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Friday 20 January

'Gloriana' to lead the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant

It can now be revealed that the “mystery” vessel being constructed in a secret location by the Richmond boatyard run by Mark Edwards will be a massive 88 ft long, with a 12 ft beam and will closely resemble the Royal Shallop shown in last month’s Waterways World. It is almost certain that it will lead the pageant, bearing military trumpeters to herald the arrival of the Queen. 

With the Queen’s Bargemaster at the helm, Olympic oarsman, Sir Steven Redgrave will join a further 17 of Her Majesty’s 24 watermen to row the ten-ton craft, which will be called the Gloriana. She will be graced with a mermaid and serpent and will be decorated with around £4,000 worth of gold leaf, reminiscent of the spectacular boats belonging to the 12 great livery companies that formed the18th century pageants that so impressed Canaletto. 

Mayor Boris Johnson said the barge will be a "truly striking addition to the Jubilee celebrations". Her cabin will be able to accommodate 58 passengers and she will be fitted with two electric engines for use if necessary in strong tides.

Initially, the vessel was to carry the Queen and other members of the royal family to Hampton Court, but unfortunately, this plan was defeated by extensive health and safety issues, and the role was subsequently allocated to the Spirit of Chartwell. However, Gloriana will afterwards be presented to the Queen. 

Alternative space had to be found to build the boat – hence the secret location - because she was too big to fit inside any of the boatyard’s buildings, so although she will be kept at Richmond, she will remain afloat. 

As the Queen’s official royal barge, it is anticipated that in the future, she will regularly be called upon to take part in ceremonial and charity events. The £500,000 cost is being underwritten by the Conservative peer, Lord Sterling, who not surprisingly is hoping to receive donations!  He said: "If you didn't do something for the Diamond Jubilee, when would you ever think was an appropriate time to do something?"

The initiative for a specially built boat came from Prince Charles who contacted Lord Sterling almost two years ago. Sweet chestnut from Highgrove, Prince Charles’s private estate, is among the materials used in her construction. Craftsmen are energetically involved in the drive to meet the 20 week deadline. 

Such a vessel, hand built entirely of wood, would normally take nine months to complete and most evenings Mark Edwards can be found hard at work till 10 pm and beyond.  He is no stranger to this type of boat; he created the Jubilant, used as the Mayor’s Shallop last November when the annual Lord Mayor’s pageant was returned to the Thames after pollution 160 years ago caused it to become a land-based event.

Sir Steve, who has visited the yard where she is under construction, commented, “I was captivated not just by the beautiful lines of this magnificent vessel but by the infectious energy and enthusiasm of the young team working to build it. I can't wait to have a go at rowing it”

Tom Chaplin 

Artist's impression of Gloriana, a brand new Royal shallop based on an 18th Century design, and built by Mark Edwards' Thames boatyard at Richmond.

Andrew Denny  | 12.20pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Regent’s Canal barge sinks prompting fears about canal newcomers hamhigh.co.uk

    Boaters have raised fears that high house prices are prompting people with little knowledge of the water onto barges – as one vessel was hauled out of Regent’s Canal. The barge, at visitor moorings west of Camden Town, is thought to be one of at least three to run into trouble in the area in as many months. ... A neighbour said: “More and more people are moving onto boats because land rents are so high. People at the poorer end buy the oldest boats and have the least clue.” ...

  • Wraps are taken off Whitchurch canal revamp plans shropshirestar.com

    This is the latest glimpse of major £500,000 plans to revamp part of the Shropshire Union Canal in Whitchurch. Members of the Whitchurch Waterway Trust have taken the wraps of proposals to extend the canal and create a new basin with moorings. They say that the work would bring canal boat users nearer to the town centre and become a tourist attraction for Whitchurch. Trust members estimate construction costs of the basin at about £475,000. It includes landscaping, creating steps and a pedestrian ramp, altering car parking and surfacing, and excavating soil. Plans can be viewed at www.whitchurchwaterway.org.uk and people are being invited to make comments about them before the end of January. ...

  • BBC radio presenters Adam & Katherine take pedalo across Leeds & Liverpool Canal bbc.co.uk

    Two BBC Radio Leeds presenters have begun intensive training for a special waterborne challenge in March in aid of BBC Sport Relief 2012. Adam Pope and Katherine Hannah aim to navigate along the entire 127 miles (204km) of the historic Leeds-Liverpool Canal - using just a pedalo boat. Travelling at an average speed of about 2mph (4km/h), and negotiating 91 locks along the way, the pair aim to complete their pedal-powered journey in just 10 days, collecting cash for Sport Relief along the way. ...

