Boaters' Update 2 November 2018
Welcome to the latest edition - it's a big 'un! You can find out what we've been recently fixing (and what plans we have for the winter programme of repairs and restoration), how one piece of legislation 50 years ago saved our waterway network and why we think there should be more freight on the inland waterway network. As ever, there's the usual roundup of boating news, this weekend's stoppages and upcoming events.
I have to start this edition with a big thanks to those of you who have been in touch after reading the ‘Boating Buddies’ article in the last edition. It’s been great to welcome some extra blood to a scheme that gives us a better understanding of your boating needs.
Any of my colleagues who’ve been out with a boating buddy in the last week or so would have noticed a distinctly wintery feel down on the cut. This chilly interruption remindsreminds us that it’s that time of year again – our massive winter repair works are now underway. You can read more about this below along with how you can come andand see what we’re doing to improve your boating experience.
Along with that you can find out the story behind the piece of legislation, arguably the most pivotal for the modern day canal network, that just celebrated its 50th birthday. And, after a recently co-hosted conference, why we think there should be more freight on inland waterways. You’ll also find a new feature ‘What we’ve been up to’, highlighting some of the things we’ve been repairing around the waterways. The regular roundup of other boating news, stoppages and events are, as ever, there for you too. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see in a future edition then please drop me a line.
In this edition:
- News round-up and the fortnight ahead
- Winter stoppages: getting some big (and little) things done
- 1968, the legal rebirth of the canal network
- More freight on inland waterways
- Get involved
- What we’ve been up to
- Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend
- Bits and bobs
Over the last couple of weeks you may have heard, or seen, that:
- 16 Oct – We needed the help of a helicopter to carry out important repairs to the 200-year-old March Haigh Reservoir, near Marsden in Huddersfield.
- 22 Oct – Boaters, walkers and cyclists in Stoke-on-Trent will be safer at night this autumn, thanks to an innovative project to install solar lighting along popular stretches of the Trent & Mersey and Caldon canals.
- 24 Oct – Volunteer lock keepers are celebrating a record year on the Oxford Canal after they helped their 10,000th boater through Hillmorton Locks.
- 29 Oct – Also on the Oxford Canal, two of our work boats have been given a new lease of life thanks to the hard work of local volunteers.
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.
- 3 Nov to 2 Dec – This winter the Barge Fiodra will be transformed into a floating Art Gallery. Her tour starts in Little Venice with “Artists of the Cut” - a show focussing on images of the waterways with many by artists who also live on the canals.
- 4 Nov – Do you have curious kids or inquisitive in-laws? Why not whet their thirst for knowledge at the Fradley Junction Engineers Day? They’ll be able to learn about local feats of canal engineering as we host an event showing how waterways were designed and built 200 years ago.
- 10 Nov – Come along tovisit us on our first winter open day of 2018 at Old Ford Lock along the Regent's Canal in London where you’ll see what it takes to repair a huge set of lock gates.
- 10 Nov – Out west, author and storyteller Fiona Eadie will be telling stories from her new book 'Tales from the Towpath: stories and histories of the Cotswold canals' aboard the historic boat Sabrina moored in the glorious Gloucester Docks.
- 10 & 11 Nov – The Roving Canal Traders Association’s colourful floating market returns once more to Stoke Bruene. With one eye on the seemingly fast-approaching Christmas, why not bring the family along and see what unique items you'll find amongst the traders?
If you’ve been near or on the water over the last couple of weeks you may have seen us manoeuvring, like an industrial ballet, some big bits of kit in to place in readiness for our massive, five-month, winter repair works.
For those that don’t know this is where, while fewer of you are out cruising around, we take the opportunity to fix and improve some of the more substantial things that couldcould inconvenience boaters if we did it in the height of the cruising season.
Every point of the compass is covered as we’ll be working at more than 180 different sites between now and March 2019. The types of works range from re-lining and replacing lock gates – hand-made in our specialist workshops at Bradley in the West Midlands and Stanley Ferry in Yorkshire - to repairing canal walls and other structures, and maintenance works at iconic sites like Anderton Boat Lift. All of them can be found on an interactive map but to give a flavour of what’s happening in your region I’ve picked out some below:
- Lock 19 Greenwood, Ravensthorpe, Calder & Hebble Navigation – rebuilding of the wash wall on the lock landing.
