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Wednesday 3 August

Today's news from the web

  • Top paid civil servants and quango chiefs: See who gets the most guardian.co.uk

    The government has published the salaries of all public servants, including quango chiefs, who earn £150,000 or more. The list shows that the highest paid person is the Nuclear Decommissioning Authorities chief executive, Tony Fountain, who is on a maximum salary of £379,999. He's followed by Dennis Hone, the chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority, who earns between £310,000 and £314,999. In all, ten members of the ODA are paid £2.1m between them....

Tuesday 2 August

Leicester Line is latest to get lock restrictions

The Grand Union's 'Leicester Line' is the latest to be subject to overnight lock closures due to water shortages.  From today (2nd August), locks are being padlocked between Kibworth Top Lock No. 18 (Market Harborough level) and King's Lock, Aylestone Meadows, where the canal joins the River Soar. 

"It is essential that boats double up when using locks in this location", says BW.  "We ask that boaters be patient and wait for other boats in order that we can conserve the little water we have available."

Andrew Denny  | 1.07pm

Oxford Canal reservoir and canal water levels cause concern

Low reservoir levels are finally beginning to tell on canal navigation, after optimistic noises from British Waterways about maintaining water supplies during an extremely dry spring and a less-than-wet summer.

The latest warning, issued today by BW, tells of critical lows on the Oxford Canal summit, fed mainly by the Boddington reservoir, which is 'close to the minimum at which it can operate'. The authority says that the summit locks, at Marston Doles and Claydon, will be locked from 4pm-9am each night, and that, during the daytime, boaters should not 'turn' empty locks, but should wait for other boats to come through first.

It was immediately followed by a report that at Hillmorton Locks, one of each 'pair' will be padlocked shut for the rest of the summer, to encourage people to wait for other boats.

Andrew Denny  | 12.21pm

Today's news from the web

  • Narrow boat converted to German U-boat enters Liverpool’s Salthouse Dock liverpoolecho.co.uk

    A maritime enthusiast has transformed his barge into a replica German U-boat and moored at Salthouse Dock. Richard Williams from Chorley said he originally planned to turn the floating museum into a tribute to The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, but because the specialist paint cost £4,000 he chose black paint instead....

  • Life on 'book barge' is a whole new chapter express.co.uk

    When Sarah Henshaw gave up her job as a showbiz journalist to pursue a career as a bookseller she didn’t plan on contending with 3am wake-up calls and drunken customers relieving themselves over her shop. Then again when your books emporium is a 57ft cruiser stern narrowboat moored along canal paths, it is more vulnerable to passers-by than your average branch of Waterstones....

Monday 1 August

Trent Long Horse Bridge under construction ready for

Work is now well underway on the replacement for Long Horse Bridge, the old concrete footbridge at the confluence of the Rivers Trent and Derwent, and the Trent & Mersey Canal, nearly a decade after it was closed and demolished.  

The new single span bridge is expected to be raised into position on 23rd August.

Andrew Denny  | 4.21pm

Thursday 28 July

Today's news from the web

  • Boat-loving pussycat lost ashore elmbridgeguardian.co.uk

    A beloved boat-loving pussycat has gone missing from her owners’ narrow boat. Silver tabby Flossie has holidayed on the boat for the past seven years, since she was a tiny kitten, and has never disappeared before. Flossie left its owners narrow boat on Saturday, July 23, and did not return. Margaret and Michael Hing have been searching day and night around Coxes Lock, Addlestone, where they were moored when the cat hopped off for a wander....

Wednesday 27 July

Today's news from the web

  • Canal du Midi trees to be felled due to plague telegraph.co.uk

    France is felling thousands of trees shading the banks of its Canal du Midi, a Unesco World Heritage site, due to a canker stain plague decimating plants along the 17th century marvel of engineering. The mass uprooting has sparked fears that, devoid of its trademark twin lines of dappled plane trunks, one of Europe's longest and widest canal systems will lose its Unesco World Heritage status. The trees have been a feature of the canal from Toulouse to Sète on the Mediterranean, since it was completed in 1680 thanks to the engineering genius of Pierre-Paul Riquet, one of Louis XIV's salt tax collectors. Their triple aim was to strengthen the banks, reduce water evaporation by the strong Midi sun and shade canal boats, which originally transported wine and fabrics but today carry canal boating enthusiasts – many of them British. ...

Sunday 24 July

Today's news from the web

  • The future of marine power? rupertholmes.co.uk

    A glimpse of marine propulsion in the future was offered by the finalists of this year’s Royal Thames YC Mansura Trophy, awarded to the most innovative companies in the field of electric and hybrid propulsion. Overall winner was Gideon Goudsmit’s FastCat 445 Green Motion World Cruiser, which makes fossil fuel free ocean cruising a reality. The concept of this 44ft cruising cat was proven in a voyage from South Africa to Holland. “I’ve worked on this project for eight years, with many mishaps along the way, but we’ve succeeded in our objective of creating a fossil-fuel free ocean going boat,” he says....

