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Monday 7 November

2012 Olympic Torch route includes waterways

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the Black Country Museum, Foxton Locks and the Norfolk Broads are amongst many famous waterways locations to be featured when the Olympic Torch makes a tour around the UK next year on its way to the games. 

The Torch will make a 70-day tour around the entire country, beginning on 19th May, passing through over to 1,000 places, accompanied by a vehicle convoy.  Unlike most previous Olympics, it seems likely to travel in a specially adapted van in between locations.  This 'cheat' is so it could be seen as widely as possible – the route is estimated to be around 8,000 miles. 

Along the way the torch will pass through over 1,000 towns and villages – from Lands End to the Orkneys, from Enniskillen in the far west of Northern Ireland to the coast of Kent – before winding up at the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony on 27th July.

The torch is expected to travel by boat across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, as well as to the Black Country Living Museum.  At a press launch this morning, the BCLM’s director, Andrew Lovett, said it would arrive on the museum’s narrowboat Stour. "It’s a real honour for the region and the museum, and is one for the history books”, said a clearly pleased Andrew Lovett. “It’s a chapter in our lives we will tell our children and grandchildren about."  

(L-R: Andrew Lovett, director of the Black Country Living Museum, with volunteers Gavin Guy and Dave Newell on Stour, the boat chosen to carry the Olympic Torch.)

Andrew Denny  | 4.16pm

Today's news from the web

  • Craft by craft, the amazing Thames flotilla that will mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee dailymail.co.uk

    ... It will be a very 'non-Royal navy', and will include craft that have played a role in national life, such as Churchill’s funeral boat, the Havengore, and Dunkirk Little Ships. Plying the waters of the Thames will be around 40 narrow boats and 20 of the Dutch barges favoured by river dwellers, more than 100 private motor boats, between 30 and 40 tugs and barges and around 250 rowing boats, including classic Thames cutters. ...

  • The Sealander - the caravan that thinks it's a boat caravantimes.co.uk

    Lightweight, micro caravans are often sold as a cheap, convenient way of exploring the great outdoors, but none of them can have such a strong claim to this as the Sealander. At just 380kg, this remarkable amphibious caravan, which was unveiled at the Dusseldorf Caravan Salon earlier this month, is light enough to be towed behind a Volkswagen Golf, and buoyant enough to double up as a boat. The brainchild of German industrial designer Daniel Straub, the Sealander is built using faserverbundtechnolgie (a material similar to carbon fibre) and features a modern Ikea-style pastel green and white interior. ...

Thursday 3 November

Today's news from the web

  • Olympic HQ built in secret for SAS thesun.co.uk

    The SAS will have a key role in massive security at the Olympics — using "black ops" boats to swoop via the Thames if terrorists attack. A secret new riverside base being built for the Who Dares Wins heroes in East London will be home to a fleet of the high-powered rigid inflatables. It means elite units can speed there "in seconds" using the network of waterways around the Olympic site that make it an island — with no fears about being held up in London's notorious traffic. The plan to enlist Old Father Thames as an ally was hatched as part of a ring of steel that will be thrown around the London Games next year....

  • Cheers to Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal’s uncovered history theboltonnews.co.uk

    Conservation enthusiasts are celebrating a milestone in their efforts to restore the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal to its former glory — after a piece of its history was unearthed outside a pub. When the canal was built, milestones were erected along its length at quarter mile intervals from Manchester so that canal owners could work out what to charge the boat owners carrying coal from the many collieries along the route. In the 1790s there were 62 of the large half-tonne stones but, when the canal fell into disrepair, more than half of them disappeared. Some ended up as garden ornaments and members of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Society believe one even toppled into the waterway, where it remains. In the summer members of the group took part in a walk along the canal, organised by the Milestone Society. The walkers stopped off at the Horseshoe pub in Ringley for refreshments and got chatting to manager Karl Quinlan. They were amazed when he told them he had recently dug up one of the huge stones from outside the building. ...

Wednesday 2 November

Write to your MPs over funding, urges IWA

In a statement headlined 'A Call To Arms', the Inland Waterways Association has pleaded for all waterways supporters to write to their MPs, opposing reports that the new Canal & River Trust could be offered only £39 million a year in funding when it is launched next April.

“This is just not enough”, the association claims. “Things are at a critical juncture for the transfer of British Waterways’ managed canals and rivers into the Canal & River Trust. The money is everything. A good deal from Defra will deliver a significant Big Society project, and secure the future of a national asset", says the statement. 

British Waterways itself estimates it already has a funding shortfall of £20 million a year, along with a safety maintenance backlog that in 2007 was estimated at £107 million and has continued to grow since. 

The shortfall does not take account of a large dredging backlog, incurred as a result of chronic underfunding, which will need a further £8-12 million per year to stabilise, and to support drainage, navigation and environmental requirements.

Furthermore, BW also has a pension deficit of £65 million, nearly 75% of which is for previous employees. “Ought this huge state-incurred liability be transferred over to the new charity? We are concerned that Defra is playing hardball, and trying to impose a lean deal just to get BW off its books”. 

