Boaters' Update

Welcome to the latest edition of Boaters' Update. You'll find news of a major restoration project, an article from the head of boating and you won't believe the stuff we've been pulling out of canals and rivers!

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Welcome to the latest edition of Boaters’ Update. I don’t know about you but spring always gives me a feeling of renewal and rejuvenation. Both official spring starting dates have passed and with the clocks going forward this Sunday all we need now is for the weather to catch up.

It’s the renewal and rejuvenation theme I wanted to highlight though and not have a whinge about elusive warm weather. Since the start of the year you’ll have read quite a few reports about the impact, and ongoing repairs, due to the Boxing Day floods. Of course, our hand was forced with this particular tranche of rejuvenation. 

Thankfully this isn’t usually the case. Colleagues from a variety of departments are always on the lookout for opportunities, some small, some big, to bring some spring-like renewal to one piece of the waterways or another. Our first article, about Carpenters Road Lock, couldn’t better reflect this.

Elsewhere in this edition you’ll find:

If there’s something you’d like to share with the boating community via this update then please drop me a line.

Happy boating,


Last week, this week

Since the last edition you may have heard, or seen, that:

  • 11 Mar – We asked for volunteers to join the committee to help organise this year’s Leigh Canal Festival, following the huge success of the inaugural event last September.
  • 17 Mar – Another renewal-themed announcement was made - a 150-year-old swing foot bridge over Vale Royal Locks on the River Weaver in Cheshire is to get a new lease of life.
  • 18 Mar – Students in Staffordshire spent a week working on our canals as part of a project aimed at bringing Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) to life.
  • 21 Mar – The long term plan to restore the Montgomery Canal has been boosted by the use of a ‘community payback’ scheme to help with improving towpath surfaces and hedgerows on a half mile stretch between Pant Bridge and Penny Garreg Lane in Shropshire.

Before the next edition is published you might like to know that:

  • 25 to 28 Mar – Enjoy the long weekend at The Easter Boat Gathering & Sea Shanty Festival at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port. A significant event in the boating calendar which marks the start of the summer cruising season where many boats will set off to other parts of the canal network following the festival.
  • 25 – 28 Mar - The Chesterfield Canal Trust will be running special sailings for Easter at Retford, Worksop, Hollingwood and Chesterfield.
  • 27 & 28 Mar – Easter will be celebrated at Stourport Basins this weekend with free children’s activities, heritage boats and Barney the Boat Horse.
  • 3 Apr – If you’ve not made it to an Open Day yet then this is your last chance for a few months as the last ‘winter’ one happens at Lock 63 on the Trent & Mersey – you’ll get a tour of the drained lock and hear, from our experts, what we’re up to.

Of course, there are plenty of other activities around the network so please visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.


£1.75million rejuvenation for Carpenters Road Lock

As mentioned in the introduction, later this year Carpenters Road Lock, in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will be transformed after years of planning. Florence Salberter, heritage advisor for London, picks up the story:

“In February 2016 the Trust announced that it was successful in obtaining £680,000 of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is along with £100,000 from the London Legacy Development Corporation and £4,500 from the Inland Waterways Association to restore Carpenters Road Lock. The £1.75 million pound project is the outcome of almost ten years of work.

“The announcement that London would be hosting the 2012 Olympic marked the beginning of a vast project of restoration of the Bow Back Rivers and for me, that meant the potential to see two structures in particular being celebrated. The so-called ‘lattice bridge’ (which you can see in this editions main image) that stands at the north entrance to City Mill River. Although threatened with demolition at once stage, it was eventually refurbished and is now reopened to the public.

Carpenters Road Lock“Then, there is Carpenters Road Lock, a unique lock on our network. It was built in the 1930s by Ransomes & Rapier of Ipswich with two rising radial gates designed to deal with flood waters and a reversible head of water. A radial gate can be found at Ditchford lock on the River Nene in Northamptonshire but this other lock only bears one such gate of a later date.