- Lock 2 Bottom Lock, Poolstock, Leigh Branch. Leeds & Liverpool Canal – lock gate repairs.
- Hazelford Lock, near Bleasby, River Trent – installation of new control system, operator pedestal, desk, sluice, and gate machine refurbishment.
- Lock 20, Aldersley, Wolverhampton, Old Main Line – replace bottom gates, repair brickwork, coping stones, quadrants (including kickers) and improve lock ladders.
- Cropredy Mill Bridge 154, Oxford Canal – remove existing gunnite and re-point brickwork.
As part of this work, we are organising nine free public open days across the country and want the communities who use them (including boaters!), or live and work alongside the sites, to come and learn about their heritage and the work to care for them, and how canals and rivers can make a difference to people’s lives. Research proves that being by a canal or river makes people happier and healthier, and people feel less stressed when they visit their local waterway but, as a boater, you may already acknowledge that.
If you come along to one of our open days you can expect to find a range of activities to try out such as fishing and canoeing. Additionally, our teams of skilled and passionate craftspeople and other experts, from civil engineers to heritage advisors and environmental scientists, and our team of committed volunteers, will be on hand to explain about the varied work we do, why the preservation of this vital part of the country’s history is so important, and how the waterways are being re-purposed to benefit people today.
When cruising along any part of the 2,000 miles of waterways that we care for, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that it had always been thus. Chug along a particularly bucolic stretch and the sense of timelessness is heightened.
Sadly it hasn’t always been so. Relatively soon after canal-mania, which ended soon after the turn of the 19th Century, railway-mania, in the 1840s, really upped its challenge for the title of ‘Commercial Transport of Choice’. The next century would see a continual decline in commercial traffic as freight shifted to the rail, and then road, networks.
Then, in the years before the Second World War, one particular man fell in love with the waterways. LTC Rolt. His passion led to the book ‘Narrow Boat’ which in turn brought him to the attention of two people with whom he would go on to form the Inland Waterways Association in 1946.
It turned out to be a timely decision as the waterways (along with other means of transport) were nationalised in 1948. This was at a time when it was suggested that most smaller canals should be closed. It couldn’t be done straight away due to a lack of legislation and this, in part, gave the IWA time to raise the profile of canals as a leisure amenity.
Although the first 20 years of the IWA resulted in changes in public opinion and a growth in leisure use of canals and some early restorations that were achieved, the Treasury, in 1967, saw the closure of publicly-owned canals as a way to save money.
Enter Barbara Castle, Transport Minister, who at the time was working on a wide-ranging Transport Act. It was quite a contentious piece of legislation; continuing a trial of a 70mph speed limit on motorways, making seat belts mandatory in all new cars and introducing the breathalyser amongst other changes.
The most important partfor those of us with a special love for our canals and rivers was that, via the Transport Act, Barbara Castle established a leisure future for the canal network and effectively stopped closures. Talking about this particular aspect she told the Commons that there was: ““new hope for those who love and use our canals, whether for cruising, angling or just walking on the towpath, or who want to see stretches of canal in some of our unlovely built up areas, developed as centres of beauty or fun.”
Gaining Royal assent just over 50 years ago on 25 October 1968 the Act came into force at the start of the following year. Without it the future of the canal network was bleak and, arguably, terminal so its impact can’t be underestimated.
With your help, whether through volunteering, donating or simply spreading the word that our canals and rivers need the support of the public, we’re hoping that over the next 50 years more and more people can benefit from Barbara Castle’s legacy and find out why life is better by water.
Editor’s note: Thanks go to former Trustee John Dodwell (who was actually much involved in Parliament when the Bill was being debated) for his contribution to the article.
Inland waterways throughout the UK and across Europe should be considered as an alternative to road and rail freight, an international conference held in Leeds earlier this month has recommended.
Freight by Water 2018, hosted by the TrustTrust and the Freight Transport Association (FTA), and funded by an EU Interreg North Sea Region grant as part of the Inland Waterways Transport Solutions project, highlighted how switching freight from road and rail to water can compete on cost and cut emissions.
The ‘unsung hero’ of transportation network modes, inland waterways across the world have proven to be effective and efficient channels for moving everything from beer to building materials. The conference highlighted several success stories and also discussed several opportunities for freight by water.
Among the potential projects is the Leeds Inland Port at Stourton, which could take at least 200,000 tonnes of freight traffic off the roads.
