Welcome to the first edition of June where you'll find the results from the Boat Owners' Survey and a review of Crick Boat Show among the usual roundup of news, events and this weekend's canal maintenance.
So that’s Crick Boat Show done and dusted for another year – and what a show! It was great to have a chat with so many of you. There’s a couple of videos, and a short look back at the show, below.
Another contribution from Trustee John Dodwell underlines just how much goes on around the network in a single weekend as he reflects on his doing the BCNS Marathon Challenge (covering as many miles and locks of the Birmingham Canal Navigations as possible in 24 hours – with a mandatory six-hour rest of course!).
As well as the above you’ll find the usual mix of news and this weekend’s stoppages as well as ways in which you can get involved. If there is something else you’d like to see in a future edition, then do get in touch.
In this edition:
Over the last couple of weeks you may have heard, or seen, that:
It continues to be busy on and around the waterways. You’ll find some highlights below but 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.
Every year an independent agency, on our behalf, gets in touch with around a third of boaters to get their views on everything from satisfaction levels through to how they use their boat.
The latest Boat Owners’ Views survey shows that your satisfaction with our waterways has increased in the past year. Equally pleasing is that the increased proportion of you who would recommend our waterways to others and the number who think that the upkeep of the waterways has continued to improve.
In 2017’s survey, 76% of the 1,160 respondents said they were happy with their cruising experience, up from 68% in 2016. The improving trend was also reflected in the numbers of boaters who would recommend our waterways to others, which leapt from 69% in 2016 to 78% in this year’s survey.
There was some regional variation with boaters most satisfied in the Wales & Borders region and least satisfied in London. This might be reflecting the influx of boats putting pressure on the Capital’s waterways. London was also the waterway where the fewest number of boaters would recommend the waterway to others – just 39%.
In general you told us that you feel you know our charity better (2017: 57%; 2016: 48%) and feel more favourable to the us (2017: 59%; 2016: 54%), while there has been a slight increase in the number of you who trust us to look after the waterways, up from 63% to 65% this year. Opinions about the overall upkeep of the waterways continue to improve, with 77% of boaters rating them OK to excellent (2016: 75%).
Jon Horsfall, interim head of boating said: “The Boat Owners’ Views survey gets right to the heart of how boaters are feeling about us. This year it’s great to see that boaters are happier with how things are, and that they would recommend our waterways to others.
“That’s not to say that there isn’t still work to do. The survey helps us identify where things aren’t going quite so well – for example in London where the growth in boating has put pressure on moorings and facilities. The work underway to create a mooring strategy for London will help to address many of the concerns that boaters have there.
“We’ve been listening to the feedback we’ve got from boaters and are involving licence holders in many of our planning decisions. What boaters say really does make a difference and helps us immensely in the work we do – boaters often act as the eyes and ears of the waterways and help us respond quickly to problems so I’d urge anyone with suggestions to get in touch.
“The survey findings help us focus on the issues that matter most to boaters, for example this year we’re planning on spending £26.9m on dredging and repairs to bridges and embankments. Dredging is planned across the network, at sites including the Macclesfield, Chesterfield, Lancaster and Grand Union amongst others, with a fund set aside for spot dredging. We’re also going to be spending £17.4m on other works including replacing 180 lock gates with a focus on the West Midlands, South East and Manchester & Pennine regions. Your feedback has played an important part in determining this work.”
The full Boat Owners’ Views survey report will be published on our website in due course. In the meantime, and as a reader of Boaters’ Update, I’d appreciate any thoughts you have on how, or if, you’d like to see Boaters’ Update change. Thanks, Damian.
I was in a strange position last week – I was on site at Crick Boat Show, now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, as it was being set up and I actually wanted the sun to shine a little less intensely (it was baking!). Thankfully my wish was fulfilled and, while it’s too early to be sure, we think a record number of people poured through the gates – as you can see by the video below – and hopefully didn’t melt quite as much as I had earlier in the week.
