Boaters' Update 3 June 2022

Welcome to the latest edition. Read on to find out about regal connections on the waterways, an update on recent work for boaters, mooring arrangements for the Commonwealth Games, this weekend's stoppages, a boaters' Q&A and why we'd like you to fill in a survey that may be landing in your inbox soon! A roundup of waterway news and useful information and reminders in the 'Bits & bobs' section!

Chris, museum volunteer Chris, museum volunteer

Welcome to the latest edition of Boaters’ Update. This weekend is rather special as we celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has supported the canals through a number of connections over the course of her reign and our first article explores how around 1 in 100 boats have a name with royal connections.  

The weekend is made doubly special by the return of Crick Boat Show to its pre-pandemic splendour. If you haven’t got any plans over the weekend, then explore the last edition’s article for ten reasons to come along and join us.

In this edition you’ll find updates on some of the latest work we’ve been doing to ready the waterways for the summer months. You can also find out about the mooring arrangements for another big event – the impending Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

There’s news of our first large scale customer satisfaction benchmarking survey that takes place in the coming weeks and which is supported by the Institute of Customer Service. If you receive an email from TLF Research rest assured it isn’t spam and please do respond with your thoughts, thanks.

We couldn’t let you head off into this edition without first recognising the fantastic, and massive, contribution our volunteers make. It’s Volunteers Week and we hope you’ll join us in saying a big thank you for the broad range of things they do to help us preserve and protect our wonderful waterway network. Thank you!

As ever, this weekend’s stoppages, the latest news and the regular bits and bobs section  are also included.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 23 May – Chief executive Richard Parry responded to a Times archive article about funding for canals, something that was also a live topic of conversation in Neville Chamberlain’s government 100 years ago in 1922.
  • 24 May – We reminded the waterway community that, on 6 June, in partnership with Sustrans, we are starting a £500,000 towpath improvement project on the Grand Union Canal in Leighton Buzzard that’ll bring benefits for all waterway visitors and inhabitants.

________________________________________________________________________________

Regal connections run deep

As Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Platinum Jubilee, we examined our boat licence database and found nearly 350 boats that have names related to the Queen (around one in every hundred).

HRH Queen Elizabeth II being shown narrowboats at the Boat Museum by Dr David Owen, 2 November 197966 boats are called Elizabeth or have Elizabeth in their names, while a further 130 contain derivatives such as Liz or Lizzie. There is one Platinum on the waterways, while sovereign titles are also popular, with 144 boat names containing Queen, Princess, or Royal.

Queen Elizabeth II has visited the waterways over the course of her reign, taking in the Leeds & Liverpool Canal as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour in 2012 and the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in 1979. She officially reopened the restored Kennet & Avon Canal in 1990, boarding the narrow boat ‘Rose of Hungerford’ at the canal’s famous Caen Hill Flight, where a lock is named in her honour. In Scotland in 2017, she opened the Queen Elizabeth II Canal, linking the Forth & Clyde Canal at the Kelpies with the Firth of Forth.  And, in London, the restored Bow Back Rivers are central to the 2012 Olympic Park named in her honour.

Richard Parry, chief executive, said: “Britain’s waterways have long had a close relationship with royalty: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has showed interest in the canals over the course of her reign and we are honoured to have His Royal Highness Prince Charles as our patron.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II being shown the cabin of narrowboat Monarch and Prince Phillip boarding Gifford at Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port, 2 November 1979“The canals are an important part of the nation’s heritage and we are committed to protecting and preserving them for the benefit of all.  Many boat owners are passionate about all aspects of boating, and perhaps the royal titles are a testament to how people see their boats! We wish her Majesty the best for her Platinum Jubilee and encourage boaters and those on the towpath to use the Jubilee celebratory weekend to experience the joys of our wonderful waterways.”

If you plan to be on your boat this weekend then you may like to know that the Secretary of State for Transport has requested that all vessels, of all sizes across the United Kingdom, participate in a salute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to mark the Platinum Jubilee on Saturday 4 June at 1200 (Midday). If you wish to salute the occasion then sound one long blast (between 6 and 30 seconds) on your boat’s whistle at 1200 exactly. London Vessel Traffic Service will broadcast a reminder 30 minutes before the event and again at 1 minute to Midday.

________________________________________________________________________________

Preparing the network for a summer of boating

With last winter, and its massive stoppage programme, fast becoming a distant memory, most minds have turned towards a long, hopefully warm, summer of boating. And while we do manage to get through a lot of big projects in the cold and harsh days of winter, the work doesn’t stop with the last frost.

Shropshire Union leak repairs close upIf you’ve been out on the water recently then you’ll most likely have seen us, colleagues and volunteers, doing some of the more common jobs that we need to do to get the waterways ready for a bumper summer of boating. Greasing winding mechanisms, painting balance beams and regularly inspecting all manner of things are, of course, part and parcel of what’s needed to keep the network open.

