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News article created on 8 April 2016

Boaters' Update

This latest edition contains news of how you can go boating for free, 13,000 hippos, next winter’s maintenance programme and the Small Tasks Team Volunteers among others.

Kiln Lock on Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Brick Kiln Lock on Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, courtesy of davidcjones, Flickr

So the first big milestone of the 2016 boating calendar – Easter – has now passed. I spent part of mine getting drenched on a towpath as nearby boaters were snuggled up in their boats. If, like me, you’re not lucky enough to own your own boat, but also like me, aspire to, then you might be interested (I’m guessing you’re at least a boating enthusiast as you’re reading Boaters’ Update!) in the first article of this edition.

In just over a week’s time we’ve joined up with Drifters Waterways Holidays to offer taster boating sessions. Find out more, including where your nearest venue will be, below.

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,

Damian

Last week, this week

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

  • 25 Mar – As mentioned in our flooding update on 11 March, sections of waterway in the Calder Valley, devastated by the Boxing Day floods, reopened.
  • 25 Mar - Work to restore six historic lock structures on the 200-year old Ashton Canal in Manchester were completed this week.
  • 1 Apr - We’re looking for volunteer duck wardens to improve the minds and bodies of our feathered friends. Please note the date that we announced this news…
  • 5 Apr – People in Yorkshire are being invited to a public meeting to find out how the county’s waterways are cared for and how they’re recovering from the impact of the Boxing Day floods.

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

  • 9 Apr – Soar Head 2016. Organised by Loughborough Boat Club, this rowing event will see 100 - 150 participants racing between locks 55 and 56 on the River Soar. I expect it won’t just be heads that are sore by the end of the day…
  • 16 Apr – We’re calling all four-legged and two-legged friends to join us for a lighthearted tootle along the Chester Canal towpath.
  • 17 Apr – Together with Drifters we’re offering you the chance to get afloat for free and find out more about canal boat holidays at 19 of their bases across England and Wales on Sunday 17 April 2016. Read more below.
  • 17 Apr – If you’d prefer to spend this particular Sunday beside, rather than on, the water then why not join the wonderfully named ‘Belles on Bikes’ female-only cycle ride along Llangollen Canal led by trained female Sustrans Volunteers.  

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.

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Drift along for free

As mentioned in the introduction, we’ve teamed up with Drifters Waterway Holidays to offer people the chance to try canal boating for free at 19 narrowboat hire bases across England and Wales.

Lots of hire boats on the movePast surveys have shown that many boat owners take their first tentative steps into boating aboard a holiday hire boat. For some the love is instant and we’re hoping that those of you (or your friends) who are umming and ahhing about taking up boating, or even contemplating your first holiday afloat, will go along on Sunday 17 April and need no further convincing.

The taster sessions will include free trips on skippered narrowboats, as well as boat tours and holiday discounts. No booking is required, with people of all ages encouraged to just turn up. Doesn’t matter where you are in the country as you’ll find an open day in the south and north and everywhere in between.

Tim Parker, chairman of Drifters Waterway Holidays, explains: “Travelling at just 4mph through peaceful countryside, sleepy villages and exciting waterside cities, canal boat holidays are often described as ‘the fastest way to slow down’.  Close to 400,000 people go canal boating each year and according to research*, the numbers have increased by 23% since 2009. 

“Last year, over 1,000 people got afloat at our open day events held all over the country. We hope this year’s taster sessions will introduce many more people to the joys of a holiday afloat on Britain’s wonderful inland waterways.”

Mike Grimes, head of boating at the Trust, added: “For many people, a boating holiday is the start of a lifelong passion. These free taster sessions are a great way to test out whether this sort of holiday could be for you, before committing to a full weekend or week’s break.”

For more information about Drifters boating holidays visit its website or call 0844 984 0322.

If you’ve already got plans for 17 April, don’t worry, you can also get afloat at the Crick Boat Show’s boat handling taster sessions and pop by and have a chat to Drifters who’ll also be at the show.

*Source: British Marine Federation’s ‘Watersports Participation Report 2014’

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Removing 13,000 hippos from the Staffs & Worcs

Ok, so those of you who’ve recently cruised the Staffs & Worcs may be wondering where exactly all these hippos were. They weren’t, of course, actually there. I thought, though, that it’s a rather striking way of describing the equivalent of what we’ll be dredging from the Staffs & Worcs over the next eight months.

