Boaters' Update 20 May 2022

Welcome to the latest edition where you'll be able to find out what recent work we've been doing and how you can give us your views on our plans for next winter. After that read about alien invaders on the waterways and ten reasons you might want to visit Crick Boat Show in a fortnight's time. The regular roundup of news, this weekend's stoppages and other boating information can also be found.

A boater passing through a canal lock in Sowerby Bridge A boater and canal lock in Sowerby Bridge

Welcome to the latest edition of Boaters’ Update. I hope you’ve been able to get out on the water over the last fortnight and benefitted from the hard work our teams of volunteers and colleagues have been putting in around the network – the first article touches on a couple of examples and shares details of our plans for next winter and how you can give us your views on them.

You’ll also find out how you can help stop the spread of invasive non-native species as well as ten reasons to visit the Crick Boat Show in a fortnight’s time.

This weekend’s stoppages, the latest news and the regular bits and bobs section – containing news of our Canalathon challenge, a single-handed boating question and a reminder about boat fire safety (ahead of the similarly named week) – are also included.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 6 May – We launched two projects that will enhance Gloucester - bringing greenery to, and removing rubbish from, the water around the historic Docks. This involves planting floating reed beds and installing a Seabin (yes you read that right!) which has already gobbled up over 80kg of plastic and other detritus.
  • 13 May – For the first time in nearly 180 years the UK’s longest river has been unlocked for the epic spawning migration of an endangered fish, the twaite shad. An ambitious conservation project has unlocked the length of the Severn, reconnecting the ancient spawning grounds of this once-prolific fish.
  • 13 May – The international Blue Flag award has been given to the Royal Albert Dock and Salthouse Dock after our marinas in Liverpool received top marks for high standards of environmental information, management, safety, and boating services.

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Work continues on the cut

In the last edition you read about some of the major projects, costing around £50 million, we’ve completed over the last year. That’s just the tip of the iceberg: not all the work that needs to be done is as noticeable as a complete lock gate replacement or a bridge rebuild.

Trent & Mersey Lock 60 quadrantMany of the thousands of smaller jobs we do make just as big a difference to the usability and enjoyment of the waterways.

A good example is on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Lock 60 where work was recently completed on the lock quadrant. It had seen better days so, to help boaters operate the lock more easily, the local construction team got to work levelling the site, re-laying the bricks and tidying up the periphery. In this, and the many other similar Leeds & Liverpool Canal wash walljobs we do, we try to use as many of the original bricks as possible. 

Elsewhere, as in this recent example on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal (right), we invest a lot of time and money repairing wash walls to help conserve water. This particular project was planned for later in the year but we took the opportunity to tackle it early due to the unscheduled availability of a crane boat. When repairing wash walls with stonework, like this section, we often temporarily lift the stones to complete the repair. Interestingly, we came across a redundant clay pipe that was used by a now long-gone cotton mill. 

And if you’ve been out on the cut recently it’s probable that you’ll have seen lots of other ‘smaller’ jobs underway too. We’ve been busy with everything from piling works on the Peak Forest to the installation of ladders in locks to improve boater safety on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire and elsewhere! Unlike the metaphorical painting of the Forth Bridge, it genuinely is a never-ending roll call of work that needs to be done to keep the network navigable.

Nether Lock stoppageWe always try to keep the bigger, and most disruptive, jobs until the quieter winter months. Since the last edition we’ve published our first draft proposals of what we’d like to do next winter and we’d love to hear what you think. First though, here are the headlines:

There are currently 178 stoppages planned (47 of which are for gate replacements) across 49 navigations:

  • East Midlands – 20 Stoppages
  • London & South East – 23 Stoppages
  • North West – 34 Stoppages
  • Wales & South West – 24 Stoppages
  • West Midlands – 48 Stoppages
  • Yorkshire & North East – 29 Stoppages

The details of each stoppage can be found on our website. If you are interested in the work we plan to do on a particular canal or river then follow the link above and filter the results by navigation.

This first phase of consultation runs until 3 June and, after that, the timetable for finalising the plan is as follows:

  • 4 July – revised notices published for public to comment on
  • 29 July – comments close on second phase
  • 15 August – final winter maintenance programme published

When viewing the list of stoppages you’ll see a big blue ‘Read more’ button below each one. By clicking on it, you can download an individual stoppage notice. At the bottom of the notice is an online form where you can post your comments.

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Battling alien invaders

This week (16 – 22 May) marks Invasive Species Week. It’s an annual, and national, event to raise awareness of the impact of invasive non-native species and the simple things that we can all do to prevent their spread. Did you know that over 2,000 plants and animals have been introduced to the UK from all over the world? These are known as non-native species. Most are harmless, indeed many familiar countryside sights (wheat, barley, sheep etc.) are not native, but around 10-15% spread and have a harmful impact, becoming invasive.

