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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"....

  • Photographic competition for restored Droitwich canals droitwichadvertiser.co.uk

    The Droitwich Canals Trust is running a competition open to all amateur photographers following the opening of the town’s Junction and Barge Canals. Photographs should be on the theme of opening the Droitwich Canals and what it means to the photographer and their friends and families....

  • BBC to survey UK mobile coverage bbc.co.uk

    The BBC is conducting a major survey into the state of mobile phone coverage in the UK. Over the course of the next month, the project will attempt to chart the availability of 3G and 2G services up and down the country. Mobile operators offer their own coverage maps but no independent survey has yet been carried out....

Sunday 17 July

Today's news from the web

  • Chiswick Pier Trust withdraws new moorings plans chiswickw4.com

    Plans by the Chiswick Pier Trust (CPT) to extend the pontoon on the River Thames have been withdrawn. The scheme ran into opposition from some residents concerned that it would amount to the creation a 'new marina' at the site of the existing pier....

  • Stay the night overlooking 'Norfolk's canal network' independent.co.uk

    There appear to be canal boats motoring along the top of the field. My four-year-old alerts me to this weirdness, so I prepare an indulgent smile, but on inspection the marshy land stretching out towards the horizon is so very flat that it's difficult to tell the broads from the fields. The boats that ply these waters, heading inland from Oulton Broad towards Norfolk's canal network, really do look like grass-top craft. ...

  • Father drowns after leaping into River Thames to save his daughter, 13, who then scrambled to the riverbank | Mail Onlin dailymail.co.uk

    A disabled man who jumped into a swirling river to save his 13-year-old daughter disappeared and drowned as the girl clambered out to safety last night. Michael Payne was so worried that young Zoe was in trouble as she and sister Marie swam with friends in the River Thames, that he ignored his frail health and leapt in to try to save her....

Saturday 16 July

Today's news from the web

  • Canal-boat Living [in Dublin] irishtimes.com

    Living on water gives you a new perspective on the city. Catherine Cleary meets some people who have made their homes on or near the canals of Dublin, and have been transforming the waterworks with grass roots community efforts...

Thursday 14 July

Largest-ever ship in Docklands set to give Germany an Olympics base

Forty years after commercial traffic effectively ceased in London’s Isle of Dogs, a new record was set on 14th July 2011 when the luxury cruise liner MS Deutschland berthed at South Quay, in the shadow of Canary Wharf. 

The 22,400-ton MS Deutschland is said to be the largest ship ever to pass through West India Ship Lock, and was on a trial 36-hour visit to the capital.   With a length of 575 ft and a width of over 75 ft, the boat barely squeaked through, the lock being only about 10 ft longer and less than 5 ft on the beam.  In a brave and impressive display of pilotage, the ship arrived on the tide just after midnight, and presented an impressive sight as it was towed backwards through the lock by the tug Svitzer Anglia.  

Billy Smith, BW’s dockmaster & tidal locks supervisor, has worked and lived on the Isle of Dogs since 1962.  He said: “This is the largest ship that I have ever seen navigate through the lock. To fit her in we used a high tide and insisted she was brought in stern first.” 

For all his experience, he then added a sentiment surely understood by every narrowboater who has tried to lock through under the gaze of gongoozlers: “I’m quite pleased the tides meant this was a night time operation. The addition of a crowd would have been extra pressure during such a technical manoeuvre.”

Following this trial, British Waterways has signed a lucrative deal to allow the liner to berth in London Docklands during summer 2012, when it will play host to the German Olympic Committee and its national guests.  It is expected to be joined by many of the world’s most exclusive super yachts and tall ships during the games, and BW is determined to take every advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime revenue stream as it moves to becoming a charity next year.

Gareth Stephens, British Waterways’ harbour and waterspace manager, “Every year we welcome a number of visiting vessels to London Docklands, and I’m hoping that the Olympics will help put our location and facilities on the international radar of ships agents and operators. The 2012 Games has been a real catalyst and enabled us to introduce our berths to a wide range of interested businesses.” 

Andrew Denny  | 4.57pm

Come Dine Aboard With Me

"Do you love dinner parties? Are you a great cook?", asks Reality TV Show Come Dine With Me.  Also, do you want to be reality TV fodder, to be shouted at from the sofa, to be gossiped about by the tabloids, to be tweeted and facebooked with scorn, to have your fifteen minutes of fame?   

The show's producers on ITV are looking for "someone on a boat in the North West of London" to play host to an episode.  Researcher Jonathan Hancock contacted us to ask: 

"We especially would like to hear from boat owners who are willing and able to host a party for four on their boat. I was wondering if you would be able to help us with our mission by circulating the attached information? Our casting process is ending soon and filming begins on the 8th of August so anyone interested should call me on 0207 157 4828 as soon as possible.

I'm not quite sure why they specify the north west of London, where the choice of navigable waterways is rather limited - primarily just the short stretch of Grand Union Canal, from around Rickmansworth to Watford. Perhaps the other people chosen are in the area as well, and they need to be just a short taxi-ride home after each dinner. 

Andrew Denny  | 11.17am

Today's news from the web

  • Boatbuilder Fairline bought out by Better Capital Ltd and RBS motorboatsmonthly.co.uk

    Motor boat builder Fairline has been purchased in a joint venture between an investment company and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The acquisition follows 18 months of speculation over who would buy the British boat brand after it was announced in November 2010 that its previous owner, 3i, were looking at "strategic options" for the business....

Wednesday 13 July

Today's news from the web

  • Olympics waterbus services launched on east London canals thisislondon.co.uk

    The East End's first "waterbus" is being hailed as a solution for sports fans going to the Olympic Park keen to avoid traffic jams and public transport delays. Nearly four miles of waterways linking the old East End with the Olympics Park in Stratford are to be opened to the public with the first boats to be tested this month....

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