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Friday 9 March

Today's news from the web

  • Signs in Melksham are good for Wilts & Berks canal trek thisiswiltshire.co.uk

    Walkers will find it easier to retrace the route of Melksham’s former waterway, thanks to grants which have paid for new signs. Volunteers with the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust have just finished placing the markers at various points where the canal once passed through the town. The 19 signs were paid for with a £200 grant from Melksham Town Council, £300 from the charity and almost £500 from Melksham Area Board....


Thursday 8 March

Sir Samuel Whitbread is the new patron of the waterway his ancestor couldn’t reach

The Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust (B & MK) has said that Sir Samuel Whitbread, KCVO, has agreed to become the trust’s first patron.

The news is heavy with symbolism. Last year the B & MK celebrated the 200th anniversary of the original plan to create a waterway linking the Grand Junction Canal (now the Grand Union at Milton Keynes) with the Great Ouse at Bedford. The 1812 plan, never realised, was sponsored by the original Samuel Whitbread (the then-MP for Bedford and scion of the original Whitbread brewery business) along with the Duke of Bedford. 

Though no longer involved in brewing, the Whitbread family is still rooted in Bedfordshire, with interests in farming, forestry and the landscape. Sir Samuel, a former Lord Lieutenant of the county, said: “I very much hope that the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust will be able to complete what my ancestor supported but was unable to bring to fruition. It is indeed a very exciting project which I am glad to support.”

While fulfilment of the dream is a long way off, the B&MK Trust expects that the first stretch of the waterway will be dug this year as part of the Marston Vale Innovation Park.


Andrew Denny  | 1.17pm | add a comment


Wednesday 7 March

Diamond Jubilee river pageant is a golden opportunity for extra Thames Barrier tests

The Thames Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on 3rd June will provide a unique opportunity for London to stress-test the Thames Barrier. 


The Barrier is normally fully closed once a year to ensure it is working correctly. However, it is rarely kept closed for long, to avoid inconveniencing vessels passing through.

 

But on the day of the pageant the river will be closed to normal traffic. This will allow the Barrier to remain closed for 14 hours, from 9:30am to 11:30pm, ensuring the river contains sufficient water for the 1,000-strong flotilla and letting the barrier operators carry out a range of extra tests to see how it performs in extreme conditions.  

 

"The pageant gives us a unique opportunity to test its design for a longer period than we would normally be able to”, said the Thames Barrier’s flood risk manager, Andy Batchelor. “We will be able to maintain a higher water level upstream than downstream, giving us a chance to test how the barrier performs under these conditions." 

Andrew Denny  | 12.56pm | add a comment


Sustrans gets £1.4 million to upgrade towpaths

Cycling route charity Sustrans is to receive more than £1.4 million for upgrading canal towpaths in four places, at Oxford, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Leeds.

 

The money comes from the Department for Transport’s Community Linking Places fund, and will top up local funding to allow a total of £2.5 million in towpath improvements.

 

In Oxford, £350, 000 is to be spent on the towpath through the city’s Jericho district, including better access points to the waterway.

 

In the West Midlands, £604,000 is being added to the £500,000 already being spent on the Dudley no. 2 Canal Project. The canal will get extra towpath links to workplaces and schools. The funding will also replace steps with ramps on several bridges.

 

Another £1.1 million is to be spent on improving the towpath at Wolverhampton, including creating ‘excellent safe routes’ to schools.

 

Meanwhile, at Leeds, £450,000 will resurface 2km of towpath within the city, as part of the National Cycle Network’s Route 66, which runs from Hull to Manchester.