But, the sheer variety of things being done deserves some attention. We’ll begin with what was first reported as a small leak on the Shropshire Union Canal (above right). The leak developed and, after inspecting, the team drew up a plan of action. This required four days of manually digging a trench to exposure any holes in the bank. The trench was then backfilled and compacted with bentonite pellets (which have very low permeability) to prevent further leaks. 

Figure of three locks towpathFurther north, at the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder & Hebble Navigation, the towpath was washed out in a succession of storms at the end of February, when the River Calder overtopped into the navigation. This left an exposed electrical cable on the towpath and an emergency closure was needed. To repair, the team moved and compact 60 tonnes of stone into the scour hole to repair the towpath, enabling it to reopen in time for the Easter weekend. 

Foulridge moorings Leeds & LiverpoolThe examples above, one where we wanted to keep the water in and one where there was, at times, too much water, demonstrate that looking after a 250-year-old network of working heritage is a finely tuned balancing act. However, when a waterway is in the ‘Goldilock zone’ with just the right amount of water, there’s a good chance people will want to cruise on it and, afterwards, moor up. With this in mind we’ve been making good moorings around the country including at Foulridge on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and adding more at Perry Barr in Birmingham ahead of the Commonwealth Games (more on this below).

The range of other work is long and would take up more than an entire edition of Boaters’ Update! As you’d expect we’ve spent a fair amount of time replacing or repairing spindle posts, worn and damaged paddle rods, coping stones and other repairs around locks. And, although a major programme of offside vegetation work was done over winter, now that things are growing in earnest, you’ll also see us busy throughout the summer months with a particular focus on sightlines, lock landings, visitor moorings etc. 

Even if the sun is shining, our minds are never that far from winter. You may have seen in the last edition that we’d shared our plans for the 2022/23 winter stoppage programme with a view to getting your opinions. Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond, the first cycle of consultation is now closed. In a month’s time, once we’ve considered your feedback, we’ll publish a revised plan.

Finally, you’ll be pleased to hear that two major projects previously featured in Boaters’ Update have now been completed. Eshton Lock on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal needed painstaking repair work after a worrying depression in the towpath side quadrant and some deterioration to the masonry on the lock wall. The sheer scale of the work can be seen in the video below. Elsewhere, on the Caldon Canal, you may remember that we were working on the Ivy House Embankment. After complications delayed the project, from which we’ve learnt valuable lessons, we’ve now clawed back a month of that time thanks to weekend working, good weather, additional staff numbers on site, better than expected progress of the canal bed lining system and a rejig of the plan, so boaters can once again navigate.

________________________________________________________________________________

#GamesOn – showcasing and celebrating the region’s canals in the Commonwealth Games year

2022 is an exciting year for many reasons. Post pandemic restriction-free boating, a once-in-a-forever Jubilee celebration, a World Cup and, in our very own West Midlands, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Birmingham from aboveTo celebrate the last one in that list, and in a city with more miles of canals than Venice, there will be many events and activities taking place across our waterways as we showcase our canals to the world. These are though a combination of events led by us and those delivered as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival which will also be happening by, and on, our canals.

While games events and activities are spread across multiple venues, we know that the main focal point will undoubtedly be Birmingham City Centre, as visitors will enjoy central access to key venues, live sites and public transport across the region.

As such we are not looking to make major changes to the current moorings across the region, as we believe we have the capacity to accommodate visitors, but we will be making some minor amendments:

  • All visitor moorings within Birmingham City Centre will change to four days for the period of the games. This will cover the area in between Vincent Street Bridge, Farmers Bridge top lock, Including Cambrian Wharf, and Granville Street. These will be clearly identified and monitored during the period. This will come into force from Wednesday 25 July 08.00 until Tuesday 9 August 16.00.
  • Boating business moorings and their operations will remain unchanged.
  • Visiting boaters will not be allowed to stay within this zone for longer than four days. Moving from different spaces within the zone is not permitted.
  • We will encourage boaters to moor two abreast where it is reasonable to do so if the moorings are in high demand
  • The mooring durations outside of this zone will remain unchanged and we have installed 180m of new 14 day moorings just outside of Vincent Street Bridge which will be bookable. These will be available between Wednesday 25 July 08.00 – Tuesday 9 August 16.00.
  • The online booking system is being prepared and will be live shortly.
  • The existing mooring durations near to other key venues in Smethwick, Leamington, Coventry, Perry Barr, and Edgbaston will remain unchanged and no booking is required at these.
  • To help with demand we have also installed new moorings at Leamington, Perry Barr, Bristol Road and Engine Arm to accommodate visitors. No booking is required.
  • We want to make enjoying this event as accessible as possible and will advise which moorings are suitable for disabled boaters. You can contact the West Midlands customer service team for further information.

