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News article created on 23 October 2015

Boaters' Update

Welcome to the latest edition where you'll find news of our winter open days, a first-timer's experience of the Trent, an interview with boating colleagues and news of those standing for election to represent you on our governing Council among others.

View across River Trent to white house and fields River Trent, courtesy of Richard Croft

With the really harsh weather yet to set in many of you are still making the most of the relative calm. As you know we run a boating buddies initiative – it gets Trust staff out on the water with private boaters to help us better understand your views. If you’re still out on the cut and think you’d like to be involved just get in touch.

On that note, if you have a read of Trustee John Dodwell’s blog you’ll see that he’s been kind enough, as he travels the West Midlands, to take out a few colleagues too. Further north, Debbi Figueiredo, a member of our boating team (and a boat owner herself), is taking a bit of a busman’s holiday on the northern reaches of the network and sending in regular updates of her cruise.

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,

Damian

Last week, this week

Over the last week or so you may have heard, or seen, that:

Before the next edition is published you might like to take a look at some of the following:

  • 26 to 31 Oct – It’s the time of the year when things start to go bump in the night – for starters you can go and immerse yourself in the chilling history of Standedge Tunnel
  • 30 Oct – Alternately you can get in the spirit, pun intended, with a ghost walk down to Stourport Canal Basin this Halloween.
  • 31 Oct – In the capital you can get properly spooked ducking cobwebs, bats, ghosties and ghouls as you creep along the towpaths of Little Venice listening to history and hearsay about local navvies, roguish boatmen, murder and hauntings.
  • 31 Oct – Further north you can see a Fireworks Spectacular at Anderton Boat Lift with hot food, a bar, fairground rides and an after firework party in the Lift View Marquee.
  • 31 Oct to 1 Nov – Lighting up Birmingham will be the 24th Bonfire Boat Rally at Smethwith Galton Valley. There will be real ale, fireworks, live music and a barbeque - a good weekend out for everyone.

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

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Delving deep to reveal what really lurks beneath

In a couple of weeks’ time we launch a national programme of 15 free, public open days, as part of the five-month, £45 million restoration and repair programme.

A restoration and repair open dayThe open days will give you the chance to see up close some of the finest examples of working industrial heritage in the world, whether climbing down into famous locks in London’s Camden and Bingley in West Yorkshire or walking through an aqueduct in Wales’ picturesque Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal.

As part of the programme, we’re running a three-month survey to record the volume and variety of rubbish discarded in the waterways. From the ubiquitous shopping trolleys, traffic cones, tyres, bikes, bottles and plastic bags to the more unusual safes, unexploded bombs, cars and war medals.

Every year it costs nearly £1million hauling lost and discarded items from the waterways. In recording what we pull out over the next three months we hope to raise public awareness of the detrimental impact of rubbish.

This winter, we’ll be working on around 164 lock gates – all handmade by us using sustainably-sourced British oak.  Each one weighs on average 3.6 tonnes, can take up to 20 days to make and has a working life of 25-30 years.

The first open day is in two weeks’ time in Newark as Sean McGinley, East Midlands waterway manager, explains…

You can read more about the Restoration & Repairs programme and find out about the open days happening near you on our website.

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Not too timid for the Trent

Some boaters prefer to stick to canals. Rivers, the bad boys of inland waterways, can pick up a reputation for being too unpredictable, too dangerous. It’s true that a different level of respect needs to be given and more thorough preparation is needed but as newbie river boater, Sarah Jury, explains, it’s well worth the effort:

‘I’ll confess now, I’m a bit of a worrywart. I have an unhealthy paranoia that bad things will happen while boating, indeed it’s quite remarkable that I’m not checking the weedhatch every ten minutes in some acute form of narrowboat OCD.

Heading out on the Trent‘So perhaps sitting in Keadby Lock waiting to be dropped down onto the tidal Trent for the first time was not the best place for me.

‘But actually I was more excited than anxious. We had done our preparation: we had visited the lockkeeper a few weeks previously to have a chat and he was brilliantly reassuring. We saw a boat into and out of the lock and everything was normal although was the helmsman quietly praying to himself? 

‘We felt an upstream passage was always going to be the best option for our baptism, knowing there’d be no testing turns on an ebbing river as so often faced by those heading downstream to West Stockwith or Keadby.

‘Our transit date was going to see one of the smallest neap tides in September, giving us a little help upstream but not so much that we’d be shooting through Gainsborough in double figures (though I’m told some people like that sort of thing!) Nor was there any fresh on the river, and with Sunday dawning calm and sunny, we really couldn’t have wished for better conditions.

‘So we had the dogs tucked safely away in the cabin, lifejackets on, anchor secured, our new Boating Association Trent charts at the ready and, critically, fresh coffee made. I was just going to have a quick fret when suddenly the gates opened, the river loomed and the time for thinking and worrying was over because we were off. And we loved every single second!

Heading under a bridge on the Trent‘Boats heading to Torksey are usually let go at flood and from what I’ve read this can generate quite a flow across the lock at Keadby, but as this was a small neap tide we hardly felt anything as we powered out. The main challenge was just avoiding the flotsam as we headed over to pass under the lifting span of Keadby Bridge, and then we adopted what was pretty much our default position for the day, just sitting in the centre or to the right of centre of the river.

‘We didn’t have to work the engine hard, seeing as we were travelling with the tide, and we just kept up a steady comfortable pace. That meant we had time to get the feel of the boat on the river, time to look around, time to study the charts, and most importantly time to relax and enjoy ourselves. We broke our passage at Torskey, carrying on the next day to Cromwell, and as we tied up to the pontoons on a lovely summer’s evening, we certainly felt a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. We also slept very well!

