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Tuesday 19 April

BW Olympics moorings site goes live

The official British Waterways Olympics moorings reservations website has now gone live.  

An initial tranche of moorings during the Games are now available for booking immediately, including the Hertford Union Cut near the Olympic Park, in Docklands, on the Lee north of the Park, and on the Regent's Canal through North London to Paddington Basin.  

One surprise is that bookings are only being taken for boats up to 18 metres (59ft) in length, so it appears that most traditional working boats will be barred. 

Another is the eyebrow-raising prices. A standard 59ft narrowboat will pay as much as £315 per week during Olympic fortnight for the plum spots on the Hertford Union Cut and Victoria Park (within walking distance of the stadium), £420 per week in Camden, and no less than £560 per week for a mooring in the distant (but arguably more convenient) Paddington Basin. Broadbeam boats will be charged double.

Although these are the prices for single narrowbeam boats they are not single moorings – in many cases you will be required to ‘breast up’ alongside other boats. 

As expected, the Bow Back Rivers will be closed completely to navigation during the Games themselves, as will the Lee Navigation from the A11 flyover in the south to to the A12 East Cross Route at Hackney Wick, just north of the Olympic Park. Furthermore, cruising will be restricted during the period, and you will not be permitted to enter these mooring areas unless you already have a reservation. No details have been released of any extra facilities you will get for the money.

Rather more affordable than central London will be the Lee Navigation moorings at Hackney Marshes, on the northern edge of the Park. Here, the price for a 59ft narrowboat, per week, on a double mooring, will be £70. This is actually quite competitive with permanent marina moorings in the area, albeit without the facilities of a permanent berth. 

The booking fee is payable immediately, and there are eight pages of terms and conditions you may want to read before you book. In particular, there are severe restrictions on your ability to cruise during the moorings period, although these may be open to change and interpretation.  

BW says more moorings may be released later, and this initial batch is to ensure sports enthusiasts have a place reserved before the booking period for the Games themselves ends on 26th April. 

Below: Victoria Park visitor moorings – currently free for 14 days, but up to £315 per week during the Olympic Games. 

Andrew Denny  | 12.42pm

Bath’s ‘leaning tower’ restored

At the western end of the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bath, British Waterways has received £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the unique chimney of the former Bath Locks pumping station.   

Not only is the chimney a ‘listed’ building, it’s also a building with a ‘list’ - that is, it leans. The restoration is keeping this quaint list - which is not thought affect the structure’s stability, and is known to have been present for over a century – as part of a wider project to promote the Bath locks as an open air ‘museum’.

The works are intended to demonstrate the cultural and social impact of the canal on Bath, and follows a project to restore two of the listed iron footbridges on the historic lock flight. 

David Viner, British Waterways’ heritage adviser, said: “The pump house chimney is a wonderful piece of architecture, and designed in the classical style that is so well known in Bath. Other chimneys along the length of the canal, such as Crofton, did not receive such artistic attention during their construction, demonstrating an early indication that the residents of Bath were keen to retain the special elegance of their city.   

 “The chimney actually had a pretty short working life. The pumping system that it was a part of only lasted about 20 years, thanks to the millers on the River Avon legally challenging the canal company over the removal of water from the river.” 

Andrew Denny  | 1.57am

Today's news from the web

  • Thames Anglers Retrieve a Sofa from the River rivertac.org

    Sunday 18th April saw our volunteers out again, this time following up on a report that a sofa had been dumped into the marginal Lower Thames It is not clear how this may have been dumped but seems possible that it was from a passing boat, from the bankside it was situated too far out....

  • A bridge too far for Driffield yorkshirepost.co.uk

    Landlocked Driffield does not rate as a maritime centre. Yet at one time it was a key part of a trans-ocean network of waterways. Cargoes of up to 70 tonnes were once carried to and from this grain capital of East Yorkshire. David Hamilton, chair of Driffield Trust Navigation Commission, thinks the canal can bring back the good times to this market town. But what stands in the way may prove to be a bridge too far – or in this case, too low. ... But there’s a snag. In 1967, East Riding County Council replaced the bridge at Wansford with a fixed rather than a swing-bridge. There was very little waterway traffic at the time and little prospect of any significant growth. This bridge left little headroom for getting any kind of vessel through. It’s only two miles from Riverhead, but seems to be a bridge too far for enthusiasts to overcome. ... David and his colleagues will promote the canal with a Dinghy Cruise Day on May Bank Holiday when small craft will be sailed from Hempholme, on the River Hull, to Riverhead. ...

