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Friday 23 March

Today's news from the web

  • The life of a Canal du Midi lock keeper bbc.co.uk

    A civil servant with a strong sense of duty, Sylvian Godfroy literally lives for his work. Mr Godfroy is a lock keeper on the Canal du Midi which runs through Toulouse. Originally he wanted to be a vet but fell in love with a lock keeper's daughter and now lives on the canal, housed by the state, at one of the city's locks. The canal has shaped his life in many ways. He has been working on it for over 30 years, a fact which has earned him the nickname 'Papy' or grandad from his workmates....

  • Family's incredible escape from sinking car that plunged into Bridgewater canal and filled with water dailymail.co.uk

    'I thought I was going to die, but didn't want to leave my wife': Family's incredible escape from sinking car that plunged into canal and filled with water BMW hit a brick and careered from the road into a canal Heroic firefighters jumped into the water and helped save the lives of elderly couple Two teenage schoolboys also praised after joining in with the rescue effort ...

Thursday 22 March

First full waterway partnership panels announced

The Canal & River Trust, the new waterways charity due to become the guardian of the canals and rivers in England and Wales later this year, has appointed its first members to three of the new waterways partnerships.

The partnerships work with the local management teams to guide the development of canals and rivers in their areas.

The Manchester & Pennines partnership, chaired by Walter Menzies and with David Baldacchino as waterway manager, will consist of Tayo Adebowale, Ian Banks, Graham Birch, Dave Champness, Lynda Jubb, Keith Sexton, Nigel Stevens, Jon Stopp, Iain Taylor and Mark Turner.

The North Wales & Borders partnership, chaired by Jim Forrester and managed by Wendy Capelle, includes Belinda Davenport, Gillian Edwards, Bill Furniss, Chris Koral, Helen Paterson, Alan Platt, Jane Staley and Steve Stamp.

The South Wales & Severn partnership is chaired by Jack Hegarty, and managed by Nick Worthington. Members are Grant Addison, Julian Atkins, Jan van Der Elsen, Lois Frances, Alasdair Kirkpatrick, Clive Matthews, Robert Moreland, Robert Pearce and David Wheeler.

Further details of the appointments, and backgrounds of the new members, can be found on www.waterscape.com/features-and-articles/news/3303/waterways-partnerships-announce-appointment-of-new-members

Andrew Denny  | 11.06am | add a comment

Wednesday 21 March

BW maps show drought – but only in a small part of the waterways network

In an echo of the annual winter works stoppages, BW has started to put out maps showing lock closures and opening hours in areas with growing water shortages.

The maps can be found on the new ‘Reservoir Watch’ section of the Waterscape web site.  A national map showing where drought restrictions are biting will be supplemented by more detailed maps focusing on the areas in question. The restrictions include a series of overnight lock closures, restricted opening hours and an obligation on boaters to share locks where possible, to help eke out critical reservoir levels.

It has been the driest year on record in some parts of southern and central England, and the Environment Agency recently confirmed official drought conditions in the South East.

And yet, for waterways users, it still appears to be a localised problem. Currently, six areas have a ‘critical’ water situation: 

  • The Kennet & Avon, east of Devizes 
  • The River Stort, north of London 
  • The Grand Union on the Chiltern approaches to London 
  • The Grand Union’s Leicester Summit 
  • The Grand Union summit between Braunston and Buckby (Norton Junction) 
  • The South Oxford, south of Napton Junction 

The Northampton arm of the Grand Union (down to the River Nene) will also close from mid-April, opening only briefly on specific dates for boat festivals. This will protect the water supply on the more critical route from Buckby locks down as far as Milton Keynes. The Hillmorton and Calcutt locks drawing their water from the ‘Braunston pound’ will also see restrictions.

BW staff will consider other special openings at certain peak times, such as bank holidays, the Crick Boat Show or boaters attending the Olympics or the Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

The maps clearly show a ‘compartmentalised’ situation, with no restrictions planned in other areas. 

Vince Moran, operations director, is urging boaters to go to other areas of the country: 

“Only a small proportion of the network will be affected so if boaters don’t need to be in the South East then what better opportunity to explore another hidden corner of the nationwide canal system?” 

Andrew Denny  | 4.40pm | add a comment

Tuesday 20 March

The ins and outs of setting up the Canal & River Trust

The Waterscape website has published a summary of the process of setting up the new Canal & River Trust

After a substantial amount of suspicion and mistrust among many canal 'activists', the 1,000-word document might clear up some issues, but is unlike to quell them all.  Nevertheless, it clearly outlines six steps being undertaken: 

  1. Transfer Order - This is the government instrument that transfer BW's statutory functions and amends legislation. It involves parliamentary scrutiny, a vote by Lords and Commons, and then a signing-off by the Environment Secretary. Waterscape says that "it is perfectly normal for such legislation to be considered by Parliament in anticipation of a transaction and before all the other pieces of the jigsaw are in place. 