The IWA warns there could be ‘another Defra-inspired disaster’ like the plan earlier this year to sell off the Forestry Commission, on which the government had to back down. 

Andrew Denny  | 6.08pm

BW Scotland recruiting non-executive directors

Following the decision to make British Waterways Scotland independent, the Scottish Executive is looking for non-executive directors to join their chair-designate, Dr Jon Hargreaves. 

The new Scottish board will be responsible for the strategic management and development of Scotland’s five canals – the Forth & Clyde, Union, Crinan, Caledonian and Monkland. 

It will also oversee the transition of British Waterways Scotland to being a self-standing Scottish public body when the new Canal and River Trust is launched in England and Wales on 1st April 2012. No name or logo redesign has yet been announced for the Scottish board.

No salaries or pensions are payable, but directors will earn a daily fee and expenses for up to 20 days a year. Closing date for applications is 28th November 2011. 

Further information can be found at www.appointed-for-scotland.org . 

Andrew Denny  | 12.38pm

NEC Boat & Caravan Show cancelled for 2012

The 2012 Boat & Caravan Show, scheduled to run at the Birmingham NEC from 21st February, has been cancelled.  The 50-year-old show, which has been running at the NEC since 1976, was remarkable because it covered not only the caravan and boat markets, but also leisure, outdoors and camping - the widest of any show. 

Organisers Ocean Media were said to be 'bitterly disappointed' after a large number of caravan manufacturers and dealers deserted it for a new rival show – the Motorhome, Caravan and Camping Show – in London’s Excel Centre, which opens just the week before the Boat & Caravan Show was due to open. 

Although the NEC Show included a strong boating and outdoor leisure element, caravans have always been the major part of the show, which attracted over 87,000 paying visitors at the last show in 2011. 

The new London show was announced earlier this year by the National Caravan Council. 

“Loyal exhibitors, including a number of caravan dealers, and the shows many visitors will feel sorry that due to a lack of support from one element of the industry, the 2012 show has had to be cancelled after more than 50 years,” said Trevor Barratt, chairman of Ocean Media. 

No announcement was made about if they would try to put the show back on for 2013. 

Andrew Denny  | 2.43pm

£43,300 Heritage Lottery Fund grant for Europe's oldest working steam dredger

The Friends of Gloucester Waterways Museum has secured a grant of £43,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for repair to dredger SND No 4. She is the oldest working steam dredger in Europe and was still in steam until earlier this year when it was discovered that several boiler tubes needed replacing.

Built in Holland in 1925, SND No 4 regularly dredged the docks at Gloucester until 1981 when a new diesel-electric dredger replaced her. From the opening of the Gloucester Waterways Museum in 1987 SND No 4 has been the star attraction, the hissing of steam and clanking of steel buckets helping to draw visitors to the museum.

As well as repairs to the dredger, the HLF money will enable the Friends to develop and promote SND No 4 as a key educational resource at the museum. It will enable new learning materials to be produced and allow visitors with visual impairment or mobility difficulties an opportunity to enter the unfamiliar world of this unique vessel whilst remaining onshore.

It was hoped that work would be completed by April, but it may be delayed as the company awarded the contract for re-tubing the boiler is currently moving premises, and Tommi Nielsen’s historic shipyard where the work will take place – just across the dock from the museum – has to finish other work before it can accommodate the dredger.

Meanwhile SND No 4 will remain on static display in Gloucester Docks along with the museum’s other, smaller, vessels. The museum is open daily through the winter 11am–4pm. Details from 01452 318200 or www.gloucesterwaterwaysmuseum.org.uk.

The ‘Wednesday Gang’, including Ken Dunn (vice chair) and Chris Witts (chairman) of the Friends of the Gloucester Waterways Museum, aboard dredger SND No 4.

Dredger SND No 4 at work in Gloucester Docks. Picture: Hugh Conway Jones

Andrew Denny  | 10.24am | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • RYA-online.net to be withdrawn rya.org.uk

    The Royal Yachting Association says it is withdrawing its RYA-online.net domain from January 5th 2012. Associations, marinas and individuals still relying on it for email addresses or websites will need to switch to an alternative address before then. ...

  • Birkdale mum lost 20 stones...after being jammed in a narrowboat door liverpoolecho.co.uk

    It was meant to be a relaxing holiday on a narrowboat but for Carole Wright it was anything but. Tipping the scales at almost 30 stones the mum of one from Birkdale struggled even to get through the door of the craft. “I just couldn’t squeeze through; in the end I was pushed in and ripped my skirt in the process. I never moved off the boat after that for the whole week. I was terrified of getting stuck again.” ...

Tuesday 1 November

Marina is first to get Bellamy Conservation Gold Award

The large Mercia Marina in South Derbyshire has been awarded a Gold David Bellamy Conservation Award for its focus on encouraging wildlife, the first canal marina to receive the award. The scheme’s assessors said the 650-berth marina had achieved a lot in the way of conservation since it opened in late 2008.