From a global perspective, invasive non-native species are one of the top five drivers of biodiversity loss. In the UK they threaten the survival of native wildlife, damage our natural ecosystems, cost the economy over £1.7 billion a year, and can even harm our health and detract from the activities we enjoy.

On the waterways we suffer severely with things you can see, like giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam and floating pennywort.  But there are many species you may not have noticed or cannot easily see as they lurk under the water. Things like zebra mussels will attach to hard surfaces and can block pipes while killer/demon shrimp are such voracious hunters they will eat most of the other invertebrates and fish eggs in the water and change the entire ecosystem.

Some of the biggest issues for boats are the invasive plants. Japanese knotweed can grow from a piece the size of your thumbnail. We have to spend time and money treating it so it does not become a problem for boaters, our operations or neighbours. Floating pennywort is another villain that can grow at 20cm a day and can easily cover a waterbody if left untended. As it grows so quickly it costs lots of money to manage it, sometimes over £1,000 a day.

Zebra mussels in line on rockAll our waterway users can take simple measures to prevent the spread of invasive non-native species. The biggest risks come from tools, equipment and craft being taken from one waterbody to another. But even limiting the spread of an invasive non-native species within a waterway can lessen the burden they cause. There are actions that all boaters can take to limit their spread, the key thing is to follow Check, Clean, Dry principles:

  • Read the Green Blue guide to inland boating
  • Ensure that all materials and equipment that come into contact with the water, including clothing, are checked for any bits of plant, animals or mud and it is all removed; then ensure it is cleaned, ideally with hot water, but a run under a tap or with a container of fresh water will dislodge things you cannot see. The key step is to ensure everything is dried, ideally in the sun for a couple of days. Some species can live in damp conditions for days or a week; Doing this before starting a long journey, or cruising on to a new waterway, and then repeating regularly while on the journey is very important.
  • It is not possible to Check, Clean, Dry boats that are in the water but for things like cruiser style boats that are taken out on trailers it is very important to do the Check, Clean, Dry process every time they are removed. Do not forget the trailer itself as plants can easily become lodged in one of the many crevices.
  • It is ideal to keep the maintenance of your boat regular and this can help prevent the spread of invasive non-native species as well. When it is taken out of the water ask the boat yard/marina to ensure it is cleaned thoroughly before work is undertaken and remember to ask for the entire hull to be cleaned (even if it’s not being worked on).
  • One of the biggest risks for spreading invasive non-native species is boats being taken out of the water and transported on land for long distances. If you are buying a boat, or moving one, it must be Checked, Cleaned and ideally allowed to Dry, before going into the new waterbody. A good jet wash when it is taken out of the water is ideal.

There are also practical measures you can do to try to limit the spread of invasive non-native species:

  • If you can, steer clear of cruising through areas of weed. Sometimes this is unavoidable, so ensure that bits caught on the boat are removed and disposed of in a bin. Do not put it back in the waterbody. This also applies for weed hatches and props.
  • Do not disturb areas of invasive plants on land: knocking Himalayan balsam for example can cause the seeds to spread or get into the mud and then onto boots.
  • If you do activities like fishing, paddling or sailing follow good practice guides from the Angling Trust, British Canoeing and the RYA.
  • We run many volunteer events aimed at reducing the financial burden of species. Volunteers are key to helping us manage these trouble species so look out for events in your local area and come down and help.

Check out the video below in which Trust ecologist, Tom King, talks about invasive species and, along with a helpful boater, explains how boaters can help prevent the spread of these unwanted, and damaging, critters.

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Crick Boat Show checklist – 10 things to do

With only a week left to get your advance tickets (and a discount), and under two until the show starts on 2 June, you might be wondering how you’ll fill your time at Crick Boat Show. Well, here’s a starter for 10…