  2. Transfer Scheme - transferring ownership of BW's approximately £500million of assets to the new Canal & River Trust. This is subject to conditions in the Trust Settlement and Grant funding agreement (3 and 4 following), so is not completed until those are settled.

  3. Trust Settlement - This sets out the terms under which the waterways will be held by the new Trust on behalf of the nation 'in perpetuity'. 

  4. Grant Funding Agreement - This is the 'meat' of the financial side. It sets the government's terms for providing (approximately) £750 million of funding over 15 years, as well as protecting BW's £500 milllion of assets for their primary purpose of providing revenues for the maintenance of the waterways. The terms of this agreement are interdependent with the terms of the Trust Settlement (above) and the Articles of Association (below), and so cannot be completed until the terms of those instruments are also settled.

  5. Articles of Association -  BW said the Canal & River Trust was set up last September with a temporary set of Articles of Association in order to get the company registered at Companies House. Some of those articles were said at the time to be dependent on the eventual terms of the Trust Settlement and Grant Funding Agreement, and would need alteration - for example to cater for the role of the new overseeing Council.

  6. Charitable Registration -The Canal & River Trust was set up initially as non-trading 'shell' company (officially "a private company limited by guarantee with charitable objects"), and did not need to be registered as a registered charity until it has £5,000 or more of income annually. Defra has said the application for charitable registration could not proceed until the terms of the Trust Settlement, the Grant Funding Agreement and the revised Articles of Association are settled. However, they also say that charity registration is "on track in accordance with the project plan". 

Andrew Denny  | 4.40pm | add a comment

Cambridge sends in peacekeepers over 'punt wars'

In a bid to end increasing ‘punt wars’ in Cambridge, the Cam Conservators have said that from April 2012 only licensed punt operators can operate, from six official stations, and a river bailiff has been appointed to police the operations. The trade is estimated to be worth up to £6million a year. An estimated 40 ‘punt touts’ were operating illegally in the city up to last year, and fights had been known to break out.  

The six official stations are at Granta Mill Pond, Trinity College, Jesus Green, Quayside, and on the east and west banks at Mill Pit.  

Andrew Denny  | 4.34pm | add a comment

Wardle Lock legend Maureen Shaw passes on.

Maureen Shaw, one of the dwindling band of original boatwomen who grew up working the oil boats of Thomas Clayton and lived for many years in the lock cottage at Wardle Lock, Middlewich, died on 17th March, aged 78, after a long illness.

Many regular boaters who passed through the lock, at the junction with the Shropshire Union’s Middlewich arm, will remember Maureen, who was always ready with friendly advice and opinions, particularly for inexperienced boaters. 

She was the adopted daughter of the Jinks boating family, and became one of the last professional horse boaters before marrying married boatman Jack Shaw, and together they worked Dace for Fellows, Morton & Clayton. 

Maureen recalled that she found the FMC boats, with their extremely varied cargoes and arduous ‘clothing-up’ very hard in comparison with the Thomas Clayton boats’ single cargoes and covered holds. After her husband’s national service he worked for British Waterways on the arduous old spoon dredgers, and they settled in to their Middlewich lockside home, Jack dying in 1995.

Maureen never learned to read or write, but in later years she gave talks around the country about her memories, and her mind remained sharp to the end. 

She moved out of the cottage about a year ago as her health worsened, and British Waterways put the cottage up for sale. Ironically it sold at auction just two days before she died. One user of the internet CanalWorld forum remarked: “I just hope the new owners love the place just as much as Maureen did, otherwise she may well have something to say about it.” 

Click here to read Maureen’s memories as related to Robert Davies for the April 2002 issue of Waterways World (free to subscribers).  

Andrew Denny  | 12.31pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • BCN pollution after blaze costs £300,000 to clean up birminghammail.net

    The pollution that hit the BCN Wolverhampton main line following an arson attack on a canalside warehouse last September is reported to have cost more than £300,000 to clean up. The blaze at Ettingshall saw a large quantity of aerosols, paints, thinners and detergents explode, severely contaminating and blocking the BCN, killing thousands of fish and sparking a rescue of 100,000 more. The Environment Agency estimates its own costs were around £270,000 while British Waterways said its costs were “tens of thousands of pounds”, and staff worked thousands of hours on the cleanup. Both are looking to retrieve the costs from the warehouse’s owner, Residual Brand Management, a company specialising in disposing of unwanted stock from other companies. ...