  • Llangollen Canal towpath upgrade leaderlive.co.uk

    An upgraded length of towpath on the Llangollen Canal has improved access on the canal and also transformed the Shropshire gateway into the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site. The project has upgraded 800 metres of towpath along the Llangollen Canal to an all-weather surface. It was the product of a workshop undertaken by the ‘Aqueducks’ - the official Friends of the World Heritage Site which supports the legacy of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct & Canal Community Project. ...

  • Thames Water fined £12,000 for Basingstoke Canal pollution bbc.co.uk

    Thames Water has been fined £12,000 after admitting allowing untreated sewage to enter a Surrey canal. The Environment Agency investigated after more than 200 fish were found dead at the Basingstoke Canal in Woking in September 2009. In a statement, a spokeswoman for the company said it admitted responsibility for a "deeply upsetting incident." Following the incident, the company spent £40,000 to restore the quality of the water and investigate the cause, she added....

Monday 18 April

BW calls time on Waterside Pub Partnership

British Waterways has officially pulled the plug on its seven year old Waterside Pub Partnership (WPP) experiment with the news that administrators have been called in for the 17 pubs remaining. The board's erstwhile partner, the Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company (SNPC), will no longer act as managing agents for the 17 pubs affected.  

BW says its original 50% investment in the Partnership was written off in 2008/9, and its liabilities were capped, unlike SNPC, whose liabilities were said to be open-ended. 

BW has also revealed that in March it quietly bought back the ten most profitable pubs for £9million in cash. The money was used to reduce the Partnership’s borrowings, although it appears not to have been enough to stave off the collapse. 

The business was originally set up by BW with S&N Pub Enterprises in 2004, starting with 30 BW properties.  The  stated ambition was for the partnership to become a major waterside pub operator. Initially they had spoken of expanding quickly to 50 properties, and eventually to 90 or more.  

However, with the recession these grand plans quickly lost steam. Scottish & Newcastle Pub Enterprises was acquired by Heineken in 2008 and latterly traded as Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company.  

BW says that the ten pubs they bought back are the most profitable, and generating £675,000 per annum of income, a 7.5 per cent return on investment and nearly double their average income before the partnership. All the pubs are let under long term leases and are not actually operated by BW. 

James Lazarus, property manager of British Waterways said: “The economic climate and state of the pub market have changed significantly since the partnership was set up seven years ago and this move reflects that, [but] we are very pleased to have acquired the ten best pubs from WPP.”  

The pubs now wholly owned by BW  are:    

  • The Narrow, Limehouse (operated by Gordon Ramsay) 
  • The Cut, Shipley Wharf
  • Foxton Locks, Market Harborough (pictured below)
  • Edwards, Crick
  • Stanley Ferry, Wakefield
  • Three Locks, Stoke Hammond
  • Waterwitch, Lancaster
  • Waterfront, Nottingham
  • James Brindley, Birmingham
  • Union Inn, Falkirk

Andrew Denny  | 9.45pm

BW optimistic over BCN water levels this summer

British Waterways says it hopes to avoid overnight lock closures on the Birmingham Canal Navigations this summer when it managed water levels during Chasewater Reservoir works.

Overnight closures were brought in last year as part of efforts to manage water levels on the BCN while the reservoir, one of the main water supplies for 200 miles of canal, was drained for essential repair works. In the end the canal network remained open and largely unaffected throughout the summer months. 

This year BW hope that overnight closures will not be needed, since it has managed to increase water feeds from other Birmingham-area reservoirs, including Bradley and Earlswood. In addition Chasewater itself is holding more than previously anticipated, potentially giving a partial feed into the canal system. 

However, BW’s Waterway Manager, Dean Davies, warns that if vandals this year continue to tamper with locks and drain sections of canal, it may resort to the overnight closures again. He urges vigilance by boaters: 

“Last year was a challenging year and we reluctantly took the decision to close lock flights overnight as a precautionary measure.However, thanks to the cooperation of the boating community we are now in a much stronger position. Barring any major incidents or vandalism, we should be able to avoid closing any locks. 

“The situation is still very delicate and we’ll be monitoring things closely. Wherever possible we would still encourage boaters to follow the broad principle of keeping their evening boat movements to a minimum and, by doing so, make a significant contribution to keeping the locks open.” 