  • Shrewsbury footbridge’s ferry replacement welcomed shropshirestar.com

    Plans for a ferry service to shuttle pedestrians across the River Severn when a historic footbridge closes for repairs in March have been welcomed by the leader of Shrewsbury Town Council. The owners of the Boathouse Inn have revealed plans to launch a ferry crossing between The Quarry and the pub when the Porthill footbridge closes for essential repairs in March. Bosses said the 12-seater boat would run for more than eight hours a day provisionally between 8am and 9.30am and noon and 7pm. People will be charged 50p to cross the river on the boat, which will be staffed by two crew members and will be open every day during the closure. Sabrina Boats will run the service, which will be subsidised by Shropshire Council and the Boathouse Inn....

  • London Olympics security rehearsal begins on River Thames telegraph.co.uk

    Elite British security teams take to the River Thames this week as part of a massive security rehearsal to foil terror disaster at the Olympics. Scotland Yard and the Royal Marines are joining forces for a string of "familiarisation exercises" to avoid catastrophe in London this summer. The Metropolitan Police's Marine Policing Unit and army members will provide a rare glimpse of Britain's top secret security plan as they take to the water. The drills "are designed to make sure that everyone has the same level of knowledge about how the river operates and how our tactics work together," police said. ...

  • Five Thames boaters fined £6,587 for flouting registration and sanitation laws environment-agency.gov.uk

    Five boaters caught using their vessels on the River Thames without valid registrations and one with inadequate sanitary appliances have been convicted by magistrates - and fined a total of £6,587. ...

  • New Lock Gates at Benson Lock tmba.org.uk

    Every year EA effectively close long lengths of the Thames to perform major works on the lock structures. This year there is only one lock to have new gates and that is at Benson in Oxfordshire. Amongst other matters EA had to close a popular footpath well used by the local population, so it was a thought a good idea to thank them for their forbearance by allowing them to view the works in progress. Last Wednesday 11th. January work was suspended over lunchtime and invitees were split into three groups of about a dozen each minded by almost as many EA staff (H&S considerations, you know) and conducted across the weirs onto the site. ...

  • My love affair with Birmingham telegraph.co.uk

    We know about London, but what about the city that will be at the other end of HS2? There’s more to Birmingham than curry and canals, says proud Brummie Derek Bishton. [For boaters, though, Birmingham *IS* canals!]...

Thursday 19 January

BW sells prime Docklands site for £52.4m

British Waterways and its partners have finally sold a 250-year lease on its valuable Woods Wharf site in Docklands, to the Canary Wharf Group (CGW). BW owns half of the long-disused site, which has been planned for development for several years. The deal is worth £52.4m in cash to BW, along with £6m a year in ground rent. 

Less well noted in the public announcement is that the Ballymore property group, which owns 25%, is being paid £38m for its share.

CGW chairman Sir George Iacobescu said they had bought the site because BW “did not have the desire to take the project forward at the pace we wanted”.

The new Wood Wharf is being designed by Richard Rogers, and CGW says it will change the character of Canary Wharf, bringing in 1,600 homes, as well as an open-air market, hotel and health centre. A key part of the site’s value is the now-excellent transport links, and the first tenants should be moving in by the time Crossrail is completed in 2018. 

Andrew Denny  | 12.39pm | add a comment

Wednesday 18 January

Today's news from the web

  • Details of Thames Jubilee boat procession announced thamesdiamondjubileepageant.org

    Firm plans have now been announced for the huge 1,000 boat procession planned for the Jubilee River Pageant on the Thames on Sunday 3rd June. When assembled, it is expected to be the largest ever seen on the river, running from Wandsworth Bridge to Tower Bridge, and the organisers are expecting a million people to turn out to see it. 

    The procession will be led by a floating belltower, with church bells cast for the occasion, and Gloriana, a hand-built, 90-foot 18-oar rowbarge covered in gold leaf, specially built for the occasion by boatbuilder Mark Edwards. 

    The seven-mile long procession will feature Dunkirk little ships, historic vessels, steam boats and tugs, but also numerous canal craft including narrowboats, as well as 35 commercial passenger river craft. Up to 20,000 people are expected to be on the water at one time. 

    At its centre will be the royal barge, a temporary conversion of the Thames hotel boat Spirit of Chartwell, carrying the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. 

    The procession will include a special 'canal' section, featuring 40 narrowboats and 20 Dutch barges. Among them are some historic working narrowboats, including Bream, Fulbourne and Tarpoley

    The full procession will have ten sections, each preceded by barges with musicians. 

    The £12m cost of the pageant - which includes a £2m VAT bill - is being funded by private sponsorship and donations, according to Lord Salisbury who leads the organisation of the event, with the main corporate sponsor being Sainsbury's.

    The organisers believe the event could gather a global television audience of hundreds of millions, and in addition to the Jubilee celebrations could act as a curtain-raiser for the Olympic Games.


