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News article created on 16 July 2013

Plain Sailing

Getting out on the water with a boater, certainly time well spent.

Since taking up my new role there's been no shortage of important issues coming across my desk for me to deal with. I'm pleased to report that I'm not (yet!) feeling overwhelmed but rather, am enjoying the challenges set out before me - long may that continue! It would be easy to get stuck into my workload without ever leaving my desk - which would be self defeating.

As a non-boater (living close to, but not on the water in Bristol), I feel that it's an important responsibility of a boater liaison manager to make sure that I try to understand the issues that matter to boaters. The best way for me to do this is to get out of the office and spend time meeting and talking to those who live on and navigate the canals. I'm pleased that my appointment coincides with the launch of the new Canal & River Trust scheme that helps office based staff to 'go boating with a boater', and that I've been one of the first to take advantage of this opportunity.

Invaluable experience

Last week I was kindly invited to join Richard Lacey (and his very friendly dog Tigger) on his boat Ryeland to journey along part of the Kennet & Avon Canal. The experience was invaluable, helping me to gain a first hand view of this beautiful and incredibly popular waterway from the tiller (as opposed to my usual viewpoint the towpath). The experience was of course enhanced by one of the warmest and sunniest days of the summer so far, not only showing the K&A off at its best but also enabling me to see first hand the pressures one a very popular waterway faces when there are so many competing uses.

Hearing first hand from a boater about their experience of and thoughts on issues ranging from visitor moorings, boater facilities, maintenance and communication was invaluable. I'm very grateful to Richard for trusting me enough to steer his boat and enabling me to get a taste of what boaters experience day in day out. I've certainly learned a lot from my day on the cut, I hope that this will be the first of many boating trips - you certainly learn more 'doing' than 'being told'.

Share the waterway

The restoration of the K&A has clearly been a huge success. However from the conversations i've had with many people so far, as well as the content of my inbox, it's seems that to ensure this success continues there needs to be willingness from all different users to fairly share the waterway and ensure it each user is considerate to the needs of others.

At the May meeting of the K&A Waterway Partnership, members gave their support to the report from the partnerships working group that has been developing proposals for local guidance for users of the K&A. Over the coming month I will be working with the working group members to prepare a consultation (to take place over three months starting during August) with all K&A stakeholders. Following this the local guidance plan will be finalised with the aim of introducing it early in 2014.

I'm all too aware that some of the issues on the K&A are long standing and may not be easy to resolve, however I and Trust believe that by working closely with the the working group and other stakeholder who have first hand knowledge of the canal, we have the best opportunity to make good progress to find solutions. If you'll excuse the pun, I look forward to navigating this route with as many partners on board as possible.

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The boating team

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