  1. Enjoy a boat trip – let someone else take the tiller as visitors to Crick can take a free boat trip along the Grand Union Canal aboard canal boats run by volunteers from the London Narrowboat Project (LNBP) Community Boating.  The half-hour trips run every 10 minutes from 10.10am each day of the show. Visitors can book their free trip at the Trip Boats Marquee on the Quayside when they arrive at the show.
  2. Listen to live music – 15 live bands will be performing throughout the Show in the Wheatsheaf Bar Marquee, with David Bowie tribute band ‘Absolute Bowie’ headlining on the Friday evening (3 June), and Amy Winehouse tribute act ‘Amy – A Tribute’ performing on the Saturday night (4 June).  Evening entertainment, which is included in the price of the same day ticket to the show, runs from 7.30pm to 11.30pm on Thursday 2, Friday 3 June and Saturday 4 June.
  3. Climb aboard the latest luxury boats – been dreaming about what you want your next boat to be like? Look no further with around 30 boats on display at Crick, showcasing all the latest lifestyle extras, space-saving ideas and technological developments - from king-sized beds, baths and drinks fridges, to LED lighting, underfloor heating and solar panels or…
  4. Check out some second hand boats – a range of used narrowboats will be on display from some of the leading second-hand brokerage companies, catering for a wide range of tastes and budgets.
  5. Get some retail therapy - with over 250 exhibitors from across the canal world, as well as dozens of new boats to look round, you’ll be able to find the very latest in boating products and services, as well as crafts, gifts, clothing, jewellery and hats.
  6. Listen to some waterway stories – Women on the Water will be performing pop up storytelling and songs about canal history at various locations across the show.  Their pop ups won’t be scheduled, but they will start each day’s live entertainment in the Wheatsheaf Bar Marquee, at 12.30pm on Friday (3 June) and Saturday (4 June), and 12 noon on the Sunday (5 June).
  7. Enjoy exclusive access on Trade & Preview Day – visitors to the show’s Trade & Preview Day on Thursday 2 June, sponsored by Lee Sanitation, can book a boat tour online in advance.  Tickets are priced at £25 each and are only available in advance. Availability is limited to 1,000 tickets. Trade & Preview Day visitors will receive a gift bag, hot drink and access to the VIP marquee. And if you visit our Canal & River Trust marquee you’ll be able to take part in a Q&A session, at 2pm, with our chief executive, Richard Parry.
  8. Museums & Attractions stand at Crick boat showGet expert advice on boating - the Show’s free boat ownership seminar programme features advice from Waterways World’s Technical Editor Mark Langley for both new and experienced boaters.  Seminars include advice on buying a new or second hand boat, living afloat, boat maintenance and how boaters can reduce their impact on the environment.  And new for 2022, a series of masterclasses will be presented by industry experts on a range of topics, including electric and hybrid propulsion, mobile broadband, boat painting and new narrowboat design.
  9. Vote for your favourite boat - visitors to the show can vote for their favourite boat and the result will be announced mid-afternoon on Sunday 5 June. Sponsored by Haven-Knox Johnston, there are two categories to vote for: Favourite Narrowboat; and Favourite Widebeam.  Everyone who votes is entered into a prize draw to win a £100 Marks & Spencer voucher and Waterways World subscription. Aside from bragging rights, the winning exhibitors receives a trophy and a bottle of champagne.
  10. Share your love of the waterways with us – as part of our tenth anniversary celebrations, we are asking people to share their love of boating by taking a friend or family member who’s not been boating before, out on the water. ‘Wish you were here’ postcards will be given out in the Canal & River Trust marquee, asking boaters to share their photos and messages about what they and their friends and families enjoy about spending time afloat.

Of course, in among all of that we hope that you’ll also stop by our marquee just for a chat – we’re always keen to hear about your recent boating experiences and there’ll be colleagues on hand from a range of teams who’ll be able to answer any questions you have. We hope to see you there!

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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:

When 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 alert 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 ______________________________________________________________________________________________

Bits & bobs

  • As a boater you most likely spend more time by a canal or river than most. While this doesn’t give you a head start in our Canalathon it certainly can’t hinder! This July, we’re asking everyone to challenge themselves to run or walk 26.2 miles along their local canal (in bite sized chunks or in one go) whilst raising vital funds to help us protect and care for our 2,000 miles of navigations. Regardless of whether you choose to take part yourself, we’d really appreciate it if you could spread the word as far and wide as you can!
  • From 30 May to 5 June it’s Boat Fire Safety Week. Thankfully fires are a rare occurrence on our waterways, hopefully because boaters take all the right precautions. To refresh your fire safety knowledge and get some handy tips, visit the Boat Safety Scheme website as well as Cheshire Fire & Rescue.
  • A boater has been in touch since the last edition with a question that I’m hoping you might be able to answer (or at least have an opinion on). The boater in question is, for the first time, boating single-handedly this year and wanted to know if there was a widely accepted, or even formally ratified, hand signal that conveyed as much to other boaters? Answers on a (digital) postcard please! If you have a boating related question that you’d like to put to the readership then do please drop me a line.
  • And finally, if you do your boating in the East Midlands then why not join us online for a Spring Waterway User Forum? Experienced colleagues from the teams in the region will share some of the recent projects and improvements we are delivering this year. We will present our future plans, followed by the opportunity for you to ask questions and contribute your ideas. The virtual online event will take place in the evening from 5:30pm until 7:30pm on Tuesday 7 June. Book your place now!

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Happy boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 20 May 2022

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The boaters' update

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