“Although Carpenters Road Lock isn’t listed we recognised its heritage importance and its potential to become a visitor destination in its own right. This led to a bridge design competition that resulted in the construction of the amazing zig-zag bridge clad in a reflective cladding material. It was accompanied by the creation of a landscaped area set like an amphitheatre around the lock. The only piece missing was the lock, the old gantries and gates having been dismantled.

“Over the last few years we have been carrying out research, working out the design and securing match funding and now, with the £680,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund the restoration of Carpenters Road Lock can finally be completed. The new steel gates will be manufactured in Sheffield, weighing approximately 8 tonnes each. The design will replicate, as far as practical, the original design with similar fenders and lifting mechanism. The new gantries will be built of weathering steel with the salvaged weights visible behind a glass door.

“Construction will take place in the second half of 2016 for an opening early 2017. We will host a big celebratory festival in the spring of 2017 - I sincerely hope many of you will come and join us celebrating the reopening of the Bow Back Rivers to navigation, and the restoration of the amazing engineering structure that is Carpenters Road Lock.”

Thanks Florence. Of course, we’ll make sure you’re given plenty of notice when the date for the opening celebrations is finalised! ………………………………………………..................................................................................................

New at Crick 2016! Boat Handling Taster Sessions

Most of you who read Boaters’ Update are hardcore boaters – you own your boat and cruise regularly. It’s likely that you’ll have had friends who visited and instantly fell in love with being on a boat.

Despite the instant attraction, taking up boating can be a bit daunting for complete novices. To help get over those first-time nerves the new Boat Handling Taster Sessions at Crick Boat Show 2016, taking place 28 – 30 May, are an ideal way to build confidence and get a feel for what’s involved.

The sessions are also useful for anyone of you who are returning to boating and may want to refresh your skills. Hour-long sessions will be taking place throughout the weekend, expertly led by The Narrowboat Skills Centre, Willow Wren Training and Watercraft.

Crick Boat ShowEach boat trainer will talk visitors through the basics of casting off, mooring up, boat etiquette, rope handling, breaking down boat jargon as well as the dreaded lock navigation! There’ll be an opportunity to take the tiller and steer the boat under the supervision of an experienced boater.

The training boats can accommodate up to four people at once, so you, your partner or family (children must be aged 12 and over) can experience it all at the same time.

Places are limited, so advance booking is recommended. Tickets are priced at £12 per person* and include a free goody bag containing the Boater’s Handbook DVD, Readymade Waterways maps, Crick Boating Times newspaper, a stacker cup, and a ‘Getting Afloat’ guide full of invaluable information.

Visit the website to book a session, or you can book a place by calling 01283 742970.

If you, or your friends, are interested in owning your first narrowboat you’ll also can benefit from information and expertise at a range of seminars at the show. Talks taking place across the long weekend include ‘So you want to live on a boat?’, ‘What to look for when buying a used boat’, ‘Buying and specifying a new boat’ and ‘General boat maintenance’.

A Q&A session will take place at the end of every talk, and there is a new drop-in session with a selection of boating experts, for those visitors who seek one-to-one advice. Our boating team will be on hand to offer advice on licensing and moorings and there will be a number of insurance and boat finance exhibitors available to speak to visitors.

*Please note that the boat handling session price does not include entry to the Show.


Mike’s monthly column

Mike GrimesAs regular readers will know Mike Grimes, head of boating, writes a monthly column about a range of subjects. This month, Mike’s taken the opportunity to talk about water and what you can do to help keep the canals topped up.

‘We all know that we had far too much water, from the sky, over the festive period in some parts of the country. Optimistically though, I’m hoping that the summer will be as good as the winter was bad. Of course, I don’t want it quite so ‘good’ as 40 years ago. Pleasantly warm will do.

