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Sunday 24 October

Today's news from the web

  • Salvaged tug a treat for Nessie watchers news.scotsman.com

    A historic ice-breaking tug abandoned for years on an island beach is on its way back to its former home as part of ambitious restoration plans. Now a former Caledonian Canal lock keeper plans to return the 75ft-long tug to its former glory and put it back into service on the waterway. The 57-ton Scot II is the oldest remaining vessel on the Fort William-Inverness canal and is thought to be the oldest ice-breaking tug in Britain...

Saturday 23 October

Today's news from the web

  • A working life: the lock keeper guardian.co.uk

    A lock keeper's job involves more than opening locks, such as checking on wildlife – and even preparing for the Olympics....

Thursday 21 October

Today's news from the web

  • Boating couple beating the recession newburytoday.co.uk

    Annie and Phil Nicholls were hit hard by the downturn in the economy a few years ago. Annie, aged 57, lost her well-paid job as a systems analyst, and Phil, an HGV driver, was struggling to pick up full-time work. Unable to afford a house without saddling themselves with a large mortgage, they hit on the idea of life on the canal and bought themselves a narrowboat. It's a purchase they have never regretted. Phil said: "This boat has been a godsend, a life-saver. We would have been out on the streets otherwise." ...

Wednesday 20 October

Today's news from the web

  • Families want former potbanks in Middleport demolished after arson attack thisisstaffordshire.co.uk

    Families have called for a string of derelict factories next to their homes to be bulldozed after one was targeted in an arson attack. The fire broke out in a disused potbank in Pidduck Street, Middleport, on Saturday night. Flames spread from the first floor and tore through the roof of the two-storey building, which is among various empty properties beside the Trent and Mersey Canal....

  • Hundred help in River Chelmer clean-up chelmsfordweeklynews.co.uk

    Volunteers lined the riverbanks in Chelmsford to take part in the autumn clean-up. More than 100 people did their bit for the environment last Saturday. The group of volunteers – which included children, local residents, councillors, Chelmsford Sea Cadets, Chelmsford Canoe Club, Chelmer Canal Trust and scuba divers from Orca Scuba Diving Academy – joined the council’s Neighbourhood Environmental Action Team to clear the stretch of the river from the Essex Record Office to Bunny Walk footpath. ...

  • Tragic canal girl was stabbed to death thestar.co.uk

    Pretty teenage mum Laura Wilson was stabbed to death, detectives have revealed, as four males arrested on suspicion of her murder were yesterday released on police bail. Laura, aged 17, mum to a four-month-old baby girl, was found dead in the South Yorkshire Navigation Canal on Tuesday. She had been reported missing by relatives last weekend....

  • New partnership to promote Stoke-on-Trent canals bbc.co.uk

    A partnership which plans to strengthen the appeal of canals has been formed in Stoke-on-Trent. The city council said it would work with a number of organisations, including British Waterways and Inland Waterways Association. It added the group would work to apply planning policies that identified sites "that can bring forward high quality waterside environments". ...

  • Anger As BW Plan 'Compromises Water Safety' build.co.uk

    Commenting on the plans to turn British Waterways (BW) into a National Trust-style charity, Unite National Officer for docks and waterways Julia Long, said: "We have real fears that the vital maintenance work that is needed on the network will be forced to rely on the efforts of volunteers to fill gaps left by qualified engineers, if enough funding is not found . "Caring for this 250-year old working heritage spanning reservoirs and locks requires intense management and significant funding, yet year after year central government funding has only been enough to fund 90 per cent of the urgent work. It is simply not appropriate to hand over essential infrastructure maintenance to volunteers....

  • The mystery and poetry of the towpath independent.co.uk

    Canals are wonderfully odd and fascinating places. When we "walk down to the canal", just below the surface of the city, we step away from the real into an unreal mode of irregular patterns and actions, yet, somehow, something of the real remains, represented in the red brick of the city towering above. The canal is a rhythmical dislocation from the everyday tumult of the city, without true separationl; an echo, a microcosm or simulacrum of everything that happens in the streets up above. Strange things, dreams and nightmares, just a whisper away from the teeming city streets, can happen: commuters, the homeless, cyclists, teenagers, anglers, cuckolds, loners and psychopaths all mix together by the murky water, feeding from the towpath as if it's a main artery pumping life into their very being, while the swans, coots, moorhens and Canada geese nonchalantly drift by, watching each drama unfold. It's why the motif of the canal continues to reappear in literary fiction: there's something magical to be found by its stagnant water....

  • Making the cut on Britain's canals guardian.co.uk

    If there was one chirrup from the government's bonfire of the quangos last week, it will have come from British Waterways, which has been pressing for its own abolition for the past two years. Famously the custodian of rich wildlife – in 2005 its annual survey included a crocodile spotted in the Gloucester and Sharpness cut – the agency plans to rise like a phoenix, a third sector, charitable equivalent of the National Trust for 2,200 miles of canals and navigable rivers. The aim is for the new structure to be in place by April 2012. ...

  • Council seeks grant for Desborough Island improvements bbc.co.uk

    Elmbridge Borough Council and local community groups have applied for a £100,000 grant to improve a riverside area in Surrey. The Veolia Environmental Trust will decide later this month whether to award the money to restore and conserve Desborough Island, in Weybridge. Elmbridge Borough Council said a riverside nature trail would be created along with improved public facilities. ...

