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Tuesday 21 May

Boats finally free from Gloucester Lock

Boaters on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal must have breathed a sigh of relief on 3rd May when Gloucester Lock finally opened, four months after what was intended to be a six-week winter stoppage to fix a leaky lock chamber (WW June).

The Canal & River Trust had encountered real problems with the 200-year-old brick base of the chamber, which could not hold water. In locating the problem it also had to clear around 200 tonnes of silt.

On the great day the lock had been due to open at 7:30am. But a build-up of silt behind the outer stop gates prevented them opening, and divers had to be sent down with powerful jets of compressed air to displace it. It was 8pm before any boats were able to pass.

Our correspondent Chris Witts said: “The first vessel through was the hotel cruiser Edward Elgar, followed by the Conway Castle, the largest ship on the Severn. Both were bound for Upper Lode Lock at Tewkesbury where CRT had given the lock-keeper overtime to stay on duty, and Edward Elgar special permission to moor overnight.

“The passengers of the Edward Elgar were exceedingly happy and cheered the workmen, as well as singing the hymn Jerusalem.”


Conway Castle emerges from Gloucester Lock in the dusk. Photo: Chris Witts.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_13878" align="alignnone" width="300"] 
Edward Elgar leaves Gloucester Lock, to the strains of 'Jerusalem'. Photo: Chris Witts.

Andrew Denny  | 3.47pm | add a comment

Beverley barge celebrates 70th

The Beverley Barge Preservation Society celebrated the 70th anniversary of its barge Syntan in April, with a rally at its home on Beverley Beck.

Syntan was built in 1949 at the shipyard of John Hepworths at Paull on the edge of the Humber, and was one of 15 Beverley barges for the tannery of Richard Hodgson. Tanning was a major industry of Beverley, and this type of barge carried cargo to and from Hull Docks, including hides and other products required for tanning. They would also carry general cargoes around Yorkshire, always returning to Beverley.

By 1972 Beverley barges were deemed uneconomic, and Syntan was sold to the Swinton firm of E.V. Waddington. A former skipper of Syntan, Nev Holgate, found it laid up and vandalised at Doncaster in 2001; Clariant Chemicals, the successor company to the tannery, helped Nev buy the boat and restore it. Nev also founded the society to remember the industrial and maritime heritage of Beverley Beck.

Syntax now sees active use, both as a trip-boat and museum of the local waterways and tanning industry. The society also operates the former British Waterways barge Sun and trip-boat Mermaid, a former lifeboatSwelling the numbers at the event were Comrade and Amy Howson of the Humber Keel & Sloop Society.

Further information is at syntanbarge.org.uk.


Syntan and other traditional working boats in Beverley Beck, celebrating its 70th anniversary year. Photo: Iain Campbell.[/caption][caption id="attachment_13892" align="alignnone" width="300"] 
Syntan's birthday cake. Photo: Iain Campbell. 

Andrew Denny  | 3.47pm | add a comment

GoBoat comes to the Thames

GoBoat, the electric self-drive picnic-boat service that launched on the Regent's Canal in 2017, has opened another base on the Thames, at Kingston-upon-Thames.

The idea started in Scandinavia and has spread to other European cities, but the British operation is independent; founders Grant Sweeney and Julian Wootton opened their first base in Paddington Basin in 2017 (WW August 2017.) The boats have seating around a central table and dogs are welcome. “Alcohol can be consumed on the boat but the captain must always remain sober,” says the company.

The Thames base is adjacent to Kingston Road Bridge. The route goes upstream as far as Hampton Court Palace and downstream to Teddington but locking is not allowed, giving 3½ miles of river to play with. A one-hour trip starts at £59 Monday to Friday, with three hours from £119. More information is available at goboat.co.uk.

A GoBoat at Hampton Court Palace. 

Andrew Denny  | 3.46pm | add a comment

Boaters fined for no EA licence, CRT issues compliance figures

The difference between Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust boat licensing was highlighted in early May, after a Cambridge court fined six EA Anglian region boaters £4,300 for not paying their boat registration fees. EA says that nationally it has recovered over £100,000 for the first four months of this year. 

At the same time, CRT simply announced the results of its annual national boat count and total licence arrears. The CRT boat count showed that licence compliance in the year to end-March was 96.5%, slightly down on the previous year. But it's the tenth year in succession that licence compliance has been above 95%.

The CRT count also shows changes in boat numbers. There has been a 2.3% increase in boat numbers, with all regions except the North West seeing small increases. London & South East was the only region where licence compliance was under 95% (at 94.1%). Boat licences contribute around 10% of the trust's total income.

Despite CRT not having powers to fine for licence evasion, it insists it is not lax compared to EA and its ultimate sanction is to remove the boat from the water, and if necessary, sell it.