The scale of the show is hard to describe (over 1,000 people took a free boat trip and over 2,000 attended seminars) but as those of you who visited will know (or at least your feet will!) there’s so much to see and do.
I spent a fair bit of time down in the marina – the video below shows just how buzzing it was - but I could easily have spent the entire three days there learning about everything from full electric boats, which you’ll read about in the next edition, through to the intricacies of part-ownership.
With so much to occupy your time at Crick, we wanted to thank all those, over 6,000, who came to see us (and the record number of you who signed up as Friends) – we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!
As mentioned in the introduction, it wasn’t only Crick over the Bank Holiday weekend. There was also the Birmingham Canal Navigations 24 Hours Challenge Cruise, organised by the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society.
Now an annual event, this year’s commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the first one in 1967. Then the very future of the BCN was under threat as trade died away. As a publicity event to draw attention to the leisure potential of the area’s canals, a group of about a dozen boat owners set out to see how much of the BCN they could cover in 24 hours. This year, there were (appropriately) 50 boats which took part. Points were awarded for distance travelled with bonus points for those areas less often used.
Among these was one of the Trust’s Trustees, John Dodwell, who owns HELEN, a 1942 built 51ft long BCN tug which has a 3ft draft. He reported as follows:
“On the Friday, we had come up the Staffs & Worcs Canal from The Bratch and up the Wolverhampton 21 locks. So at 8am on Saturday morning we started along the lock-free Wyrley & Essington Canal.
“One of the joys of the BCN is the long pounds. From Smethwick via Wolverhampton and Brownhills to Rushall is all one level – about 35 miles, known as the Wolverhampton Level. On what’s known as the Birmingham Level, about another 35 miles, stretching from Tipton out beyond Birmingham to Tardebigge and Lapworth. The two Levels are linked by three locks.
“Once out of the urban sprawl of Walsall, the W&E passes through some pretty good countryside and is an area well worth travelling along. There’s a useful Tesco at Brownhills. We got to the end at Anglesey Basin about 6pm. This is a very large basin where lots of coal used to be loaded.
“In her working days, HELEN used to pull four or more boats, each with say 30 tonnes of coal. Now, nature has reclaimed the area and the gorse bushes were prominently in bloom. Importantly, Anglesey Basin is where the main water for the BCN enters the system – from the massive Chasewater reservoir. This is now owned by the council and has many leisure uses – but the Trust has rights to the water.
“Sunday saw us going down the nine locks on the Rushall Canal. Unlike the W&E which winds as befits an early designed canal, the Rushall was a late addition in the 1840s and so is straighter. There’s recently been a number of new lock gates fitted. Next was the equally almost straight Tame Valley Canal as we headed for Ocker Hill (where there are some residential moorings).
“Then we ascended Ryders Green Locks (think West Bromwich), up the three at Spon Lane (looking spick and span and said to be the oldest Brindley working locks in the country) before we climbed Oldbury Locks to join the other 50 entrants at the Titford Pumphouse.
“As we travelled along, we saw swans with their cygnets, geese with their goslings, mallards, moorhens and coots and their young as well as herons – all indicators of how the water quality has improved over the years. We were equally well-received by people on the towpath. All-in-all a very rewarding cruise and stomp over old ground for HELEN.”
Many boaters help keep canals and rivers open for everyone to enjoy by volunteering or donating. As you’re such an integral part of what makes waterways so wonderful, there’re always others ways you can get involved:
Keeping your canals and rivers ready for you to enjoy is a year-round job. From time-to-time this includes some major engineering that we need to temporarily close the navigation for. Below you’ll find a list, by region, of anything that’s happen that may affect your cruising.
Just click on the one where you’ll be and a webpage will open listing any stoppages for that region (if your region isn’t listed then, yay, there aren’t any navigation closures there!). If you’re not quite sure which region your planned cruise falls in to please take a look at this map.
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.