A week or so ago we started work on a dredging project on the 46 mile canal that spans sections from from Tixall Lock in Staffordshire through to Falling Sand Lock near Kidderminster.

Narrowboat near bridge on Staffordhsire & Worcestershire CanalCosting around £1million, it will focus on areas where you, boaters, have told us that you’re having difficulty mooring, navigating through bridges or getting stuck on the approach to locks. In total around 17,500 tonnes of silt – which is the same in weight as over 13,000 fully grown hippos – will be removed from the canal.

Using a floating dredger, the build-up of silt and debris will be scrapped off the bottom of the waterway. Once collected the silt will be recycled where possible and used for bank stabilisation or, as Paul Fox, senior project manager, explains, for less obvious uses:

 “This is a massive project and we are expecting work to be finished towards the end of the summer. We’ve known for a while that that some boaters have had some problems due to the build-up of silt so I’m glad we can now make some improvements to the navigation.

“We plan to recycle as much of the silt as possible - in Wolverhampton for example we plan to use the silt to help create new habitats for water voles. The soft mud texture of the silt is the perfect material for water voles to burrow into, to create homes and hopefully, once we’ve done this work, we’ll see the numbers of these elusive animals start to increase.”

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Next winter’s maintenance programme

Although I’m not entirely confident that we’ve properly emerged from the last one, I thought it would be a nice segue if this next article continued with the theme of big maintenance projects.

London winter worksAs many of you know, because you’ve shared your views before (thanks), every year we publish a plan of the big things we want to get fixed or rejuvenate over the quieter winter months.

We then ask for your views, review them, amend our plans as necessary and republish the plan for more feedback. We review again and then firm up, and publish, the finalised plan.

Because of this co-operative approach we have to start talking about the plans just as we’re all starting to (hopefully) enjoy warmer weather. As things stand, the key milestones for this year’s plans are:

  • 29 April – First version of plan published
  • 29 April to 17 June – Boaters give us their views
  • 17 June to 11 July – Project team review feedback
  • 11 July – Second version of plan published
  • 11 July to 5 August – Boaters give views on second version of plan
  • 5 August to 26 August – Project team reviews further feedback
  • 26 August – Final plan published

As ever we hope that you’ll take the time to have a look at what we’re planning to do and let us know if you think, as a boater, our priorities should be different. Much like in previous year’s, I’ll use Boaters’ Update to provide gentle nudges as we progress through the stages.

Of course, we are repairing and rejuvenating all year long, so to stay up to date with any projects that may affect your cruising please visit the stoppage section of the website before setting off.

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Small Tasks Team Volunteers (SSTV)

The previous two articles have focussed on the big projects that grab the headlines. But, during the course of planning for this edition, I received an email from the SSTV.

The work they’ve been doing as volunteers might not require a four month consultation process or get compared to thousands of mighty beasts but, in some respects, it’s no less important. Member John Bannister described their recent activities:

   
 Small Tasks Team Volunteers 1  “In February and March STTV were working at Hurleston, making improvements to the quayside below the bottom lock and to the towpath between the lock and the bridge on the main line.
 Small Tasks Team Volunteers 2  “The stop plank shed was cleared of encroaching hedge and treated with Cuprinol and fences were mended and treated.
 Small Tasks Team Volunteers 3  

“Alongside this work, the towpath was cleared and levelled ready for surfacing. The narrow location and steep approaches gave some extra challenges to the team.

 Small Tasks Team Volunteers 4  “The quayside was topped and compacted. In order to minimise erosion and to make the quayside altogether safer, a revetment was constructed and painted and the bank landscaped. Thanks to the hard work of the volunteers and the willing assistance of Trust staff, the project was completed in time for the coming busy boating season.
   

“We always welcome more hands so, if anyone’s interested in helping our group of volunteers or would like more information, please contact Paul Mills.”

SSTV efforts have made a huge difference. If you’re not in their area but fancy making a difference yourself then please visit the volunteering section of our website.

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Bits and Bobs

  • Those of you who regularly cruise in the south east may know that we recently ran a consultation about visitor mooring at a few sites including Berkhamsted and Marsworth. Over 800 people got involved (thanks!) and we’ve now reviewed all of the feedback and published a report. Visit the dedicated section of the website for more information.
  • And finally, did you have a winter mooring in either of the last two years? If so, you may have received an email from us asking for your views. Please note that there’s now only a week left before the survey closes so do please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.

 
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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