  • Fines send a warning to Cam boat owners cambridge-news.co.uk

    Four boat owners have been taken to court after failing to register their vessels on the River Cam. Fines of £100 were imposed by Cambridge magistrates on three of the owners, and all four had to pay compensation ranging from more than £270 to nearly £700. [Cam Conservators] River Manager Philippa Noon said: “These convictions send out a clear message that boat owners must register promptly and ensure that their vessels comply with our safety standards....

Monday 19 March

New Selly Oak plans guarantee place for Lapal canal link

A redesign was unveiled on 17th March of the massive Sainsbury’s-centred retail development that had threatened to block the Lapal Canal restoration at its junction with the Worcester & Birmingham canal at Selly Oak.  

The new plans include a commitment to recreate the first furlong of the old Lapal Canal through the 32-acre development, along with an extended waterfront area around the junction, a footbridge over the canal, and a properly constructed winding hole. 

This new Lapal Link section should stretch for around 330 yards, crossing Harborne Lane and taking the canal through to Selly Oak Park, where restoration can continue later. 

The development will include “a new vibrant ‘waterfront square” designed to attract visitors to a variety of bars, cafés and restaurants and two new hotels by the canal. 

The unveiled artist’s impressions convey the look of a smaller version of Birmingham’s Brindleyplace.  

The plans have now been submitted to Birmingham City Council. Should planning approval be granted, work could start on cleaning up the currently derelict site as early as next year, with construction commencing in 2014. 

Andrew Denny  | 5.03pm | add a comment

Progress towards plans for a re-watered length of the Buckingham Canal

Another significant stretch of the Buckingham Canal is close to being put back into water says the Buckingham Canal Society. 

Around 550 yards of the canal at Bourton Meadow will be restored to navigable status as a demonstration to the local community of the benefits the restoration will bring in terms of environment, leisure, green infrastructure and flood mitigation.

Volunteers have repaired a spill-weir, cleared the bed and kept it strimmed.  An ecological habitat survey has been carried out which highlights significant possibilities for habitat enhancement including using planted coir rolls for soft edging and developing existing hedgerows. The survey was funded by a £1,000 grant from Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation’s London Luton Airport Fund

The work is partly the fruit of a new partnership agreement with Aylesbury Vale District Council, while Bucks County Council recently awarded the society a further £2,000 from the Community Leaders’ Fund towards the restoration at Bourton Meadow.

The society is now preparing a planning application for the re-watering of the stretch, and says it would welcome advice and support from other canal societies who have experience of such applications.  

"As this is likely to be the first of many such applications we are determined to prepare a well-thought out application that puts the application into its long-term context", said Athina Beckett, chairman of the society. 

We want councillors to be fully informed about matters that are unfamiliar to them such as canal lining materials.  If other canal restoration organisations have experience of similar applications we would love to hear from them." 

The estimates to re-profile, line and landscape the section are expect to cost around £80,000. It is expected that a considerable part of this work will be undertaken by volunteers and grant applications are being prepared to meet the balance.

Andrew Denny  | 1.06pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • The cat who came back... after SIX YEARS dailymail.co.uk

    Moggy Mac found living wild in buildings by canal after jumping off owners' narrowboat ...

  • Forth & Clyde canal lovers protest at litter louts kirkintilloch-herald.co.uk

    Fly-tippers and dozy dog walkers are ruining a popular walking route, it has been claimed. Cardboard boxes, dog dirt and other litter are scattered in areas in and around the tunnel under the canal including Auchendavie Road, Tintock Road and Kilsyth Road in Kirkintilloch....

Friday 16 March

BW announces early lock closure programme to conserve water supplies

As the drought grows, even before summer has begun, British Waterways has announced an early start to water conservation in the Midlands and South East region. 

Some parts of southern and central England experienced the driest year on record in 2011 and the Environment Agency recently confirmed official drought conditions in the South East. 

In January BW said they were spending an additional £700,000 investment on 24 schemes to improve water resources for the main boating season. While the majority of the network will not be significantly affected, selected lock gates will be padlocked overnight as a further measure to help conserve water throughout the summer. 

The restrictions, which will start on parts of the Grand Union and Oxford Canals at the end of March, will see boat movements controlled in some key locations with gates being locked at the end of each day to minimise wastage through vandalism or paddles being left open. Similar measures will be in place on the Kennet & Avon Canal as groundwater levels fall. These restrictions will be reviewed throughout the season and adjusted where appropriate and special openings will be considered at peak times such as Bank Holiday weekends. 

The restrictions have been planned following discussions with boating organisations, canal societies and waterway businesses. As a direct result of these discussions BW has produced special maps showing the restrictions and the varying potential drought risk across the network as a tool to help boaters to plan their journeys.

