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Monday 5 March

Today's news from the web

  • 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

Wednesday 29 February

BW trials new type of stop plank

BW has been testing a new type of lightweight aluminium stop-plank for emergency use in canal breaches. 

The planks were first tried out during an emergency lock stoppage in London late last year, when an engineer happened to have them in his van, and BW said this first use was a great success.  A new test was taking place today (29th February) at Aston Lock, on the eastern end of the Trent & Mersey near Shardlow. 

“Quite often, stop gates aren’t where we would like them to be or are silted up, so these new aluminium stop planks are being considered as an alternative”, said Stephen Hardy of British Waterways. 

“The planks are telescopic, to allow them to fit just about anywhere, and can fit a gap of between 3m and 6m. When the engineer arrives on site, he doesn’t have to rely on stop planks already being there – he simply measures the width of the stop grooves, adjusts the planks accordingly and slots them in place.” 

The new stop planks are said to be much easier to handle than wood, faster to install, and because they are telescopic they don’t have to be cut specifically to size. In addition, unlike dedicated wood stop planks, they don’t have to be stored on site, so will not be subject to vandalism. They were designed by BW in conjunction with Sapa Profiles, a specialist in extruded aluminium products. 

Andrew Denny  | 12.26pm | 1 comment

Today's news from the web

  • River Thames oil slick: Berkshire charity saves 68 swans bbc.co.uk

    Berkshire charity Swan Lifeline has been involved in cleaning 68 swans after oil leaked into the River Thames between Eton Bridge and the leisure centre in Windsor on Monday. The stretch of the river was sealed off so the Environment Agency could clean it up....

  • Giant Olympic rings launched on the Thames bbc.co.uk

    Giant Olympic rings have been launched on to the River Thames to mark 150 days until the start of the London Games. The rings are travelling on a barge passing key landmarks including Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf. The journey started at London Bridge instead of Battersea Bridge as planned due to "tidal flows". Mayor Boris Johnson has announced free events for every borough during the Games. The events will include a floating opera inspired by The Owl And The Pussycat to be staged on the city's canals and devised by Monty Python star Terry Jones....

Tuesday 28 February

Today's news from the web

Monday 27 February

Today's news from the web

  • Shepperton Lock voted favourite lock in EA's 2011 Thames Waterways Awards. environment-agency.gov.uk

    Shepperton Lock has scooped top place for the ‘Best Lock’ on the River Thames, after hundreds of people voted in the Environment Agency’s 2011 Thames Waterways Awards. Steve Newman, lock keeper at Shepperton Lock, said “A big thank you for all of my customers that have voted for Shepperton Lock this year. It’s a lot of hard work for myself and the team but its always worth it just for the lovely remarks we receive....

  • RYA advice on HMRC red diesel announcement rya.org.uk

    Rya advice to boaters following the announcement by HMRC on 21 February 2012. The Ministerial statement indicated that, from 1 April 2012, the use of marked 'red' diesel to propel private pleasure craft will be allowed only within UK territorial waters. ...

Saturday 25 February

Today's news from the web

  • Environment Agency says this week SE England moved officially into drought status environment-agency.gov.uk

    On Monday 20 February, the Environment Secretary announced that the South East of England has officially moved into drought status. This is due to the combination of persistent dry weather and the continuing decline in groundwater levels and river flows and increasing the risk to public water supplies, agriculture and the environment. As a result Hampshire, West Sussex, East Sussex, Kent, Surrey, London, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and the east of Gloucestershire are now in drought....

  • Civil Service Live interviews Robin Evans network.civilservicelive.com

    British Waterways chief Robin Evans has spent years campaigning for the public corporation to become a charitable trust. He tells Matt Ross why our canals are set to thrive outside the illusory security of government ownership If an organisation is riddled with huge, pressing and intractable problems, says Robin Evans, then it’s probably best off in the public sector. “Government’s great in a crisis,” he remarks. “It’s got unlimited resource.” But when a public body is running relatively smoothly, he believes, it can lose out to its more troubled peers: “If you’re not in a crisis you get starved, because the money goes to the crises – and government has 55,000 crises every day.”...

Friday 17 February

Today's news from the web

  • Women's Boat Race set for men's course from 2015 bbc.co.uk

    The Women's Boat Race is to be staged on the same course and day as the men's competition from 2015. The women's event has been held on the River Thames at Henley since 1927. But from 2015 it will take place on the men's 4¼-mile course between Putney and Mortlake on the Thames. Both events will be held on the same day, with the women's competition taking place before the men's. Organisers believe the move would send a message about equality in sport. ...

  • Last traditional Thames weir to be removed oxfordmail.co.uk

    Officials from the Environment Agency have insisted health and safety issues mean they must update the last remaining traditional 'paddle & rymer' weir on the Thames, after an MP stepped into the row. Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood wrote to the Health & Safety Executive for clarification on whether Northmoor Weir, near Eaton – one of the last of its type on the River Thames – had to be replaced on safety grounds. But an HSE spokesman said: “It’s not within HSE’s regulatory remit to make decisions on replacing this weir.” ...

  • Comedian Dave Spikey gives voice to canal safety yorkshirepost.co.uk

    Comedian Dave Spikey has created a comic commentary for boaters on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The Lancashire-born actor provided the voiceover and script for Skipton-based Pennine Boat Trips after being approached by proprietor Nick Osborn. Mr Osborn recognised that some customers switched off during on-board safety commentaries and he wanted to keep their interest with a comic but educational script. “We believe this could be the first canal tour in the UK to have some humour included in the commentary. ...

Thursday 16 February

Today's news from the web

  • Police cordon off Middlewich canal after report of 'grenade' floating in the water crewechronicle.co.uk

    Residents in Booth Lane, Middlewich, were ordered to stay in their homes by police at the weekend after reports of an explosive grenade floating in the canal. At about 3.30pm on Saturday, Cheshire police responded to a call from a member of the public – who had been walking along the canal path – who reporting seeing a metal object floating on top of ice on the canal. The object was later found to be a fake. ...

  • '£1m repair bill' for Manchester Ship Canal blue cranes at Salford bbc.co.uk

    The familiar blue Manchester Ship Canal cranes at Salford Docks could be scrapped because they are badly damaged and may cost up to £1m to repair. The two cranes tower above the Manchester Ship Canal at Salford Quays. Salford City Council said they were "symbols of the city's industrial heritage" but money may be better spent on a different monument. Council leader Derek Antrobus said: "The problem is [retaining them] them could cost up to £1m. "In the current era of austerity is it worth spending a £1m on maintaining them as they are or can that money be better spent commemorating the heritage of the docks in a different way?" ...

  • Work begins to improve Bedford lock bedfordshire-news.co.uk

    An Environment Agency lock in Bedfordshire is being refurbished as part of an ongoing project to improve safety and reliability at the lock gates on the River Great Ouse The work, which began on Monday will cost £110,000 with the Bedford Lock guillotine gate being refurbished and improvements made such as replacement drive systems, actuator, gearbox, chain sprockets, bearings and shafts. The lock will be electrified, one of the last locks on the Great Ouse system to be motorised. The new control systems will include a pedestal-type design navigation control panel with countdown timers and safety delay feature....

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