Friday 22 July

Today's news from the web

  • Pocklington Canal study could lead to major investment pocklingtonpost.co.uk

    A study into improving one of Pocklington’s most picturesque areas has been launched- and there are hopes it could help open the door to a £1 million investment. British Waterways and the Leader Waterways Partnership has commissioned the study on Pocklington Canal and local people are being asked to submit their ideas on what they would like to see happen on or around the waterway. Heritage expert Marion Blockley from Shropshire has been tasked to carry out the survey, and having set up a pitch at Pocklington’s market on Tuesday to gauge views, she is set to spend the coming months gathering more opinions and assembling a report....

Thursday 21 July

Today's news from the web

  • New facilities for boats visiting Ware hertfordshiremercury.co.uk

    Visiting boat owners coming to Ware may have new sanitary facilities made available to them with the help of the town council. The town council hopes the facilities will boost tourism and encourage boat users to stop in Ware rather than just pass through. Ware Town Council is willing to foot the bill for the facilities, which will cost between £10,000 and £20,000....

  • BW publishes last accounts before charitable status britishwaterways.co.uk

    British Waterways has today published its annual reports and accounts, the last set before the canals and rivers in its care in England and Wales moves to the charitable sector next year. 

    The full Annual Report and Accounts [pdf] can be seen here. There's also a supplementary document - Celebrating Our Canals & Rivers 1948-2011 [pdf] - which attempts to highlight BW's achievements and which looks ahead to the charity's launch in England and Wales.

    There’s one message they want you to take away: volunteering

    “The number of people volunteering for the waterways has increased to more than 24,000 volunteering days – a three-fold increase since 2007”, says the summary.  It places a value of £1.6m on the volunteering it has organised so far, and for the first time this includes a wide range of previously paid roles, including lock-keeping duties and many office, technical and waterway roles. 

    Also new to BW’s support are fourteen ‘Canal Adoption’ schemes which have seen local communities and 'household-name' companies take responsibility (or what they call 'ownership') for lengths of canal, particularly in cities.

    The report paints a resolutely upbeat picture of the waterways, at odds with many critics.  It cites figures such as: 

    • A quarter of the UK population (over 12 million people a year) visit a canal. 
    • More than 90% of the population agree that the canals are an important part of the nation’s heritage. 
    • A record 32,500 boats are now on BW waters. 
    • Previously derelict canals continue to reopen – the latest being the Droitwich Canals – with over 200 miles added since the turn of the new century.
    • A reduction in the proportion of historic structures, such as canal bridges, aqueducts and flights of locks in the ‘poorest’ condition.

    The report looks ahead to a charitable future for the waterways in England and Wales.  It tries to set out how this historic waterways network – including the country’s third largest estate of listed structures - will have a “firmer financial footing, where responsibility and accountability for its future lies much closer to waterside communities”.  

    The future, in other words, is not just charitable, but local.


  • Return to the ashes at Devizes gazetteandherald.co.uk

    British Waterways is using a traditional technique involving ash to maintain water levels on the Kennet and Avon Canal. Lock keepers on the Caen Hill flight of locks near Devizes pour the ash from Avon Valley steam railway in Bitton near Bristol into the canal just above a lock. The flow of water sucks the ash into the small gaps in the gates to form a watertight seal and help maintain water levels during the summer when water is in short supply. The technique has saved British Waterways thousands of pounds and the ash is deemed to have no long term significant impact on the water....

Wednesday 20 July

Reshowing on Friday: 'The Golden Age of Canals' TV

The TV programme "The Golden Age of Canals", is being reshown on BBC 2 on Friday 22nd July at 9pm, following a record audience on BBC 4 a couple of months ago.

Most people thought that when the working traffic on canals faded away after the war, it would be the end of their story. But they were wrong. A few diehard enthusiasts and boat owners campaigned, lobbied and dug, sometimes with their bare hands, to keep the network of narrow canals open.

Some of these enthusiasts filmed their campaigns and their home movies tell the story of how, in the teeth of much political opposition, they saved the inland waterways for the nation and, more than 200 years after they were first built, created a second golden age of the canals.

Watch the programme on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01173hf

The programme was made by David Parker of independent producers Available Light Productions, and he’s come up with some remarkable material that might have been lost forever had he not stepped in to persuade the owners to let him see it.  The major part of the archive content is of home movie footage, combined with a number of interviews with living witnesses. One of these is Tom Chaplin, our own Carrying and Freight correspondent, who himself lived through the ‘glory days of the restorations in the 1960s.   

David Parker came to our offices last September in his initial research, and we had a good afternoon chatting about the various places he could search for old home movie footage of the waterways. His enthusiasm for making the programme shone through, and we were very pleased to have had the opportunity to help him. 