The navigational maps will be updated on a monthly basis and published with reservoir reports at www.waterscape.com/features-and-articles/features/british-waterways-reservoir-watch 

Andrew Denny  | 4.42pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

Thursday 15 March

Up to 40 BW workboats seeking ‘good homes’

British Waterways is disposing of 40 redundant working boats from around the network. The boats include dredgers, tugs, weedcutters and general hoppers, many of them in poor condition – or even sunk – and most would require a considerable amount of work just to get floating or through a boat safety certificate.  It is possible some could end up as scrap.  

Three of the boats for sale are 20ft tugs in the ‘Bird’ class – Plover, Bittern and Heron.  All three of these tugs are fitted with Lister HR 2 engines and Blackstone gearboxes, and at least two of the tugs have boat safety certificates valid until 2013. 

A list of the boats and terms can be seen on Waterscape, at http://www.waterscape.com/features-and-articles/news/3300/sale-of-craft-to-societies-and-trusts 

Before any public auction takes place, BW wants to see if the boats might find a free ‘good home’ amongst waterways societies, restoration groups or museums. Expressions of interest should be emailed to Michael Carrington (mick.carrington@britishwaterways.co.uk) by April 6th 2012.

These are not craft for the dilettante. BW warns: “Any organisation will need to take over ownership of the vessel and should note that some of the craft are regarded as ‘life expired’ by BW for routine waterway maintenance works. Consequently, maintenance of these craft can run into several thousands of pounds each year.”

Andrew Denny  | 1.21pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Simon Barnes runs 197.5 miles from Thames Barrier to source for Sport Relief thisisgloucestershire.co.uk

    Celebrations broke out at the source of the River Thames when extreme runner Simon Barnes reached it after running for 57 hours from London. And Simon covered the 197.5 miles non-stop for Sport Relief. ​He took only 18 minutes for a power nap to combat dizziness, deafness and fatigue. Simon set off from the Thames Barrier last Friday at 7.48am and reached the source of the longest river in England near Coates at 4.58pm on Sunday....

  • Man arrested after Derbyshire canal boat stand-off bbc.co.uk

    A man who was wanted by police has been arrested after a 12-hour stand-off on a canal boat in Derbyshire. Armed officers and a police helicopter were deployed to an area of canal behind the Plough Inn in Town Street, Sandiacre, on Wednesday afternoon. [UPDATE from Derbyshire constabulary:] The incident at Sandiacre has been resolved. Just before 5.30am today a man who was wanted by police gave himself up after a stand-off with officers that lasted more than 12 hours. Yesterday afternoon the man was seen on a boat at the back of the Plough Inn on Town Street in Sandiacre. Armed officers attended and surrounded the boat. The police helicopter also attended. The man refused to leave the boat and specially trained negotiators were called to speak to him. The negotiations continued and as a result the 41-year-old man walked off the boat. He was arrested in connection with breach of a Violent Offender Order and on suspicion of burglary and theft. He will be questioned later in the day. No shots were fired and no-one was injured. No weapon was found on the boat. The police would like to thank the management of the Plough Inn for their co-operation during the incident and the public for their understanding if they were inconvenienced....

Wednesday 14 March

Three new trustees bring extra experience to CRT board

Three new trustees have been appointed to the board of the Canal & River Trust as it nears official approval. The new appointees, all volunteers, bring specialist knowledge in finance, asset management and property investment to the charity, which will immediately become the third largest owner of listed buildings in the UK and one of the top 20 charities by income.

The first, Marisa Cassoni, is currently the finance director of the John Lewis Partnership, as well as sitting on a number of committees and boards, including the philanthropic Peabody Trust.

Manish Chande is a senior partner of Mountgrange, the private commercial investor and developer, and was previously on the board of Land Securities plc. From 2003 until last year he was a Commissioner of English Heritage, and in 2007 because a trustee of the London Clinic.

Steve Shine OBE has been chief operating officer of Thames Water since 2007, but is about to leave ‘to take on new challenges’. He started his career as an electrician, working through the electrical industry to become MD of London Electricity Contracting and a board member of London Electricity (later EDF).

Tony Hales, chairman of the Canal & River Trust, said “The new trustees bring a huge amount of expertise and knowledge, particularly in areas which will be key to our future success.”

The new appointments need to be ratified at the first meeting of the Trust’s council on 28th March, for an initial three year term.   The roles are unpaid (except for expenses).

Andrew Denny  | 5.21pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Canal boating in Cheshire - Mirror Online mirror.co.uk

    Four miles an hour might not sound like the sort of speed to set the pulse racing, but when you are about to squeeze a 57ft narrowboat through a 7ft gap, it feels quite fast enough. From zero to scary in a matter of seconds. I can’t look. It’s as much as I can do not to shut my eyes, so convinced am I that our vessel’s lovely fresh paintwork is about to get a good scrape. ...

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