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Monday 18 June

Today's news from the web

Friday 15 June

IWA trailboat festival shows Cotswold Canals returning to life

The Cotswold Canal Trust's Perseverance and Wilts & Berks Canal Trust's Dragonfly were amongst some 30 boats at the IWA 2012 National Trailboat Festival, each providing boat rides for the public. The festival was part of the Stroud on Water event so that both canal enthusiasts and local families were drawn in and both were impressed with the pace of restoration with clear evidence of work recently completed or in progress.

Upstream of the festival site, at Bowbridge railway viaduct, where some of the line was lost to an A419 realignment, a fleet of earthmoving plant was parked above the excavated channel climbing up through one of the arches, the new line clearly established and apparently nearly ready for lock construction.

CCT members were still reflecting on the February visit in their 40th anniversary year by the Princess Royal to their new visitor centre. On that occasion she reopened Wallbridge Upper Lock and the distinctive new Stroud Brewery Bridge, taking the A46 over the canal near the centre of the town.

Downstream of Wallbridge Lower Lock, still to be addressed, a section of canal through to the festival site at Marling School had been dredged to full width only days before the event. This could be accessed down a steep ramp adjacent to a recent housing development.

Dudbridge Locks also need to be rebuilt but the large excavation alongside was to take a hydro turbine which can be earning over £2,000 per month while other restoration continues. It appears to have potential for use in reverse as a pump in a suggested water transfer scheme. From here the channel was fully restored for over two miles to the railway culvert west of Stonehouse and many minor obstructions had been removed just before the festival.

A floodgate at Ebley now protects the canal and local residents downstream from spates, excess water passing over a new weir and fish pass to the adjacent River Frome and the towpath being taken over a new lattice footbridge. Overtopping of the Dudbridge temporary bund on Saturday evening, following rain, led to concerns for its stability and the moored boats were moved to downstream of the Ebley floodgate although the bund held.

Another lattice footbridge gives access across the canal to Ebley residents beyond.
The staircase Ryeford Double Lock was not actually completed but was back in use for the festival, operated by CCT members who seemed to be working quite hard with the gleaming mechanisms. Adjusting them and finishing off the brickwork could follow after the crowds had gone home. At least they worked and were critical for getting craft from the steep temporary slipway at Stonehouse to the moorings at Dudbridge below the event site.

Ocean swing bridge, just short of the railway blockage below Stonehouse, was in place and in use for pedestrians but not yet swinging. To look at it, it seemed to want just the last of its wrapping paper removed.

In addition to all the canal work there was plenty of evidence of the towpath in various states of restoration in many places, even where the canal itself is still just a reedbed. All of this provides a service to local residents including those with no other interest in canals.

It was the boats decked out with even more bunting than elsewhere on this Jubilee weekend which brought home the message to many Stroud residents that their canal really is returning to life.

Stuart Fisher

Andrew Denny  | 4.29pm | add a comment

Beale Park Boat Show weathers the storms

The Beale Park Boat Show rode out the storms that lashed the Jubilee week, and produced another successful event considering the conditions. The Friday was going to be a wash-out, so the organisers sensibly decided not to open the show, as the ground was cutting up badly. Instead, with a sunny Saturday forecast, they emulated countless IWA nationals and bought in a huge lorry-load of straw. This was laid first thing Saturday morning, and when the crowds arrived, all was ready for them. Over 5000 people came through the gates, up on previous Saturdays, and the exhibitors were full of praise for the efforts of the staff.

Set in its idyllic location round a lake alongside one of the most beautiful stretches of the Thames, the show produced its usual eclectic mix of boats and boating activities, modern and old, expensive and affordable. 

Man-power, sail-power, steam-power and electric-power - every form of propulsion was there, including this year a remarkable competition for boats powered just by rechargeable electric drills. And before you look surprised, the fastest of these was running at over 8mph round the set course, powered by a V4 bank of Makita drills driving a home-designed underwater propeller. 

At the other end of the spectrum Consuta, the 52ft steam-powered umpire’s launch thundered, or more accurately swooshed its way across the lake. Built in 1898 by Sam Saunders at his nearby boatyard in Goring, Consuta was revolutionary for its construction, with four layers of 1/8th inch mahogany laid diagonally and stitched together with copper wires. The resulting monocoque hull with no frames, weighed just 3 tons, half that of similar craft, and had a top speed of 27mph, astonishing for the time.

But modern craft were also being exhibited, with a wide range of GRP day-boats and cruisers, for rivers or the sea, plus more traditional river launches and cruisers, and free river trips on one of Salter’s passenger boats.

Emrhys Barrell

The Beale Park Boat Show this year included a competition to
power boats using only Makita electric drills.

Boat show regular John Ross once again appeared with his classic decorated Mirror Dinghy Elizabeth Rose, this year decorated appropriate in a jubilee theme. 