Andrew Denny  | 12.42pm | add a comment


Today's news from the web

  • Confusion over Burton canal booze ban raises head again burtonmail.co.uk

    A booze ban canalside at Burton upon Trent will remain in force — after a Police Community Support officer won a second fight to keep it going. PCSO Chris Blanksby had to defend his application for the order on a stretch of land from Princess Way, Stretton, to the Shobnall Leisure Complex, before East Staffordshire Borough Council’s licensing committee for a second time yesterday following concerns raised about the extent of the ban. ... Margaret Woolley, senior enforcement officer at the borough council, said: “It is important to note that an (alcohol designation) order does not ban alcohol or drinking on the canal areas. It is merely a tool. If people are drinking responsibly and not causing a nuisance it will not affect them....


Tuesday 6 March

Transfer of BW into Canal & River Trust set for early May, as it moves into final parliamentary phase

The draft order for moving British Waterways into the new Canal & River Trust went before Parliament on 29th February. It will be scrutinised by both Houses before it can be approved, under the simplified approval process made possible by the Public Bodies Act 2011. The order is officially titled The British Waterways Board (Transfer of Functions) Order 2012.  
 
The delays introduced by the extended negotiating over funding of the Trust means that Parliament’s approval is unlikely to be forthcoming before early May.  
 
The brief two-page order is followed by lengthier schedules amending existing Parliamentary acts so that references to BW are changed to CRT for England and Wales, while BW continues to be the public body for the Scottish waterways.
 
The draft order to abolish the Inland Waterways Advisory Council (IWAC) has also been laid before Parliament. It includes one amendment to the British Waterways Act 1995, in respect of the make-up of the boat safety Standards Appeal Panel. 

Andrew Denny  | 2.55pm | add a comment


Today's news from the web

  • Oxford council acts on illegal boaters oxfordmail.co.uk

    A new crackdown has been launched against boaters illegally mooring in Oxford. Members of the city’s boating community last night said the new strict regime was unnecessary and would force boaters out of Oxford. The crackdown was launched after Oxford City Council paid £44,000 towards work by the Unlawfully Moored Boats Enforcement Group (Umbeg), which also includes representatives from British Waterways, the Environment Agency, Thames Valley Police and other landowners....

  • Cherwell District Council and South Northamptonshire Councils plan Canal conservation areas cherwell.gov.uk

    The special character along a stretch of the Oxford Canal could soon be protected by conservation area status. Cherwell District Council and South Northamptonshire Council have appointed consultants CgMs to appraise the canal corridor. The aim of this piece of work is to identify the special character of the canal's entire length through both districts with a view to ensuring it is protected....

  • London Book Barge: A bookshop to float your boat telegraph.co.uk

    “It’s because it’s the canal. Put a few moorhens around and people start remembering that they’re human beings,” says Paddy Screech, the co-owner of Word on the Water, the London Book Barge. The capital’s only floating second-hand bookshop – which has been open for nine months, travelling between Camden Lock, Angel, Hackney and Paddington – stops for two weeks at each mooring to sell books donated by the public and by charity bookshops. It is owned by Paddy, “The Doctor”, and his co-partners, John Privett, “The Professor”, and a mysterious Frenchman called “The Captain”. The French Captain owns the boat, Paddy the Doctor keeps the business running at front of shop, including the necessary wood-chopping for the stove, and John the Professor, who runs a stall in Archway Market called Word on the Street, knows the book trade. ...

  • Youth theatre group to launch canal-inspired musical derbyshiretimes.co.uk

    Major developments along the Chesterfield canal are the inspiration for a new play by the town theatre’s youth group. Ambitious plans to create a marina in Staveley and transform a stretch of the canal in Chesterfield into a leisure and retail complex have triggered a work of artistic craftsmanship. The play Cuckoo - which the Pomegranate Youth Theatre group will launch this month - has been a year-long project involving extensive investigation into the history of the canal....

  • Help manage fruit trees on the River Severn and Gloucester & Sharpness Canal waterscape.com

    British Waterways is looking for people who can dedicate some of their time to helping them care for fruit trees alongside the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and on River Severn lock islands, from Stourport to Sharpness. Danielle Jackson, from British Waterways’ environment team, says: “This region is renowned for its variety of fruit trees and traditional orchards. We all know that the canal and river are symbols of our industrial past but they are also important keepers of our natural heritage too.” There are two training sessions taking place, on 22nd March and 12th May, for interested volunteers....

