to put it back. This applies even if that INNS is common in the area. An INNS taken out of its habitat must be placed in a location that prevents it getting back into that habitat or another e.g. floating pennywort will quickly dry out if left on dry land and Himalayan balsam will quickly die if pulled out and placed on a hard surface. With animals there is no requirement or expectation to dispatch them, just to stop them spreading or returning to the water.


Saving water

Following the sunniest Spring on record for the UK and driest May on record in England we need your help to protect water levels around the network.

Most boaters already help by taking a few simple steps: 

  1. Sharing locks where possible
  2. Letting us know about any sudden leaks
  3. Closing gates and paddles
  4. Following any instructions such as when locks must be left empty or locking anti-vandal devices

Jon Horsfall, head of customer service support at the Canal & River Trust said: “Whilst water levels for most of the network currently look reasonably healthy, the exceptionally dry spring is a reminder of the important role boaters play in helping to make the water that’s available last.  When you’re out cruising you can make the best use of the water available by sharing locks where possible and ensuring Leeds & Liverpool Canal by Kellypaddles are fully closed once you’ve passed through – with a few exceptions that are signposted locally.  Please make sure gates are fully open as pushing them open with your boat can damage the gate lining and increase leakage.”

In the North West, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal depends on a regular supply of rainfall throughout the year to replenish its resources and the last three exceptionally dry months have depleted water levels.  The Leeds & Liverpool, and Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals, have also been affected by maintenance and repair works at key reservoirs and, despite upgrades over the winter and arrangements with the Environment Agency, all three canals are delaying their post-lockdown reopening until Monday 6 July to preserve water.

Jon continues: “Our operational and water management teams are working hard to conserve enough water now to ensure the boats can move during the peak holiday months of July and August.  On 6 July, the Leeds & Liverpool, Peak Forest, and Macclesfield canals will be fully open to navigation but with defined opening times, which can be found in our stoppage notices.  I’d like to thank boaters and hire boat operators in the area for their understanding and all boat owners for their ongoing help to look after our water resources.”

For more information on the restrictions visit the stoppages section of our website.


Anderton Boat Lift to open 6 July

Anderton Boat LiftWe are pleased to announce that we are opening the lift on Monday 6 July. Online booking (only) will be available from next Friday, 26 June. We would like to take this opportunity to thank boaters for their patience during this time.

Our work behind the scenes continues and we can’t wait to welcome our local community, boaters, day visitors and volunteers back as soon as possible.


Get involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering (when coronavirus permits),  donating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded litter. In whatever form your volunteering takes place we’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you. Your support helps make life better by water.

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:

  • Each winter, when fewer boats are cruising our waterways, you’ll have noticed that we carry out essential repairs and maintenance. In many cases we need to close the waterway completely, and sometimes even the towpath. Before we begin this winter works programme we like to consult the people – you – who use our waterways to make sure these stoppages cause as little disruption as possible. Please check out our proposed plan and let us know any comments you have. Also, please bear in mind that the impact of coronavirus on our planned construction and repair works for spring 2020 will have a knock-on effect throughout the rest of the year and over next winter. All of our work will have to be re-prioritised once we know when we can return to a normal level of operation. Please remember that any planned stoppages are subject to change depending on the latest advice from the government. We will update the draft notices to reflect any such changes.


Test your canal knowledge and take a virtual cruise

We are building a vast library of canal-related films, images, interactive content and stories for you to enjoy from the comfort of your own sofa.

Of course, while some might opt for the palliative effects of a virtual cruise on the Grand Union, others might want a bit more of a challenge – perhaps along the lines of this canal-related crossword. Either way, there’s likely to be something to pique your interest!


Bits & Bobs

  • Earlier this year I wrote about a neat location tool called what3words. Read the full article for more detail but, in brief, every 3m square in the world has a unique three word address that will never change. By using the free app on your phone you can then relay your position to anyone – us, the emergency services, your friends – just by using three words. Earlier this week a boater got in touch to express his praise for the system after he needed to use it when ringing the emergency services. He said it worked seamlessly and within seconds they knew exactly where he was. As you may imagine, this boater is urging the rest of the boating community to download and use the app!
  • There’s a reason so many people love boating. Even for those living aboard, up until a few weeks ago, they would have only moved to access essential services. Now as more of you return to your boats why not take a few minutes to remind yourself of what it takes to be a considerate boater?

Last date edited: 19 June 2020

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The boaters' update

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