  • Man pulls bikes, trolleys, and motorbikes out of Nottingham Canal thisisnottingham.co.uk

    Boat owner David Johnson could not believe it when he found his friend's bike in the bottom of the Nottingham Canal – as he lost it in the water two years ago and more than four miles away. David, who lives on a narrowboat, makes a point of fishing rubbish out of the waterway so it doesn't get caught in other boats' propellers. In the last few weeks he has found shopping trolleys, chairs and even a motorbike....

Tuesday 19 October

Today's news from the web

  • The mystery and poetry of the towpath independent.co.uk

    I was inclined to be poetical about the Grand Canal," said Nathaniel Hawthorne in his New-England Magazine sketch "The Canal Boat", from 1835. It's insightful writing, in which he describes the canal wending its way through each town as "the most fertilizing of all fluids" and feeding their "masses of brick and stone, their churches and theatres, their business and hubbub, their luxury and refinement, their gay dames and polished citizens – to spring up, till, in time, the wondrous stream may flow between two continuous lines of buildings, through one thronged street."...

Monday 18 October

Today's news from the web

  • Feed the canal birds waterscape.com

    As the cold weather starts to set in for the winter, the RSPB is asking us all to spare a thought for our garden birds. Their Feed the Birds Day on 30 October is a reminder to everyone that food put out in gardens and birdfeeders can be critical to the survival of many birds, especially in temperatures as bitterly cold as last winter’s. ...

  • Navigation route to be restored after deal worcesternews.co.uk

    Holidaymakers will be able to enjoy a 21-mile cruising ring around Worcestershire’s waterways after a missing piece of land needed for the project was finally secured. Acquiring the missing link will enable workers to reconnect the Barge and Junction canals in Droitwich, a navigation route that was officially abandoned in 1939. ...

Saturday 16 October

Today's news from the web

  • Letters: Opportunities in wake of quango cull guardian.co.uk

    Letter from BW Chairman Robin Evans in The Guardian: I find myself in the unusual position of being the head of a public body that has welcomed – and indeed called for – its own abolition. ...

Thursday 14 October

British Waterways to be replaced by a new charity - official (updated)

The long-awaited announcement has just been published by British Waterways and the Government. BW - set up in its current form in 1962, and extant in one form or another since 1948 - is to be replaced with a new charity independent of Government control.

BW and the Government are describing it as "a national trust for the waterways". According to waterways minister Richard Benyon: "The engagement of local communities and interest groups will ensure the success of this transfer to civil society, building on the good work of British Waterways and countless waterways enthusiasts. It's a great example of Government giving power back to the people."

Crucially, this will not be the British Waterways Charity. Rather, the announcement is unambiguous that "British Waterways will be replaced by a new civil society body". Work is underway on setting out how this body will work.

Other key features from the announcement are:
  • No decision yet on whether the Environment Agency's navigations (Thames, Great Ouse, Nene, Medway) will be included; the Government says it will "further explore this"
  • New body "to be up and running by April 2012"
  • A "guaranteed long-term contract" with Government to support the upkeep of the waterways (but no word as yet as to how much less than the current grant this will be)
  • The new waterway charity gets to keep BW's property ("a charity-locked property endowment")
  • Decisions ongoing about the Scottish waterways

Update: Waterscape has published a list of Frequently Asked Questions. These are fairly basic, and won't tell anyone who's been following the story anything new. Interestingly, it does confirm the proposed structure which WW reported from a leaked internal BW document over the summer:

A new council of representatives will be established – bringing in a range of interests such as boaters, anglers, heritage, environment, local authorities etc – with oversight over a Board of Trustees with the responsibility for the running of the organisation and for the appointment and oversight of directors. At a local area, waterway partnerships will be set up to give local people and groups a greater role in the running of waterways.

IWA has welcomed the announcement. BW chairman Tony Hales has published an open letter on the subject.

Update 3.30pm: The trade unions representing BW staff continue their opposition to the proposals. Unite spokesman Julia Long said:

We have real fears that the vital maintenance work that is needed on the network will be forced to rely on the efforts of volunteers to fill gaps left by qualified engineers, if enough funding is not found. This very disturbing news increases the level of flood risk to the homes, offices and buildings along the banks of this network. Unite therefore calls for the government to provide some guarantees that there will not be a wholesale cull of the workforce and that there will be sufficient employed, skilled staff to prevent the potential devastation which would be caused if, for example, just one of the banks gave way.

Richard Fairhurst  | 11.09am | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Men pushed in Worcester canal in assaults bbc.co.uk

    Two people had to swim to safety after being pushed into a canal by a gang of three men in separate attacks. The gang first approached a man who was walking along a towpath that leads underneath Rainbow Hill, Lowesmoor, Worcester, on Sunday evening. In the second incident the three assaulted a man before pushing him into the canal. Two of the offenders were pulled in with him....

  • New Thames port 'will generate £3.2bn a year' thisislondon.co.uk

    More than 36,000 new jobs are set to be created at the new London Gateway deep-sea port and logistics park on the bank of the Thames in Thurrock, Essex, which a report published today forecasts will bring £3.2 billion into the UK economy every year by its completion in 2014....

  • Construction starts on River Lee sewer trenchlessinternational.com

    Ground has been broken on the Lee Tunnel, a new four mile sewer which will prevent 16 million tonnes of sewage overflowing into the River Lee, located in the UK, each year. ... The £635 million tunnel will take discharges from London’s largest combined sewer overflow at Abbey Mills in Stratford, east London, for treatment at Beckton sewage works, which is being expanded so it can deal with the additional flows. Construction started on one of four shafts, which will be up to 75 m deep. The Lee Tunnel ... will be the deepest tunnel ever constructed in London. ...

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