  • Arsonist jailed for Newport Fourteen Locks blaze southwalesargus.co.uk

    A man who set fire to Newport’s Fourteen Locks Canal Centre just because he wanted to burn something was locked up for two years yesterday. Benjamin Jones, 20, of no fixed adress, pleaded guilty to arson after setting fire to the centre in the early hours of November 12 last year, causing more than £66,000 worth of damage....


Monday 5 March

Today's news from the web

  • Environment Agency cottage plan prompts safety fears bbc.co.uk

    The Environment Agency - under pressure to rely less on taxpayers' cash - wants tenants to pay up to £1,200 a month for the privilege of occupying a cottage. By saving the £32,000 cost of a keeper at each lock and by generating an average of £14,000 of income, the agency hopes to raise about £230,000 a year from renting out five properties. But the Thames Users Group (Tug) claims the plan could jeopardise safety on the river. Michael Shefras, from Tug, said: "Lock keepers do more than just let people in boats go in and out of locks. "If we have floods, like we've had in previous years, the lock keepers can save the situation....

  • RYA and BMF say HMRC have backed down over latest red diesel announcement rya.org.uk

    Rya and BMF representatives have been extremely critical of a recent ministerial announcement that it proposed to make the use of red diesel in UK boats unlawful beyond UK territorial waters. The issue would not affect the current situation on canals and rivers, but might have unwittingly criminalised leisure boaters who went into international waters with red diesel in their tanks. It related to a new declaration proposed by a minister, which would require boaters to make when buying red diesel in the UK. The RYA and the BMF sought to clarify the Government’s intentions and to propose alternative wording that simply reminds recreational boaters that other coastal states may apply their own legislation to vessels navigating in their territorial waters. RYA representative Gus Lewis said HMRC has now confirmed that the Government has no intention to make it unlawful for red diesel bought in the UK to be used in international waters. He said: “The proposed revised wording for the declaration was unacceptable and we are pleased that HMRC has recognised our serious concerns. We have proposed to HMRC alternative wording that we believe would avoid boaters having to acknowledge falsely that they are aware of restrictions on fuel usage that do not exist.” Howard Pridding of the British Marine Fedaration said: “We expect the proposed revised wording for the declaration to be confirmed in the Budget Statement being made on the 21 March 2012 and the subsequent Finance Act.”...

  • Former QE2 captain takes boatmaster test to skipper the Seagull Trust's boat on the Union Canal express.co.uk

    When Nick Bates gets his ticket to skipper a canal barge, as he surely will, his mind may flash back to the day he first took the QE2 out of Southampton as captain. There can’t be many mariners out there with a CV as impressive as his, but it cuts no ice with Health & Safety, and, at the end of this month, former captain Bates will sit his “driving” test on a vessel no bigger than the lifeboats on the world’s most elegant liner. ...


Friday 2 March

Obituary: Charles Fox, 1937-2012

Fens marina pioneer Charles Fox, the founder of Fox’s boat builders and marina in March, Cambridgeshire, died on 28th February after a long illness. He was 74.

Charlie Fox was perhaps the greatest supporter of boating in the Middle Level, and worked practically to achieve its retention and use today. He was a pioneer in the revival of the Fens for boating, and without him it is doubtful that we could have the Middle Level as we know it today. 

Charlie Fox trained as a boat builder in Ely, and set up his own business while still in his early 20s. Working from his small riverside boatyard in West End, March, he initially built wooden dinghies and hired out rowing boats and canoes.

It was in 1973 that Charlie built his first narrowboat. In a Waterways World profile in 2005 he recalled that his customer had sketched an outline of the boat on the back of an envelope, and said "Can you build that for me?" 

The drawing showed the stem of a boat with a striking angular prow; so distinctive was it that it became the signature of most of the boats he subsequently built over the years. 