Professor Bellamy said that the marina “deserves a big pat on the back for what they've achieved in such a short time. The park is a wildlife wonderland which is bursting with biodiversity, and I take my hat off to them. The marina is becoming a real haven for many rare species of flora such as the Bee Orchid, as well as having an abundance of wildlife, from kingfishers and swans to butterflies and shrews.” 

Mercia Marina says it has spent over £100,000 on landscaping and conservation projects, and its moorers have formed an active wildlife committee. The 74 acres of marina includes sections of land set aside as a nature reserve in the shadow of the old Willington power station, closed 20 years ago. (pictured)  

The David Bellamy Conservation Awards scheme was founded by the naturalist and broadcaster in 1996 in conjunction with the British Holiday & Home Parks Association.  It tries to encourage tourist and travel sites to protect or enhance their natural environment and wildlife.

Robert Neff, general manager of the marina, said: “Conservation has always been a key focus. Our aim has been to provide a beautiful and tranquil environment for all our visitors, and perhaps create something of a rarity among leisure destinations of this kind."

Andrew Denny  | 12.00pm

Sunday 30 October

Cotswold Canals project lose Dudbridge hydro scheme funding

The Cotswold Canals Trust learned on Friday 28th October that they have lost the bid to get £100,000 funding for installing a mini-hydroelectric scheme at Dudbridge Locks on the newly restored Stroudwater Canal.  

The money would have come from the British Gas Energyshare scheme for renewable local energy projects, and would have been for preparatory work on Dudbridge Locks, before their final restoration next year. 

Despite attracting 1,028 supporters, the second-highest number in its group, the project won't be one of ten selected for Energyshare funding. 

"The Members involved with the management of the application are, quite
frankly, gutted, especially after all the hard work that has gone on
behind the scenes in the last few weeks", said David Padgett, editor of Cotswold Canals News. 

The £300,000 hydro scheme has already received planning permission and it could still go ahead if the funding for initial works can be found from somewhere else before restoration starts next year.  Not having the project would not impede restoration of that section of the canal, although it is a golden opportunity to create something extra of value to the canal at comparatively little cost. vv

The scheme would provide a steady flow of electricity (and income) for the canal operators in the long-term. However, it is thought too expensive to 'retro-install' once the restoration is underway. 

Andrew Denny  | 11.36am

Today's news from the web

  • Porpoise discovered dead in Thames chiswickw4.com

    Lifeboat crew members at Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station made an unusual discovery on Thursday (October 27th) when they found a dead porpoise floating in the River Thames. It is highly unusual for a porpoise, which is a sea mammal, to come so far up the river. The crew had just been stood down after rescuing a capsized canoeist upriver from Hammersmith Bridge, and were back on patrol when they spotted the mammal....

  • Boaters go nuts for rare albino squirrel at Foxton Locks harboroughmail.co.uk

    A rare albino squirrel has been turning heads at Foxton Locks. The unusual critter – which has been given the name Snowy – was spotted at the popular tourist attraction last week. Jo Lodge, who lives and works on the narrowboat Hadar with her husband Keith, sent several snaps to the Mail. She said: “We think it’s been here a long time, as it’s fully grown. But it was only spotted on Wednesday last week. “Gary at the Top Lock cafe was the first person to get a photograph of it....

Thursday 27 October

Today's news from the web

  • Teenagers die after falling into canal at Smethwick locks bbc.co.uk

    Two teenagers, a man aged 18 and a 17-year-old girl, have died after falling into a West Midlands canal. Police said it was thought to be a "tragic accident". The pair were found near Brasshouse Lane in Smethwick. West Midlands Ambulance Service was called to a towpath at about 19:20 BST on Wednesday after a report that two people had fallen into the water....

Tuesday 25 October

Today's news from the web

  • Mapledurham Thames turbine switched on bbc.co.uk

    The owners of an Oxfordshire watermill have unveiled a water turbine which could provide power for homes. The £500,000 Archimedes screw project is funded by the Mapledurham Estate, owned by the Blount family since 1492....

  • Dublin's Grand Canal Theatre to change name as part of Bord Gáis deal irishtimes.com

    Energy Supplier Bord Gáis has agreed a deal with Live Nation to sponsor the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin for the next 6½ years. As part of the deal, Bord Gáis will become the preferred supplier of electricity and gas to the theatre and the nearby O2 concert venue, which is also run by Live Nation. The sponsorship deal, first revealed by The Irish Times in August, will result in the venue changing its name to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre....

Monday 24 October

Today's news from the web

  • River Soar weir safety barriers "a waste of money" thisisleicestershire.co.uk

    Tens of thousands of pounds have been spent on large booms to stop narrowboats plunging over weirs on the River Soar – even though no accidents have ever been reported. British Waterways has installed three barriers on the river, near the King Power Stadium, in Leicester, at Sileby Mill and at Pillings Lock, near Quorn, because it fears boaters might slip over the small waterfalls in those locations. ...

  • Volunteers work to restore canal stretch expressandstar.com

    The aim is to restore the seven-mile Lichfield Canal to a fully navigable through route. Over the past month partial foundations have been laid for the new canal diversion beside the A38 highway in Lichfield which obliterated the original route some 40 years ago. The diversion will be via a tunnel underneath the A38. ...

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