  • 60-acre woodland for Kennet & Avon canal waterscape.com

    British Waterways is appealing for volunteers to help plant a new 60-acre woodland beside the Caen Hill lock flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal. It is one of 60 Diamond Woods being planted across the country in 2012 to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The first of the 10,000 trees that will make up the canal-side wood are being planted over the next two months. The remainder will be planted towards the end of year, when conditions once again become suitable for planting trees. The project is being run by the Woodland Trust and funded by the Forestry Commission....

  • Environment Agency wants volunteer Thames lock keepers bbc.co.uk

    Volunteer assistant lock keepers are being sought to work on the River Thames over the summer. The Environment Agency (EA) wants people to help at all 44 locks on the non-tidal stretch of the Thames between May and September. It includes sites in Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey and Teddington on the outskirts of London....

  • London to get new river ferry and road tunnel under River Thames telegraph.co.uk

    London mayor Boris Johnson is promising a new ferry and a road tunnel for the Thames within the next 10 years. The new ferry crossing, between Beckton and Thamesmead at Gallions Reach, east of the Thames barrier, will be open for traffic by 2017. The proposed tunnel, between the Greenwich peninsula and Silvertown in the Royal Docks, will ... relieve pressure on existing tunnels at Blackwall and Rotherhithe to the west. ...

Monday 16 January

DBA 2012 Thames rally venue announced

The Dutch Barge Association has announced that its 2012 annual rally is to be at Mapledurham, near Reading, on the 17th-20th August. The moorings will be above the lock, near the historic Mapledurham House and close to the watermill. Near the house is a large meadow, which will be available exclusively to the Association, and the river frontage will have a capacity of 30 barges, moored 3-4 deep. 

The rally will be an interesting opportunity to examine the new Archimedes screw turbine electricity generator, the first of many to be installed at Thames weirs in the near future.  

Meanwhile, the DBA’s training officer, Chris Ries, has donated a second trophy for the DBA’s barge handling competitions, and is seeking suggestion for a title for the trophy. The trophy is a scale model of half a barge hull, based on his own barge. Entries are requested to events organiser Bill Cozens (bill.cozens@barges.org).

Andrew Denny  | 3.18pm | add a comment

Brian Blessed fronts Canal & River Trust volunteer appeal

The forthcoming Canal & River Trust launched its appeal today for volunteer lock keepers around the waterways network as it takes over from British Waterways this year. And to get the message across, they brought out Brian Blessed, larger-than-life actor, adventurer and 'commanding presence', for a photocall at Aldermaston Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal.  

If the waterways ever needed a 'town crier', few would be better suited to the role than Blessed, who is lending his own image to the campaign for free. The Trust estimates that one-fifth of Britons use the waterways each year, and wants people to volunteer as lock keepers to ensure a polite and friendly welcome to all waterway visitors – and particularly in assisting novice boaters through the locks and helping to maintain local stretches of waterway.

The volunteer scheme was started last year along the Grand Union and Kennet & Avon canals and the River Trent. It is now being rolled out across the rest of the network, particularly at prominent locations such as Bingley Five Rise (Leeds & Liverpool Canal), Tuel Lane - the deepest lock in the country (Rochdale Canal), and the Hertford Union.  This latter location will briefly become the most important and visited on the waterways this summer, as it borders the Olympic Games site. 

Brian Blessed said that the UK waterways helped to create his love of the outdoors and wildlife: "When I was a child I loved our canals and rivers, going off exploring on my bike and looking for wildlife. They’re unique places so I would urge people with a real passion for their local waterway to get involved as a volunteer lock keeper or take advantage of one of the many opportunities to support the Canal & River Trust. 

"[The waterways] meant so much to me as a child so I think it’s important we all do what we can to help protect them for our next generations to enjoy."

The outgoing British Waterways said that in the year ending March 2011 volunteers contributed more than 24,000 days, and in the lock keeper trials last summer, over 50 people successfully became volunteer lock keepers.

"Being a lock keeper is arguably the most symbolic job on the waterways", said Ed Moss, national volunteering manager for British Waterways and the forthcoming Trust. "It will be a perfect opportunity for those who enjoy working in the outdoors and are perhaps looking for something different to do and help support the Canal & River Trust in what will be its first year."

"The key qualities we’re looking for are enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Whether it’s helping a boat through the lock, talking to customers, litter picking or vegetation work, it can really make a great difference."

Volunteering will be essential to the success of the Canal & River Trust, which will immediately become one of the biggest charities in the UK. It will also give local communities a bigger say in the running of their local canal or river.

A full list of volunteer lock keeping locations are available at www.waterscape.com/things-to-do/volunteering or by emailing volunteer@britishwaterways.co.uk or phoning 01827 252097. Willing volunteers can start quickly and no prior experience is necessary as a full induction, training and a uniform will be provided.