For business boaters who operate near venues, and particularly in Birmingham City Centre, moorings and normal business operations should not be affected.

If you are looking to moor up near to venues, or the city, and then travel on to locations – timetables for travel are available on Trainline and on Travel West Midlands. You can also use the Commonwealth Games route planner to help with your plans


There may be, at certain times in advance and during the Games, locations where restrictions may be in place. We expect these to be of a very short duration – but please look out on our website and social media channels for further information.

Ian Lane, Head of Strategic Projects for the West Midlands and our lead for the Commonwealth Games said: “The games give us a unique opportunity to really showcase what a wonderful green and blue asset we have on a global stage, raising our profile and generating support so we can invest back into our waterways and protect them for many years to come.

Birmingham canal“The spotlight of the world will be on the city and given the core location of the canal network to the venues, we will undoubtedly be seeing a huge rise in footfall along our towpaths as well as wider media coverage. As such, we are creating events that will bring even more colour and life to our waterways and enhance the whole Games experience. We are encouraging boaters to come and enjoy the games and we are really excited to be working with various organisations to create events, celebrating our canals, its rich history and the boating communities that use and enjoy it.
“We know that life is better by water and the positive impact our canals can make to people’s wellbeing. Our boating community has, over many decades, supported us in the transition of the waterways, from being a place of trade, the challenge in keeping them operating in the mid-twentieth century, to a place that we can all enjoy for generations, so it’s important we do all we can with these opportunities to keep the network fit for purpose and alive for many years to come.”

Further information, and to look at how we are showcasing our canals and the range of events and opportunities to get involved, can be found on our website.

.……………………………………………………….......................................................................

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 error in our system, please get in touch.

________________________________________________________________________________

Boaters’ Q&A

You may remember that, in the last edition, a boater asked whether there was a widely recognised hand signal that told other boaters that you were boating single-handedly.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in. You were all unanimous in saying ‘no’! Some said they hollered and stuck their hand in the air to communicate it while others mention it, to other boaters, at a lock. So, all-in-all, it appears that if you’re single-handing it you can use what you feel will get the point across most effectively!

On an entirely unconnected topic, you may remember that we recently featured a discussion about the merits of solar panels on boats. One reader wrote in reflecting on the subject. The boater pointed out that Ortomarine, a manufacturer of electric boats, publishes data on how much electricity the fleet of boats it has built has produced to date.

So far it’s 22.28MWh and, given that a typical domestic household in the UK consumes 3,100KWh of electricity per year, it’s easy to see why their popularity is booming!

If you have a question for the readership or would like to share a particular nugget then do please drop me a line.

________________________________________________________________________________

Survey to help us be better

Working in partnership with the Institute of Customer Service we are conducting our first customer satisfaction benchmarking survey. It’s important that as many people as possible take the time to give us their feedback so that we can use the information to improve our services for boaters.

In the coming weeks we will be asking customers who have recently been in touch with our national and regional customer support teams to take a few minutes to complete this survey and tell us about their experience.  This will help us understand what we are doing well and where we can improve. The survey will be emailed to you soon by our independent partner TLF Research on behalf of the Institute of Customer Service and the Canal & River Trust and all responses are completely confidential, so please look out for it and sit down with a cup of tea (other beverages are available) and let us know what you think. 

________________________________________________________________________________

Bits & bobs

  • Did you know that two-thirds of fire and carbon monoxide risks arise from the way that engines, appliances, systems and fuels are used and maintained? With this interesting statistic in mind, now is the perfect time to refresh your boat safety as it’s currently the annual Boat Safety week.
  • If you do your boating on the south or west of the network, or plan to, then you might like to know that our virtual spring user forum, on 14 June at 6pm, will focus on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and the River Severn. In the first half of the session we will take the opportunity to share with you some of the great projects and improvements we have made on this section of the Wales & South West network as well as what we have planned for the future. The second half of the session will form a Q&A session which will give you the chance to ask the team questions about these waterways.Should you feel there is a specific question you would like to ask in advance, please send them to us by 8th June at the latest. Please email them to us, if you think we might need time to prepare our answer, or raise them on the day.
  • If you’re looking to get your first, second or booster covid vaccination and can be at either Northwich Marina or the Riverside Inn, Acton Bridge between 10am and noon next Friday, 10 June, then you’re in luck! You don’t need to book in advance, just turn up on the day!

________________________________________________________________________________

Happy boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 3 June 2022

About this blog

The boaters' update

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.

Sign up to receive the Boaters' update by email

See more blogs from this author