“In 2018/19, 106 boats were removed as they were unlicensed or in breach of our terms and conditions,” said John Horsfall, CRT head of customer service.

The two figures are gathered in different ways: CRT data collectors walk the towpath while EA officials rely much more on launches on their harder-to-patrol rivers.

Andrew Denny  | 3.39pm | add a comment

Cromford & WRG stalwart appointed Chesterfield Canal development manager

The Chesterfield Canal Trust has appointed George Rogers, a well-known figure in canal restoration circles, as its new development manager, the first paid employee in its 40-year history.

CCT has set itself an optimistic target of having the restoration completed by 2027, the 250th anniversary of its completion, and the appointment is a step towards that goal.

The wider Chesterfield Canal Partnership, which also includes Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire county councils, appointed a development manager, Geraint Coles, in 2004, and he was instrumental in getting several miles back in water. But Coles resigned in 2014 after continued uncertainty over the HS2 project put a cloud over future fundraising.

The HS2 threat is now hopefully resolved, but the councils say they are unable to fund a new development manager, so CCT has stepped in. The trust says George's first task will be to create a sequence of costed projects which will form the basis of a series of major funding bids.

An engineering graduate of Cambridge University, George has previously been a chartered civil engineer specialising in civil infrastructure for National Grid substations. But he has wide experience within the voluntary canal restoration sector. A trustee of the Friends of Cromford Canal and a volunteer leader of its strategic restoration committee, he remains a director of the Waterway Recovery Group and is a familiar figure on its volunteer canal camps around the country, where his unrelenting good humour has acquired him the sobriquet 'Gorgeous George'.


Chesterfield also honours a retiring engineer

The Chesterfield Canal Trust has also honoured a retiring figure in the restoration. Selwyn Jones, a senior project engineer at Derbyshire County Council, received a Lifetime Achievement award at the trust's annual meeting in March.

Selwyn designed many of the restored features on the canal, including Constitution Hill Bridge at Staveley, Renishaw Foundry Bridge, Staveley Town Lock and Staveley Spill Weir.

He was first involved in the canal in 1989 when advising on Tapton Lock, the first on the route to be restored. He has surveyed the entire restoration route in Derbyshire and designed all the new locks.


Selwyn Jones (r) receives his lifetime achievement award from Robin Stonebridge of CCT.


George Rogers as a WRG volunteer on the Chesterfield's Constitution Hill footbridge in 2012.

Andrew Denny  | 2.55pm | add a comment

National Boat Share Show 'takes off'

The 2019 Spring National Boat Share Show took off spectacularly in more ways than expected over on 4th-5th May, when two of the marquees were blown away on the first day by bank holiday winds.

The event had 16 narrowboats on display, two more than planned, with entrants coming from three of the main share companies – BCBM, Ownashare and Carefree Cruising – while a fourth, JD Boat Services, also had a stand.

This year's show was the first at its new home, the new Dunchurch Pools Marina on the North Oxford Canal.

The first tent to go was that of organisers Boatshare4U, with the second the visitor marquee. Andrew Cooley of Boatshare4U said: “Fortunately no one was hurt, although the visitor marquee itself did sustain some damage.” He looked on the bright side when he added: “It left the tables and chairs in the open, giving a bistro feel to the area.”

The Boat Share Show is also staged in the autumn at Overwater Marina on the Shropshire Union canal, this year on 7th-8th September. It's a niche event, with smaller attendances than most boat festivals, but is very sharply targeted, so can have an impact well beyond simple visitor numbers.


Boatshare show organisers struggle to relocated marquees after the wind tried to abduct them. Photo: boatshare4u.co.uk 


Andrew Denny  | 2.54pm | add a comment

Record boat attendance at Canalway Cavalcade

This year's London IWA Canalway Cavalcade saw record boat numbers over the bank holiday weekend, with 150 narrowboats crowding into Little Venice.

After scorching April temperatures over Easter you could have been forgiven for thinking time was running backwards, with one of the coldest and windiest Mays for some years. Nevertheless, it drew the regular (estimated) 30,000 visitors for the weekend.

The event began in 1983, a decade after the Regent's Canal towpath was opened up as a 'canalway'. Previously, as a working waterway, it had been closed to the public, and for the first few years it remained somewhat forbidding. The cavalcade, organised by IWA volunteers, served to draw visitors, and it has remained London's biggest canal attraction.

Robin Hendley on Middlesex winning the boat-handling competition at this year's IWA Canalway Cavalcade. Photo: Tom Claydon 

Andrew Denny  | 2.48pm | add a comment

Second Pennine 'roving rally' in June

To encourage more boats through Standedge Tunnel, the Huddersfield Canal Society has organised a repeat of the successful 2017 Pennine Explorer Cruise along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

This year's event runs from 22nd June to 1st July, starting at Ashton-under-Lyne and ending at Huddersfield. There will be an optional final day on the Broad Canal for those with suitable-sized boats.