Steve Higham, service and outcomes development manager at the Trust, said: "With increasing pressure on our road and rail network, navigations such as the Aire & Calder from Leeds to Goole present fantastic opportunities for cutting the costs and environmental impact of transporting goods.
"This is why we have developed proposals for an inland port in Leeds, with funding and support from West Yorkshire Combined Authority. We believe this facility would pave the way for further development of the inland waterway freight sector across the UK and internationally."
Alex Veitch, FTA lead on water freight and coordinator of Freight by Water, added: "There’s never been a better time for businesses to explore waterways as a means of freight transport. Waterways provide businesses with the perfect opportunity to reduce costs and environmental impact and should be an integral part of any effective multi-modal logistics strategy. However, further investment in infrastructure is desperately needed for it to reach its full potential."
This winter, and using funding secured from the EU Interreg North Sea Region programme, we’ll be undertaking engineering studies at Bullholme Lock on the Aire & Calder Navigation to assess the possibilities of increasing their size to accommodate Euro Class II container barges. A planning application will soon be submitted for the Stourton port site and a decision is expected early next year – you can expect to read more on this in Boaters’ Update in the new year.
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:
- Following on from last month’s constructive meeting in Birmingham with people who have an interest in making the waterways more accessible to those with disabilities, Matthew Symonds (boating policy and engagement manager) is heading to London next week on 7 November to get more views about disabled boaters’ experience of boating on our waterways. If you’ve got something to say on the subject, you’ll find him at the Pirate Castle in Camden between 3.30pm and 5.30pm. If you can’t make it but would like to give your views please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Many of you stop by our Facebook Boating page and, for those of you that have, you may have noticed that the main image is a bit, well, unseasonal! If you’ve captured some stunning wintery canalscapes - maybe you got one last winter? - please do send them in and maybe it’ll become the new main image on the Facebook Boating page!
- In recent years we’ve become aware of an increase in the number of people installing or considering installing composting toilets on boats. So, to try and establish a clearer picture of the number of boats with composting toilets and how the waste product is being disposed of, we’re carrying out a short survey. This information will help us provide better advice to boaters and help us ensure our policies and processes support increased demand for these facilities in our future plans – please do spare a little time to give us your views.
As the first article explains, we have a big winter programme of repair and restoration jobs that we do 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 fix things immediately.
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, and what will become a regular feature, is a brief summary of what the team did in September:
- 95 planned construction projects were completed, with a further 27 emergency jobs also completed
- There have been six stoppages completed – two replacing gates and four undertaking gate repairs
- Stoppage works at Bosley Flight on the Macclesfield Canal – brought forward because of drought
- New ramp at Lock 26E on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal
- Boarshaw Bridge parapet repairs on the Rochdale Canal
- Soulbury Pumping Station HLF Project repairing roof trusses and walls
- Grand Union Canal leak repairs
- Rushall Lock 3 and Wolverhampton Lock 10 summer stoppages in the West Midlands
- Stoppage works at Locks 81 and 85 on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal – brought forward because of drought
- Sprotborough Horse Bridge replacement on the SSYN
- Refurbishment of workboats
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 – just look at the article above! So, below, you’ll find a list of anything that’s happening that may seriously affect you if you’re planning on a cruise this weekend.
- Locks 30 and 31, Brickyard Double Lock, near Shireoaks, Chesterfield Canal
- Bridge 126, Luggy Bridge, Montgomery Canal
- Lock 11 Marple, Marple Flight, Peak Forest Canal
- Middlewood Locks, Manchester, Bury & Bolton Canal
- Stainton Aqueduct - Lancaster Canal
- Standthorne Lock to Wardle Lock, Middlewich Branch, Shropshire Union
- Bridge 46 Bevans Lane Bridge, Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal
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.
- We’ve recently noted that copies of sanitary station keys are being sold on eBay. Please don’t buy them! We, along with our 3rd party retailers who we supply with stock, are the only approved retailers of these keys. To buy slightly cheaper copies online is a false economy because they are of inferior quality and often they are copies of copies. We’re frequently told that they do not work at all or only for a short period of time and that they often break whilst in use meaning that we have to spend vital money in order to fix the lock which we, and I bet you, would rather we spent on maintaining the navigation!
Last date edited: 7 November 2018
About this blog
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.See more blogs from this author