Andrew Denny  | 3.50pm

Today's news from the web

  • Swans go down to Duck virus, say Royal Thames swan-upper royal.gov.uk

    “Another winter of severe weather has contributed to the death of many swans. Furthermore, a virus known as duck virus enteritis was discovered within the mute swan population on the River Thames. Unfortunately, more than 180 swans were found either dying or dead on the river between Reading and Windsor, with over 115 deaths being reported in the Windsor area alone. The virus is not uncommon in swans and it has also affected swans in other parts of the country, but this was the worst outbreak on the Thames we have seen in many years. The dead swans included many of the Thames’ breeding pairs and we anticipate that fewer cygnets will be born this year as a result of the outbreak. We will have a greater understanding of the impact of the virus in July when Swan Upping takes place....

Tuesday 19 July

Waterways Festival BODS get the show going

Only ten days until the opening of the annual IWA Waterways Festival at WW's home town of Burton, and the town's Shobnall Fields park is busy being turned into the festival site.

Up to 80 volunteers will be on site this week, and by the time the festival opens on Friday 29th July their numbers will swell to up to 300.

I walk past Shobnall Fields almost daily on my way to the Waterways World office, and it's impressive to see the Festival come together like this.

The first signs of life stirred a couple of weeks ago, when the normally quiet visitor moorings became crowded with breasted-up boats. (Shobnall Fields rarely gets the visitors it deserves, even in high summer.)

These boats are just the advance guard, the initial organisers, and they will cede this handy mooring space to paying exhibitors.

The build-up began with the arrival of 'The Tardis', a full-size trailer that fits almost the entire festival 'kit' into its confines.  The name's apt - it's truly a marvel of packaging, like one of those wooden Chinese puzzles.

There's a marvellous character called John Baylis, who oversees the unpacking of this quart-into-a-pintpot trailer.  Rather appropriately, he's known as the quartermaster. 

What impresses me most about the setup is how it's almost entirely a voluntary affair, with hardly any paid employees on site.

Almost everyone is in an irrepressibly can-do mood and keen to play their part: 

For example, the plumbers...

[L-R Plumb Stupid, Plumb Centre and Plumb Bob]

The people setting up the security fencing:

(even those who need mobility aids can lend a hand) 

... The men marking out the trading pitches in white lines: 

These are the BODS - the 'Build-Operate-Dismantle Staff' who really make the festival happen.

If you want a running commentary on the festival from a real BOD volunteer's point of view, take a look at Shobnall Fields Forever, Bruce Napier's excellent 'build-operate-dismantle' blog. 

Andrew Denny  | 2.32am

Waterways Festival joins Glastonbury in skipping a year

What has Glastonbury got in common with the IWA Waterways Festival?   

The answer is that neither will be running next year.  Both 2012 events have been sacrificed at the alter of the Olympic Games. 

In the case of the Glastonbury it's been said that it can't compete with the expected demand from the Olympics for site facilities such as portable lavatories.  

And it was announced this week that the annual Waterways Festival will skip a year too - although in that case it's more likely that there's just too much attention required on London's waterways, rather than any shortage of portaloos.  The Festival just cannot compete with the Olympic juggernaut. 

Instead, British Waterways has asked the Inland Waterways Association to help administer the London-area visitor moorings, expected to be in heavy demand even with high prices being asked for the main Olympic fortnight.   

And there'll be a lot of managing, spread out over dozens of miles, from the Lee and Stort Navigations, through North and West London and as far out as Watford. 

All normally-free visitor moorings in the central London area are being suspended, with London's canals being promoted as one long 'linear boat rally' and the towpath waterspace being sold for high prices.  

One of the most popular visitor areas is around Hackney's Victoria Park, where moorings at Old Ford Lock are being quoted at over £700 for Olympic fortnight for a typical 58ft narrowboat - that's on a 'breasted up' (shared) mooring without any extra facilities.  

Even higher prices are being asked for certain tonier urban areas, such as Paddington and Limehouse Basins.

Andrew Denny  | 12.59am

Today's news from the web

  • Peterborough slipway closes to counter jet ski yobs peterboroughtoday.co.uk

    The Environment Agency (EA) has decided to close the slipway in Potters Way, Peterborough, in the fight to stop nuisance jet ski riders and speedboats plaguing the city river. ...

  • Offenders to clean up Dudley's canal network dudleynews.co.uk

    The Community Payback team will be working on a range of tasks over the next 12 months to improve canals in Dudley, Sandwell, Birmingham, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Stafford, including painting locks, cutting back vegetation and removing litter. Mary Coxall of Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation, said; “Community Payback is a tough punishment..."...

Monday 18 July

Today's news from the web

  • RYA meets HMRC 'to talk red diesel' rya.org.uk

    Following the notification by the EU that it intends to open infringement proceedings against the UK over its continued use of red diesel the RYA (Royal Yachting Association), together with the BMF (British Marine Federation) met with HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) this week to discuss the situation. Following the meeting Gus Lewis, Head of Government Affairs said “We are encouraging Government to defend vigorously the UK’s position on the use of red diesel for recreational craft. "Although the EU’s actions are cause for concern nothing is going to change immediately. This is a legal process which can take years to complete"....

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