It's all systems go as we kick off our programme of events, begin to welcome people back on our social prescribing projects and look to encourage more boaters onto the tidal reaches of the River Trent. We've also been hard at work pulling together our first ever regional Annual Report looking back at our achievements over the past twelve months.
First ever East Midlands Annual Report published
We've recently published our first ever East Midlands Annual Report summarising the impact of our work in the region over the past 12 months.
The report reflects on a number of achievements as we saw an increase in activity on our waterways following the challenges of 2020/21.
Amongst the highlights of the report:
£9.5 million invested in waterways in the region across day-to-day maintenance and large winter works projects
10,000 people attending our waterside events
500 people taking part in our Waterways & Wellbeing social prescribing project in Nottingham
425 volunteers supporting our work across the East Midlands
6 Kickstarters taking up apprenticeships with the Trust
A massive thanks goes to all the partners, supporters and funders that have helped with our work in the region over the past twelve months.
The East Midlands Annual Report 2021/22 can be viewed here.
Virtual open day brings lock gate works into your living room
Our programme of winter works may have wound down but people can still enjoy a behind the scenes tour of works to replace lock gates at historic Watford Locks on the Grand Union Canal, thanks to a special virtual open day.
Cameras were allowed behind the scenes as our specialist teams replaced lock gates at locks 3 and 7 on the busy flight.
As part of the open day viewers can find out about the history of the site and how works are planned to protect the wildlife that calls the canal home.
The open day also highlights how one team member is following in the footsteps of his ancestors, continuing a 200-year family history of working on the canal. It also enables people to watch from the warmth of their living room as specialist fish contractors brave icy waters to temporarily relocate fish before water levels were dropped.
We really enjoyed being able to meet boaters face-to-face again at our third annual East Midlands Boater Conference, which took place at the beginning of April at the University of Northampton.
With last year's event being held over Zoom this was a great opportunity to meet once more in-person and discuss the issues that matter to boaters in the region.
The conference included presentations on the future of our waterways, on operational issues and challenges in keeping the region's waterways running, on our new water resources strategy and on our engineering priorities and decision making. We were also joined by a guest speaker on Trentlink – which is promoting boating on the tidal Trent. There were round table discussions on sustainable boating, customer service and licensing and a lively Q&A covering a wide range of issues.
Social prescribing projects begin
We're excited to start two major social prescribing projects on waterways in the East Midlands, using time spent on and alongside water as an alternative way of helping those with physical and mental health conditions.
Thanks to funding from the Greenspace social prescribing programme we're restarting our social prescribing activities in Nottinghamshire after the success of our initial Waterways & Wellbeing project last year. Last year around 500 people took part in socially prescribed projects on and along the Nottingham & Beeston Canal and this year we're expanding the programme to include a number of different locations around the county. Activities will be taking place at the National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrepont and The Mill Base Adventure Centre in Sutton-in-Ashfield as well as on the Nottingham & Beeston Canal in the heart of the city.
In Leicestershire we're about to offer socially prescribed activities on the county's waterways for the first time. We're working in partnership with Active Together, Blaby District Council, Harborough District Council and Oadby & Wigston Borough Council to start a similar project in South Leicestershire**.** The project has also been supported by Market Harborough Building Society who have funded the purchase of new paddleboards. A new wellbeing coordinator has been recruited to oversee the project with sessions due to begin the summer.
Towpath Taskforces get off to a flying start in Northamptonshire
We've recently launched new Towpath Taskforce activities in Northamptonshire and local people have made a great start, pitching in to help improve their local stretch of canal for people and nature.
Towpath Taskforce activities are designed to be low-commitment, drop-in events where people can give as much or as little time as they can spare.
The Norton Junction taskforce meet on the first Wednesday of each month and have been busy improving the car park at Long Buckby, filling in a number of potholes to provide a better surface. They've also been hard at work picking up litter and clearing a drainage ditch.
The new Grafton Regis team, who meet on the fourth Wednesday of the month, have been helping us to fill in a wash hole and replace rotten sections of access steps at Bridge 57. They've also hauled out a large branch from the canal that could have presented a problem for passing boats.
We're really pleased to be supporting volunteers from Trentlink to help encourage more boaters onto the tidal section of the River Trent between Torksey and West Stockwith.
The group has a thriving Facebook community with a wealth of experience to give boaters confidence in heading out onto the tidal section of the river by sharing good practice, giving safety advice and promoting support amongst fellow boaters.
We recently invited members of Trentlink to speak at our East Midlands boater conference and are planning to hold a joint training day for boaters and lock keepers.
Alongside our work with Trentlink we're also continuing our work to try and make boating on the tidal Trent a little easier. Last year we invested around £70,000 on dredging at problem spots and developed plans to invest around £400,000 every three years in dredging on the Trent. This year dredging at Winthorpe rack is the main priority for the summer and, later in the year when river flows are at their highest, further plough dredging is planned at Torksey and on the lock tails between Cromwell and Stoke Lock.
We also been working hard to increase the resources on our tidal sections with additional lock keepers in place at Boston and Torksey and a new intake of volunteer lock keepers being trained up.
Our hours of operation can be found here and we will continue to operate the locks on summer hours between 7am and 9pm, tides dependent. Although locks are staffed at key times we ask that boaters book passage 48 hours in advance to ensure we have appropriate cover at the locks to allow safe passage. Booking can be made by contacting customer services or the lock keeper directly but, however your booking is made, we still recommend contacting the lock keeper before passage as conditions can change quickly.
To find out more search for Trentlink on Facebook. For more information about boating on tidal waters take a look at our Boaters Handbook.
Activity programme gets under way
Spring is well and truly in the air and we've got lots of events and activities aimed at giving visitors the opportunity to spend some time by water and have a go at something different.
Over the course of spring and summer we'll be hosting events giving local communities the opportunity to try their hand at everything from handling a narrowboat to fishing or paddleboarding.
Bug hunts will give kids the chance to go on wild adventures and wellbeing walks will allow people to get a totally different view of their local area while giving their physical and mental health a boost.
Our Let's Fish activities are also back up and running, giving local people the chance to try fishing on their local canal or river. These sessions are incredibly popular and enable people to have a go without the need for their own equipment – everything's provided, just turn up and have a go.
Visitors to some of our most popular sites can now pick up a good book as they enjoy some time by the water, thanks to our increasingly popular pre-loved books stalls.
The stalls are now in place at Foxton Locks and Stoke Bruerne and are already proving to be a big hit with both visitors and volunteers.
At Foxton we had over 50 applications for volunteers to help us run the book stall there. Sadly we couldn't accommodate them all but we do have a new team in place, including two local authors who have brought some inspirational ideas. Visitors can now enjoy local history displays, story-telling in the orchard and themed displays in the shop area.
Stoke Bruerne also has a thriving book stall and there's now even more of a reason for people to visit with the launch of a new café loyalty card. There's now even more of an incentive to visit the café to sample great coffee, speciality teas as well as homemade cakes and enjoy a free hot drink when you've collected enough stamps.
If you have any unwanted, good condition books then please feel free to drop them in at the Foxton welcome station, by Top Lock Café, or at Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum.
Last Edited: 16 May 2022
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