‘With what’s considered the main boating season kicking off, at Easter, this weekend, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to gently remind you of the principles of THRIFT:

  • Two in a Lock? - Share locks
  • Help keep it in – Make sure gates and paddles are shut
  • Report any leaks – tell us
  • Invite oncoming boats through – Don’t empty or fill locks if someone else can make use of the water
  • Find another favourite – Explore less busy parts of the network
  • Think ahead – Plan cruises to minimise use of locks

‘There aren’t any concerns about water levels at the moment – stay up to date with our monthly Reservoir Watch – but we do keep a close on eye on things as it starts to warm up. One of the things, though, that we do need help with is getting a better idea of the boat:lockage ratio.

‘We have monitoring systems that tell us when a lock has been filled and emptied but it gives no indication of how many boats went through. With this in mind the water management team are after volunteers to gongoozle for us at a number of locks around the country. If this is something you think you could spare some time doing, please drop us a line for more information.

‘Oh, and while I have you, if you’ve received an invitation to take part in the Boat Owners’ Views survey (around a third of you will have) then please do take the time to let us know your views – they really do matter. The closing date is 31 March. And, for those who’ve had a winter mooring in the last couple of years, you may have received another, much shorter, survey – we’d love your views on this too by 15 April.’

‘Happy Easter!’


Duck beneath

The rather cryptic title encapsulates our two most prominent spring campaigns – both of which you might be interested in as a boater.

We’ll start with ‘duck’. And, before explaining a little more about it, I have share the headline that accompanies – ‘Waterways becoming ‘no dough’ area for ducks’ – it certainly made me laugh!

Duck food pouchAs you may have guessed, we’re following on from last year’s campaign which called on visitors to leave the bread at home and instead swap to healthier treats such as seeds, lettuce and peas which are more like a duck’s natural diet.

It’s been a big success. Peter Birch, national environment manager, commented: ‘It really captured the public’s imagination, and if it leads to less food, fewer rats and healthier ducks that’s got to be a good thing for everyone who loves our waterways.’

Last week we released data which shows a 20% drop in the number of people feeding ducks bread – over 80,000 fewer loaves. And the good news continues, as the number of people feeding ducks healthier snacks such as seeds, fruit and vegetables has doubled. For lots more information and to get your free ‘Quack Snacks’ and booklet visit the dedicated section of the website.

The ‘beneath’ part of the title comes from the campaign to raise awareness about the impact of dumping stuff into canals and rivers i.e. ‘What lurks beneath?’

As a boater you’ll have probably seen some of this rubbish being pulled out by us at one location or another. Over the winter, as part of the £45million restoration and repair programme, we carried out a national survey to record what we found. The scale, and breadth, of what ends up beneath the surface is truly astounding:

  • A Mercedes A class car
  • Open safes
  • A bag of bullets

Over the past five years it’s not been any better, we’ve hauled out:

  • An unexploded World War 2 hand grenade
  • A 16ft dead python
  • Antique poison bottles
  • A Volkswagen Camper Van
  • A pizza delivery bike complete with a soggy pizza

While the finds can be amusing the costs aren’t. It costs about £1 million each year to clear the dumped rubbish which we, and I’m betting you, would rather be spent on maintaining canals and rivers.

The eclectic range of ‘finds’ above are just a tiny tip of a very big iceberg in terms of volume of rubbish. The survey results found that a typical ‘tennis court sized’ lock contains the following:

  • 1 x bicycle
  • 1 x shopping trolley
  • 1 x traffic cone
  • 67 x glass bottles
  • 4 x tyres
  • 150 x plastic bags
  • 23 x cans
  • 3 x windlasses

We’re hoping that, through the campaign, the increased awareness of the damage and costs that result from dumping junk into the canal will help reduce this unacceptable behaviour. Of course, if you’re interested in lending a hand you might like to join our Towpath Taskforce.


Bits and Bobs

  • Please make sure you check the stoppage section of the website before setting off on your cruise. And with spring weather surely just round the corner, you might also want to check the weather

Happy boating over the long Easter weekend!


Last date edited: 25 March 2016

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The boaters' update

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