In 1980 he built the marina to the west of March that became the best-known boatyard in the Fens, buying his own dragline machine to dig out the basin. The marina now accommodates 200 boats, including the thriving Fox Boats hire fleet.

Charlie had a firm sense of community, and served as a retained local fireman for 25 years. He taught woodwork at a local school during the 1970’s, taught youngsters to sail at Mepal, and ran boatbuilding evening classes at Wisbech.

But the waterways were always at his heart. He worked on several restoration projects, including the re-opening of Well Creek Navigation in the 1970s and dug the winding hole at Whittlesey for the East Anglian Waterways Association in 1993.

Charlie Fox retired in 1997, but continued to sail and cruise extensively with his wife Pat, in both inland and coastal waterways. The business he created still thrives, and remains in the care of his daughters Paula and Tracey. 

Andrew Denny  | 12.28pm | add a comment


Today's news from the web

  • ‘Regent's Canal towpath spruce-up will not slow down speeding cyclists’ islingtontribune.com

    British Waterways’ plans to stop conflict between walkers and cyclists by sprucing up the towpath in Islington came under renewed criticism this week. Towpath campaigner Labour councillor Martin Klute accused BW of wanting to “beautify” the towpath in the belief that somehow it would encourage speeding cyclists to want to “slow down and admire the scenery”. Ian Shacklock, chairman of the Friends of Regent’s Canal, warned that plans to widen the towpath would not only exacerbate the conflict issue but also reduce the width of the canal and affect navigation....

  • Council acts on 'illegal' Oxford boaters oxfordtimes.co.uk

    A new crackdown has been launched against boaters illegally mooring in Oxford. Members of the city’s boating community last night said the new strict regime was unnecessary and would force boaters out of Oxford. The crackdown was launched after Oxford City Council paid £44,000 towards work by the Unlawfully Moored Boats Enforcement Group (Umbeg), which also includes representatives from British Waterways, the Environment Agency, Thames Valley Police and other landowners....


Thursday 1 March

IWA names its parliamentary champion

The Inland Waterways Association has named Fiona Bruce, the MP for Congleton, as its Parliamentarian of the Year for 2012.

The award was announced on 28th February at the IWA’s annual parliamentary awards dinner, held at the House of Commons and attended by nearly 40 MPs and peers of all major parties. IWA chairman Clive Henderson paid fulsome tribute to Fiona Bruce, saying she had given generous support for the inland waterways in the last year. 

Fiona, herself an IWA member, is treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Waterways Group and has played a key part in Parliament’s role in overseeing the formation of the Canal & River Trust charity. She was particularly effective at the Parliamentary Waterways Group hearings, where she asked searching questions of the new Canal and River Trust transition trustees

Fiona Bruce has two IWA branches in her constituency and Clive Henderson praise her valuable parliamentary and practical support for them during the year. 

This year’s annual dinner provoked lively debate surrounding the formation of the new waterways charity and the challenges it faces in its formative years. Clive Henderson took the opportunity to press home IWA’s belief that the Environment Agency navigations should be included in the new Canal & River Trust in 2015 as has been proposed.


Fiona Bruce MP (left) receives the IWA's 2012 award for Waterways Parliamentarian of the Year, on 29th February 2012.

Andrew Denny  | 5.10pm | add a comment


Historic Wolverhampton canalside firm destroyed by fire

A huge fire engulfed the 115-year-old Carvers building merchant site on 29th February, destroying the building and causing the Wolverhampton lock flight to be closed.

The building itself was constructed on the site of a historic interchange basin known as Victoria Basin. The canal at one time went inside the building but the arm and basin have been filled in for many years.

At its height West Midlands Fire Service had 90 firefighters at the scene tackling the blaze and trying to prevent it spreading. Much use was made of the

The lock flight was immediately closed, and BW said it would not reopen until Monday 5th March, by which time the potential pollution levels could be more accurately assessed and protected against.


Andrew Denny  | 12.34pm | add a comment


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