‘I think it is quite natural to be a bit worried about something you haven’t done before and which for many might be out of their comfort zone. For some reason I was obsessed about the hazards in the river like the sunken islands and shoals – but not only are they clearly marked in the charts, they are also very clearly signed in the river itself. We’d heard at Torksey that a narrowboat had run aground a few weeks previously so that put me back in worrywart mode but to be honest, if you’re sensible and pay attention and do what the charts and those who know the river tell you, it’s unlikely you’ll come to grief.

‘I know that the Trust is keen to get more narrowboaters on the Trent and that the tidal section is one of the perceived barriers. The many lurid tales you read about online and in the forums probably don’t do the Trent many favours, in much the same way the Rochdale Canal suffers from hysterical reporting. Our experience was a wholly positive one. We did Cruising on the Trentour research, talked to those knowledgeable about the river, made adequate preparation and then went for it.’

‘Going upstream on a small tide in the sun made it extremely straightforward, indeed in the final analysis it was probably no more taxing than running from Worcester to Gloucester on the non-tidal Severn. That said, I do appreciate that depending on which way you’re going and the state of the tide and the flow, some passages will be more challenging than others - but I guess you accumulate the experience to handle that.

‘Doing it the way we did has allowed us to be introduced to a remarkable river, one that continued to delight us every day from Keadby right down to Trent Lock. I’m now off to worry about the Manchester Ship Canal!’

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Towpath Talk interviews enforcement team

A few weeks ago, and as featured in the latest edition of Towpath Talk, editor Janet Richardson, met up with Paul Griffin, our enforcement operations manager, and enforcement officer Lisa Jarvis to get an in depth view of our approach to reducing licence evasion and how we try to Boat location being recordedhelp boaters stick to the rules.

The interview covered everything from how we take boat sightings and what we do when we have concerns through to the fundamental question of why we do it. You can read the article in full on our website and, if you have any questions, do get in touch with your local enforcement officer.

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Provisional list of private boating representatives published

As most of you will know we are currently running elections for members of the Council. The nomination and validation stage has closed.  There are eight valid candidates standing in the Private Boating constituency (which has four places on the Council) and four valid candidates in the Business Boating constituency (which has two places on the Council).

You can now see all candidates and their manifestos online although remember that they have until 17.00 on Friday 30th October to withdraw if they wish – that’s why the title of this article includes the provisional!  We will publish the final list on Monday 2nd November.

The election process is being run independently by Electoral Reform Services (ERS) and is an online process. When voting opens on Friday 13 November, ERS will email a new unique login to everyone eligible to vote (and send a login code by post to people without email).  You will then have four weeks until Friday 11 December to login to the website and cast your vote online. 

Results are announced on Monday 14 December. You can read more information about the Council and elections on our website.

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Riveting Roundhouse

Many, if not most, boaters appreciate the unique perspective they get when chugging past some of the historical gems that line canals and rivers around the country. With this in mind I asked our very own heritage advisors to nominate, from their patch, their particular favourite and tell us a bit about it and why they chose it – I’ll publish their submissions over the next few editions.

We start with Jamie McNamara, heritage advisor in the West Midlands:

‘There are many beautiful and interesting historical pieces in the West Midlands. But, for me, it has to be the Roundhouse in Birmingham. I have chosen the Roundhouse due to its uniqueness as both an icon of Birmingham’s built heritage and its varied uses throughout its life.

Roundhouse exterior‘Its Victorian splendour and build quality is there for all to see, from the splendid red brick façade and barrel shaped exterior, to the quirky ‘coffin’ shaped cast iron windows on the upper floor. It was built for function with carefully laid out stabling, upper rooms for storage (and later further businesses), accommodation and office space at the entrance in the shape of the two Victorian townhouses. The sum of its parts, for me, identify this as a true architectural gem.

‘The Grade II* Stabling and Stores was actually the winner of an Architectural Competition in the early 1870s. The wharf and its buildings were subsequently built in about 1873 for the Birmingham Corporation - possibly as a mineral, grain and coal wharf serving the busy metal works and mills of Ladywood and well beyond.

Roundhouse cobbled courtyard‘The important stabling complex was sited prominently south of, and linking with, the huge goods station, yard and engine sheds of the London & North Western Railway (Stour Valley Line). Most of the former engine house site is now occupied by the National Indoor Arena and the wharf site is surrounded by luxury apartments.

‘Though the majority of the building remains vacant, plans are afoot to bring the Roundhouse back into everyday circulation. We, in conjunction with the National Trust, have plans to incorporate this building back into both the local and wider communities with a range of ventures possibly ranging from boating, a cycling hub, historical interpretation spaces, mixed office space and a café venture. We want the Roundhouse to once again tell its former story and also add new ones as (hopefully) the plans come to fruition.’

REF: Bailey, S. (2005) Redevelopment of the Round House. British Waterways

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Bits and Bobs

  • While boating may not seem that ‘rock ’n’ roll’ to the average towpath visitor this is exactly, unfortunately, what it’s been reported as by a boater on the Coventry Canal. We’re told that passing boats are only cutting their throttle to tickover as they come alongside moored boats. Please slow before reaching moored boats to prevent noses, and mooring pins, getting bent out of shape.
  • And a quick reminder if you are out cruising during winter, short term visitor moorings will increase to 14 days maximum stay between 1 November and 31 March unless there is a clear safety or customer need to provide otherwise. These exceptions will be clearly signed on site.
  • And finally, please spare a minute to support The Wendover Arm Trust who are working with us and other local organisations to restore the Wendover Arm Canal. You can help focus their activities, and show that there is local support for our work by completing this survey.


Thanks for reading and happy boating!

Damian

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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 important safety announcements and upcoming events

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