The 2017 cruise was limited to 12 boats, which the canal society said was the maximum it could practically organise at once over the summit, and that limit is likely to be applied this year too, with novices getting priority. That's not to say experienced crews are barred from the canal, but if it's oversubscribed they won't necessarily be part of the social experience that comes from being shepherded over the summit.

A programme of evening events will add to the fun. Boaters should email bob@huddersfieldcanal.com in the first instance.

Boats jam the exit of Standedge Tunnel at the 2017 Pennine Explorer Cruise. Photo: Alan Stopher

Andrew Denny  | 2.47pm | add a comment

New stamp features the Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel is one of ten British engineering achievements of the last half-century celebrated in a new series of Royal Mail postage stamps issued on 2nd May.

The series was prompted by the Royal Academy of Engineering's MacRobert Awards, which celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.

The Falkirk Wheel didn't win the MacRobert Award, it wasn't even nominated when it was brought into service in 2002. But in the years since it has become an unmistakable design and engineering classic. It's uniquely British, created by a team that included Scottish designers, British Waterways engineers and the Butterley Engineering company, whose rise to prominence in the Victorian era relied in large part on the Cromford Canal.

Other British engineering achievements celebrated include the Raspberry Pi computer, the catalytic converter, MRI scanning, synthetic bone-graft material, and a four-stamp set of the Harrier jump-jet.

The Falkirk Wheel, one of ten British achievements in engineering to feature on a new series of 1st class stamps from Royal Mail.

Andrew Denny  | 2.45pm | add a comment

Obituary: Cliff Penny

Waterways visionary and driving force behind the restoration of the Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal.

I well remember, more than 50 years ago, watching a farmer ploughing out the old profile of the Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal as I trudged through the countryside on a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition.

Some 30 years later I was to meet the man who, with equal audacity and vision, was hell-bent on reversing this sacrilege. This was Cliff Penny, whose skills and tenacity in the field of waterway restoration were already recognised.

Cliff was someone whose vision was underpinned by a whole raft of skills which translated particularly well into canal restoration. As a chartered civil engineer and chartered town planner he held senior positions in the water industry, before going on to found Penny Consulting with his son David.

It is hard to think of Cliff in isolation, as in reality he was part of an extremely effective team that included his wife Joan and David. Not only did they boat widely together, but as a consultancy they brought a variety of skills to bear in promoting and protecting the canal in many different ways.

He was a master of planning gain, winning assets for the Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal Trust that will go on generating income. At the Hereford Bypass enquiry, he established the need for a new bridge crossing the canal… 32 miles away from the nearest navigable section. He was to repeat this success when the nearby Roman Road fell due for an upgrade.

Penny Consulting became a UK leader for planning and environmental law in the water industry, as well as winning major enquiries at Manchester Airport and Cardiff International Rail Freight Terminal. On the strength of this, Cliff was asked to set up the planning system for the United Arab Emirates, but he declined as he regarded it as being ‘too hot’.

As the last chair of the former Canal Society and the first chairman of HGCT, together with serving on the council of management, Cliff gave almost 30 years of dedicated service during which he was also long-standing editor of The Wharfinger.

He always held the hard work of the trust volunteers in high esteem and never overlooked thanking anyone for their contribution to ‘the cause’. It was in this area that I felt his overriding sincerity was most apparent.

Jonathan Mosse 


Cliff Penny

Cliff Penny completed his steam engine driver's course in 2013, aged 60. His love of waterways and trains will combine in taking the H&G through Newent railway station.

Andrew Denny  | 2.43pm | add a comment

Government to fund Cotswold 'missing mile'

Cotswold canals campaigners, in their attempt to finish the Stroudwater restoration and link it to the main network, have received a stunning measure of support from the road builders.

Traditionally roadbuilding projects have destroyed or at least threatened canal restoration projects. But now Highways England has offered £4m to the Cotswold Canals Trust to help bridge the 'missing mile' that is probably the most difficult part of the restoration.

The money comes from the Designated Funds Programme of Highways England. Created in 2015, this goes beyond traditional roadbuilding and is designed to minimise the disadvantages and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

The Missing Mile is the section of the Stroudwater cut off by the roadbuilding depredations of the 1960s and '70s. These included the M5 motorway and a large roundabout on the A38, which would require two tunnels and a cutting.

It's only part of the 4-mile Cotswold Canals Connected project – previously known as Phase 1B. The Cotswold Canals Trust and its partners won £872,000 of development funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund last year to pay for planning the CCC project.