Andrew Denny  | 11.45am | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Extra cash needed for Sutton Weaver bridge repairs placenorthwest.co.uk

    Cheshire West and Chester Council and British Waterways say they are seeking urgent talks with the government over funding for repairs to the Sutton Weaver swing bridge on the A56 near Frodsham. According to British Waterways, which owns the 90-year-old structure, the bridge will soon need major re-strengthening work at a cost of £4m. The council said it can meet its share of the bill but British Waterways is struggling to find the balance. ...

  • Sold down the river? Boaters to be moved on during Olympics independent.co.uk

    Hundreds of nomadic boaters who call the waterways close to the main Olympic sites home are effectively being evicted for nearly 10 weeks over the summer. Under new rules, they will be barred from mooring their boats in Olympic control zones on 15 miles of the River Lea and Regent's Canal unless they are willing to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds to British Waterways to secure a spot for the 10 weeks – something most boaters are simply unable to do. Click here to see the graphic of the canal. This has led to fresh tensions between the boating communities and British Waterways (BW), whisking-up a bubbling cauldron of animosity that frankly did not need much more than a stir. ...

Saturday 14 January

Cam boaters' anger over 'ridiculous' licence charges

The Cam Conservancy has announced major changes in boat licence conditions – along with large increases of up to 21.5% in annual licence fees. 

Local boaters have reacted furiously to the news, said Camboaters representative Amy Tillson. “We will be approaching the local MP, Julian Huppert, and to central Government if necessary. Unlike the new Canal & River Trust or the Environment Agency, the Conservancy is a Parliamentary body accountable only to central Government. 

“We will also be investigating the possibility of getting the Cam Conservators amalgamated in the Canals and Rivers Trust in 2015 when the EA may be also incorporated.”

“Currently, boaters can use the Cam Con waters if they buy an EA licence, under an 'Interchange Agreement'. Most boats choose to do this, except for the 25% who buy a Cam only licence from the Cam Conservancy.

“However, from 2012, the Interchange Agreement is changing dramatically. For boats who moor on the Cam, buying an EA licence will no longer be an option. All boats moored on the Cam will have to buy a CamCon-EA licence which will be 110% of the relevant EA licence for their length, effectively 17% more than a current EA licence because of the EA's 6.4% (CPI+2%) fee increase this year. This means that for the 25% of boats who currently have a Cam-Con licence, their fees will effectively increase by an extraordinary 21.5%.”

Boaters on EA waters will thus have the option of:

1)  An EA licence which does not allow access to the Cam, 
2)  An EA-Cam licence, at 110% of the relevant EA licence for their boat length, 
3)  A visitor licence at 15% of the relevant EA licence,

However, a boat caught on the Cam without a licence will be obliged to pay for a visitor licence at a punitive 25% of the relevant EA licence. 

Boats with the universal EA/BW ‘Gold’ licence will have to opt for an additional visitor licence for the Cam, as the Gold licence will no longer cover Cam Con waters. However, the Conservators are discussing 'trade plates' which will allow visiting boats to come to the Cam for services such as slippage and repair work. 

Details of new Interchange Agreement are on http://www.camconservators.co.uk/pdf/Note-7b-12-01-12.pdf 

The conservators are also taking on an additional warden in the summer months whose job will partly be to monitor boat movement and enforce licensing. 

Andrew Denny  | 3.35pm | add a comment

Rumours grow about delay in transfer to Trust status

In the absence of definite news, speculation is growing that the launch of the new Canal & River Trust might be delayed past its original launch date of 1st April. The transition trustees are continuing to negotiate with Defra, particularly over the issue of government funding for the next decade. It is said that trustees are arguing firmly that an annual grant of £39million is insufficient to give the Trust the ‘flying start’ it desperately needs. 

BW and Defra are refusing to comment publicly. However, sources close to negotiations believe that a final agreement is ‘very close’, likely before the end of January. Once agreed, the transfer needs to be approved by Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, but any delay in negotiations will put pressure on the parliamentary timetable. Conceivably this could delay approval for months, although both BW and Defra consider it unlikely. 

Rumours on some websites that ‘selected journalists’ were privately briefed on the delay seem wide of the mark. Indeed, the transition trustees released a public report on the negotiations last month. It pointed out: 

“While the Parliamentary process looks as if it will now take longer than we had previously been advised, putting pressure on an April launch date, all the building blocks needed to establish the new Trust next year are falling into place … it is all taking place much longer than either party would wish.”

However, even if there is no delay in the move to Trust status on 1st April, the public launch could be delayed until mid-June, to ensure it does not clash with the planned Diamond Jubilee festivities over the Whitsun bank holiday or the Olympics the following month. 

WW understands that should there be any delay in Trust status, it will also include the transfer of the Scottish waterways to Scottish government control. 

Andrew Denny  | 1.38pm | add a comment

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