With a few exceptions, the majority of canal events last year went ahead without incident or impact on the water resources.  Dean Davies' advice to organisers of this year's events is to seek British Waterways’ permission as soon as possible, manage numbers, and consider boat movements to and from the event.

Lichfield District Council, which owns and maintains the reservoir, is carrying out essential dam repair works which have reduced water resources available for the area’s canal network. The works are planned to be completed by early summer when the water levels in the reservoir will be allowed to rise again. 

A pound drained by vandals on the BCN in 2007. BW has expressed optimism this sight can be avoided in the coming summer.  

Andrew Denny  | 4.48pm

Thursday 14 April

Today's news from the web

  • Action star Ajay Devgn gets injured on the sets of ‘Tezz’ spicezee.zeenews.com

    Bollywood actor star Ajay Devgn had a narrow escape when he lost the control of a watercraft, resulting in crashing and damaging the same. Apparently, the accident took place in Birmingham, UK, where jet ski bumped into one of the canal walls of the River Thames. ...

  • B&MK Waterway short-listed for National Waterways Renaissance Awards waterscape.com

    The proposed Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway has been shortlisted for this year's National Waterways Renaissance Awards. The award results will be announced at a ceremony in Birmingham on Wednesday 25 May. Originally proposed almost 200 years ago, the dream of the Bedford & Milton Keynes link was revived in the 1990s and remains alive, even in these straitened times. The ambitious scheme would provide a broadbeam link between the Grand Union Canal and the River Great Ouse at Bedford (& thus the Fens). ...

  • New West Midlands and North West Local Partnership Boards seek members waterscape.com

    After appointing chairmen last week, the two latest trial Local Waterway Partnership Boards - North West and West Midlands - are now on the hunt for suitable members to help influence and advise the management of the canals and rivers in their local area. These trial Partnerships will work with local waterway managers until the new waterways charity becomes fully operational in 2012. The Waterways Trust is looking recruit at least seven members to each of these Partnerships. Members of the Partnership will have a range of knowledge, skills and experience relevant to the development of waterways for the widest public benefit. Relevant interests and expertise will include:...

  • Paddleboarder to make 3-day Union Canal journey news.scotsman.com

    Paddleboarder Cathy King is planning to travel all the way from Glasgow to Edinburgh in an epic fundraising trip. Ms King, 40, hopes to raise hundreds of pounds for international healthcare charity Merlin in the three-day paddle, travelling on her stand-up paddleboard. She will travel at a pace of around 3mph throughout the 69-mile trip, with boyfriend Patrick Winterton riding alongside on his bike....

Wednesday 13 April

£110 million to improve water and wildlife

The government is to make £110 million available to improve the environmental condition of ‘lakes, streams and other water bodies’, the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has announced.

£23 million per year will be provided over four years to fight non-native invasive species, clear up pollution, and remove redundant dams, weirs, landings and other man-made structures so that wildlife can thrive in ‘water catchments across’ England.

An additional £18 million this year will help farmers to protect water courses and prevent agricultural pollution. The funding will be shared between the Environment Agency, Natural England and civil society associations such as the Association of Rivers Trust. 

Some canal and waterway observers have been quick to note that no mention was made of navigation authorities such as British Waterways. However, the money appears to have been granted under the EU Water Framework Directive for improving general environmental water quality, and early reports in the press that it was just for ‘waterways’ (i.e. canal and river navigations) and ‘otters and salmon’ may have been misleading.

Invasive species Floating Pennywort on the River Soar near Leicester

Andrew Denny  | 3.46pm

Today's news from the web

  • Spelman pledges £110m to revive unhealthy waterways bbc.co.uk

    Otters and salmon will benefit from a £110m boost in spending on England's lakes, rivers and streams, the government has said. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said the funds would revive "lifeless" bodies of water, allowing wildlife to flourish by tackling invasive weeds....

Tuesday 12 April

Waterscape launches 'Reservoir Watch'

British Waterways has launched a 'Reservoir Watch' on its website. The organisation's Hydrology department, which keeps an eye on water levels, is making the information publicly available so that boaters can be better aware of when they need to share locks, husband water supplies and generally ensure that the winter's rain can be eked out through the hot summer. 

The relevant page is on http://www.waterscape.com/features-and-articles/features/british-waterways-reservoir-watch.  It will include a brief summary of rainfall and weather over the previous month, comparing it to long-term averages, and canal reservoir levels around the country, including an at-a-glance chart from the Met Office, the UK's national weather forecasting service. Also included is a monthly PDF showing current levels for those reservoirs designed to feed the canals.   