The overall cost is estimated to be £23.4m, but success in this HLF application is partly dependent on raising an additional funding gap of over £1m.

Highways England's interjection could change the game on the whole project, because it would bring forward several of the major engineering tasks all at once, things like tunnelling that cannot be done by volunteers, and that would substantially speed up the work.

Part of the reason for the government money is that it's not only being done for boats. They see a need to increase biodiversity, creating more than 90 acres of wildlife habitats and improved flood prevention measures. In addition, it will make good walking and cycling routes, create environmental improvements, attract visitors to the area and help the local economy.

Nevertheless, along with the M5 and A38 crossings, boaters would benefit from two new locks, two boat mooring basins and a mile of new canal on a new route.

The Cotswold Canals Trust estimates that CCC will draw approximately 700,000 hours of volunteer work and support new apprenticeships through contractors.

Highways England says the project aligns very closely with its own cultural heritage aims. The restored canal “will increase awareness of and access to a historical asset, provide a leisure amenity benefiting education and well-being and meet Highways England’s stewardship of the heritage assets obligations”.

Meanwhile Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has developed the Environmental & Biodiversity Plan with the Environment Agency. The priority habitats created will form one of the UK’s largest biodiversity offsetting projects.

For more information on Designated Funds see highwaysengland.co.uk/designated-funds/.

The crossing of the A38, the key component of the Cotswold Canals 'missing mile' project, being funded by Highways England.


CCT chair Jim White, Sarah Lewis of Highways England and Shelley Anderson of CCT sign the agreement for the £4m.jpg 

Andrew Denny  | 2.39pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Hillingdon's canal boat celebrates 50 years of service hillingdontimes.co.uk

    At a celebration at the Hillingdon Narrowboat Association's boat house on the Grand Union Canal, Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, praised the enthusiasm and dedication of the volunteers who work to run Pisces and her sisters, introducing many thousands to the canals. He said “Community boats like Pisces are the unsung heroes of the waterways, doing such a lot of good work, promoting their benefits for the well-being of everyone, and especially getting young people onto the waterways.” He presented the Mayor, Cllr David Yarrow, with a traditional painted watering can to mark the occasion....

  • Brownhills canal festival back with bang expressandstar.com

    The Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) Society stepped in to organise the Brownhills Canalside Festival on the 18th-19th July. The popular event had not taken place for two years after organisers claimed they were too old to stage it – and Michael Smith-Keary of the BCN Society said the society will look at whether they will bring the event back in 2020. The event saw trade boats and stalls moor along the canalside, off Silver Street. There was also historic boats on display and a number of boat trips up and down the canal....

  • Shrewsbury & Newport submits planning application to excavate Wappenshall Basin shropshirestar.com

    The Shrewsbury & Newport Canal Trust has applied for permission to excavate a filled-in canal basin in Telford and restore it to its former glory as part of a tourist attraction. The trust has previously submitted an application that would see one of its Grade II listed warehouses at the wharf converted into a shop, reception, conference facilities, offices and an exhibition space....

  • CRT makes statement on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct after teen fell to his death dailypost.co.uk

    A canal trust will explore ways to make a world-famous tourist attraction safer after a teenager fell to his death - but says changes to the structure could be "very controversial". The Canal & River Trust was responding to concerns raised by John Gittins, coroner for North Wales East and Central, during the inquest into the death of 18-year-old Kristopher McDowell. ...

Friday 17 May

Today's news from the web

  • Anti-Brexit boat owner plans to block Union Canal at Linlithgow linlithgowgazette.co.uk

    The European elections, which were not supposed to take place, will of course go ahead next Thursday (May 23.) Polling stations will open at 7am and voters have until 10pm to cast their votes.They will be afforded just one choice on their ballot paper. Closer to home, it’s emerged that Edinburgh man Norman Foulner whose boat ‘Thistledown’ is moored at Linlithgow’s Canal will be attempting to block the canal with his craft as a protest....

Monday 13 May

Today's news from the web

  • Yorkshire Waterways Museum closes as parent charity goes into liquidation thirdsector.co.uk

    The Yorkshire Waterways Museum and its parent charity The Sobriety Project have closed after public funding cuts in Humberside meant it was unable to cover its costs The Sobriety Project was set up in 1980 at Goole docks and used the historic Humber Keel Sobriety as a base for personal development and training for disadvantaged people. ...

  • Derbyshire Wildlife Trust launches Cromford canal cottage crowdfunder belpernews.co.uk

    Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support its restoration of a historic cottage on the Cromford canal. The environmental charity is aiming to revive the ruined 19th century Aqueduct Cottage, at Lea Wood Nature Reserve, as a space for visitor information and education. Plans were submitted to Amber Valley Council in March, and now the trust has begun the long work to raise funding for the project....

Thursday 9 May

Today's news from the web

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