It's a welcome move that is long overdue.  In the past, getting the information out of BW month by month was a complicated process for boaters and anglers, and often a few days of rain might give a mistaken impression the reservoirs were full. 

Now, by bookmarking the relevant page, ordinary canal users can easily be aware in advance when and if they need to guard against wasting water.  

The group hydrology manager at British Waterways, Adam Comerford, said that they monitor each reservoir weekly throughout the year, helping them to understand how much water has gone into or out of a reservoir. 

"We use the reservoir holding information to manage our water resources, deciding which reservoir(s) to use to feed the canal at different periods in the boating season and whether to use alternative resources, such as pumps, to supplement the reservoir water.

“Our records show reservoir levels for every week going back over many years, so we can compare the current situation against historical years, including drought periods.”

Below: Outfall of Wormleighton Reservoir, Oxford Canal summit, August 2010.

Andrew Denny  | 10.47am

Today's news from the web

  • Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation half-marathon event cancelled maldonandburnhamstandard.co.uk

    A half-marathon event scheduled for next month has been cancelled. The Chelmer Canal Trust had planned to stage the event on the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation towpath on May 8. However, due to the lack of volunteer marshals, it has had to be shelved. Neil Frost, Chelmer Canal Trust trustee, said: "We very much regret having to take the decision to cancel the event. A lot of hard work had been put into the planning by several people, two of them not even connected with the trust....

Monday 11 April

Free smoke alarm for Harecastle Tunnel boaters

Boats going through Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal are being offered free smoke alarms if they do not already have them fitted. The offer comes from British Waterways after a safety review in conjunction with the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service.   

Loan fire extinguishers are also now available to boaters for the duration of the tunnel passage, although these must be returned upon exit. 

Andrew Denny  | 2.58pm

Friday 8 April

Today's news from the web

  • Long Awaited Canal To Open Paris Freight To The Sea handyshippingguide.com

    Battle lines are being drawn up by those in the rail freight sector after this week’s announcement that the much mooted plan for a canal linking Paris to the North Sea ports via the Belgian system of waterways is to proceed. With an estimated cost of €4.5 billion the canal is being touted as a major carbon saver aiming to take half a million trucks off the roads of France, in truth the 4,000 tonne barges are likely to affect the track borne logistics of the country to a far greater degree....

  • Friends ignore advice from 999 operator to save the life of man drowning in icy cold canal dailymail.co.uk

    Two friends who were walking home along a canal after a night out saved the life of a drowning man despite orders by ambulance officers not to go into the freezing water. Joshn Felvus, 20, and Liam Jempson, 19, spotted the man struggling in the waterway close to Bristol city centre. They dialled 999 and were told by the operator not to go into the freezing 8ft deep water because it would breach their safety guidelines....

Thursday 7 April

Forth & Clyde and Union Canals get cruiseway status

The Scottish Government has officially upgraded the Forth & Clyde and Union canals to 'cruiseways'. The move, welcomed by BW Scotland, follows the similar reclassification by Defra recently of the Kennet & Avon Canal.  And like the change in the latter’s status, it is more of an open public commitment to maintain the canal fully as it is now rather than a plan to increase its maintenance. 

After the Forth & Clyde and Union canals were reopened through the £83.5m Lottery funded Millennium Link Project a decade ago, they have effectively been maintained as cruising waterways anyway, and BW claim they have seen an increasing number of boaters each year. However, their official status was still 'remainder waterways', and BW Scotland weren't officially obliged to maintain them at the current level.  That's now changed, and the new classification gives them important statutory protections that should prevent them slipping back into dereliction. 

Last September the tenth anniversary of the reopening of the Union Canal was celebrated with a 60-strong flotilla cruising from Glasgow to Edinburgh; an estimated 15,000 people came to watch. This coming September will see an even larger event celebrating a decade since the Forth & Clyde reopened, and next year there are plans to celebrate the opening of the Falkirk Wheel – now one of Scotland’s biggest tourist attractions - and the completion of the full Millennium Link .

"After 40 years of strenuously campaigning for the reopening of the Lowland canals, the reclassification is a great foundation on which to build and protect these wonderful national assets for future generations to enjoy", said Ronnie Rusack MBE, Chairman of Seagull Trust Cruises and one of Scotland’s longest-serving waterways restoration figures. 

The 10th Anniversary flotilla at Linlithgow Basin for the opening of the Union Canal

Andrew Denny  | 12.24pm

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