Andrew Denny  | 3.42pm | add a comment

Sad end to "Dunkirk Little Ship" at Teddington Lock

A boat said to have been a Dunkirk Little Ship was torn apart and sank last night near Teddington Lock.  The boat, called 'Tantalus' was heading past the lock and up the weirstream, where the 'red boards' were out warning boaters not to navigate in flood conditions. 

It was reported that they needed to tie up in an emergency and got a stern rope to a pontoon, but the current swiftly spun them round and tore the whole stern off the boat, causing it to sink rapidly.

Two people and two cats were rescued. Luckily the Teddington lifeboat was based only 100 yards away and was quickly able to rescue the two people and two cats aboard. 

At time of writing it has not been confirmed that this was the Dunkirk Little Ship originally called Jovial, but later renamed Tantalus.

Andrew Denny  | 12.55pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • East London’s Waterway Cultural Revolution waterwaysforward.wordpress.com

    As the world turns its gaze to London’s East End this summer for the 2012 London Olympics, there’s a cultural revolution happening along its waterways. The Olympic Stadium dominates the view from the pontoon terrace of the Counter Café. This warehouse gallery and the Carlton Café are two of the creative spaces to be found along the waterways of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, London. Once empty warehouses and merchants’ yards now teem with people re-visiting waterways heritage sites put to new uses. ... At the Royal Docks, where the canals meet the Thames, a huge project to resurrect canals (londonpleasuregardens.com), will be completed in the heart of the Olympic East End....

  • Lessons learned on the 2012 Grand Union Canal Race, from the winner. debsonrunning.blogspot.co.uk

    A hundred lessons learned by Debbie Martin-Consani on this year's Grand Union Canal Race, which she won outright on her first attempt. The 146 miles from Birmingham to London - not just first woman, but first overall, in 28 hours. ...

  • Flame gets special reception at The Falkirk Wheel falkirkherald.co.uk

    Almost 4000 people flocked to The Falkirk Wheel to welcome the Olympic Torch. A special reception and entertainment was hosted at the landmark by British Waterways, and the Torch was treated to a boat trip on the Wheel itself. The occasion was filmed for national TV, with coverage broadcast on the BBC. Alasdair Smart, Manager at The Falkirk Wheel said: “What a glorious day at The Falkirk Wheel. “The sun shone, the local choir sang, the schoolchildren cheered, the fireworks added to the occasion and the Wheel performed magnificently. “It was great to see thousands of people turn out to watch the Torch sail down the Wheel on the Maryhill puffer and enjoy everything the Wheel has to offer....

Thursday 14 June

Fifty-strong chorus is highlight of Russell Newbery Rally at Alvecote

A world-first was created at Alvecote Marina on the Coventry Canal last weekend when 50 Russell Newbery-powered canal boats started their engines in unison. 

The Synchronised Start Up, with all RN engines coming, to life on cue, was a highlight of the 15th annual Russell Newbery Register rally. It proved to be a hugely popular, and is set to be an essential feature of all future RNR rallies.

The RNR weekend followed the now well-established format of a series of practical workshops, this year based at the marina’s Samuel Barlow pub. The courses included ropework, cylinder heads, scumbling, rag rugs, chalkboard noticeboard, technical discussions and musical entertainment, which this year included a barbershop choir.

Former Russell Newbery apprentice Jamie Mason takes a cylinder head workshop at the 2012 Russell Newbery Rally at Alvecote Marina. Still only in his early 20s, Jamie lives on a RN-engined boat himself, and has run the workshops for at least three years. This year two sessions were needed to accommodate demand.

Andrew Denny  | 4.44pm | add a comment

Wednesday 13 June

British Waterways lifts drought restrictions

British Waterways is lifting its drought restrictions with immediate effect. The closures, restrictions and water-saving measures were introduced in March after some areas experienced the driest year on record in 2011. In the spring BW also announced £700,000 of additional maintenance expenditure to reduce water loss (for example in bringing forward lock gate replacement to fix leaky gates early). 

However April’s record rainfall dramatically improved reservoir holdings across the South East. Continued torrential rainfall through May and now into June has seen reservoir holdings return to average for this time of year. Indeed, in many cases reservoirs have refilled completely.

BW operations manager Vince Moran said this means that – from the perspective of navigation at least – the drought is effectively over. “Restricting opening times was a necessary measure given the particularly dry winter. But combined with the additional investment, and of course the heavy rainfall, our reservoirs are now largely back to normal”.

However he urged boaters still to conserve water. “The drought has sharpened our minds. Simple steps, such as sharing locks, ensuring paddles are closed after use, and opening both gates when entering or leaving locks to avoid damaging their watertight seal – all these can help in the longer term. The more water we have in our reservoirs at the end of the season the better equipped we will be to deal with the possibility of another dry winter ahead of next year’s boating season.”

He concluded with a gentle plea to the water gods: “Mind you, while I’m very grateful for the recent rainfall it would be nice to see it ease off over the coming weeks. “I’d like to see boaters get out there and really enjoy what promises to be a fantastic summer of cruising”.

The Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal has been closed for extra maintenance during the drought. It will finally reopen on 29th June and, apart from a three-day stoppage in July, will remain open throughout July and August.  Vince Moran says that overnight locking may be considered at selected locations on the Grand Union Canal where paddles are persistently left open.

More details of June’s reservoir holdings are about to be published in BW’s monthly Reservoir Watch:  www.waterscape.com/reservoirwatch

Wormleighton Reservoir, near Fenny Compton, after the dry summer of 2010.
Hopefully this scene will not be repeated this year.

Andrew Denny  | 5.41pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • £60,000 public art project to 'brighten' the Grand Union canal at Milton Keynes miltonkeynes.co.uk

    You may not know art, but you know what you like – and Great Linford Parish Council want to know about it. The council has been granted £60,000 to spend on a unique art trail along the Grand Union Canal. Residents in Downhead Park, Willen, Pennylands and Bolbeck Park are being asked what they’d like to see the money spent on. Councillor David Stabler said: “It’s a great opportunity because, although this is a very picturesque part of Milton Keynes, we have never had any public art here before.”...

Tuesday 12 June

Director of National Historic Ships tears into BBC coverage of the Jubilee Pageant

Martyn Heighton, director of National HIstoric Ships UK, has torn into what he called the BBC's "shocking" coverage of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3rd June. 

"Clare Balding’s statement in today’s Daily Telegraph (8th June) that executives decided 'looking at boats for how ever many hours might be dull' exposes the bankruptcy of imagination, intelligence, and lack of appreciation of heritage, coupled with a  patronising attitude to the general public, which so palpably besets the BBC’s senior management. 

... "At the behest  of the BBC’s Pageant team, this organisation supplied the BBC with a full list of all the vessels on the National Registers in both the Pageant and Parade of sail; short, broadcast-friendly histories of vessels across the spectrum of types attending;  links to our website so that the BBC could delve further if it so wished, and a standing invitation to contact me or my staff with any further queries they might have. 

"Furthermore, and again at the request of the Trust, we acted as go-between bringing together the BBC with the  owner of Amazon, the remarkable screw schooner which attended the Spithead Review celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and which, after crossing the Atlantic and over-wintering in Ireland,  made passage to the Thames to take part of the Parade of Sail.

"We might just as well not have bothered."

Martyn Heighton concluded: 

"I am left wondering what the BBC holds to be 'interesting'. I am minded to take my recording of the broadcast and overlay it with the commentary which we believe should have been the one on the day, inviting  as part of this exercise the excellent Tom Cunliffe, who was utterly side-lined during the broadcast and prevented from sharing in his inimitably enthusiastic style, the extensive knowledge he holds on the subject. It would be instructive to see the difference. Perhaps I should send the resultant programme  to the Director General with my compliments as a training video."

Andrew Denny  | 1.42pm | 2 comments

Monday 11 June

Today's news from the web

  • Man is rescued as canal boat goes adrift at Worcester on Severn worcesternews.co.uk

    A man was rescued by emergency personnel from a canal narrowboat which became trapped in the River Severn yesterday. And the unmanned boat subsequently broke free and was recovered near Upton earlier today. ... Station commander Dan Quinn said: “Once the owner had been rescued, we looked at how to recover the boat but due to the flood warnings in place and the risk of increased water flows on the River Severn, it was decided to leave it where it was overnight.” The boat dislodged itself overnight, went over the weir and then drifted down the river towards Upton. With the fire service, the police and a team from SARA working together, the boat was located, and recaptured south of Upton, near the M50 bridge....

  • Doing 'legwork' in Foulridge canal tunnel lancashiretelegraph.co.uk

    A narrowboat crew, travelling from Leeds to Liverpool, literally ‘legged’ their way through the Foulridge Tunnel. The 150-year-old wrought-iron boat, called Elland, was pushed by the crew using the age-old method while travelling along the Leeds Liverpool Canal. It is believed to be the first horse-drawn boat to travel the 127-mile route for 68 years....

Saturday 9 June

Today's news from the web

  • Crowds come out for Stoke Bruerne’s gala weekend northamptonchron.co.uk

    Waterways enthusiasts descended on the picture postcard village of Stoke Bruerne for the annual gala weekend, celebrating life on the canal network. Dozens of historic narrowboats and barges were out in force as people enjoyed boat trips up and down the Grand Union Canal. A fancy dress pirate competition and live music were also on offer as the village came together to make the most of life on the waterways. One of the highlights of the festival is a classic reminder of a traditional rural craft being carried out by blacksmith Bob Nightingale....

  • Caledonian Canal trek girl built her own kayak scotsman.com

    Not many pupils come up with the idea of travelling 60 miles along a canal in their very own creation as part of a class project. But 14-year-old Kitty Vickers, a pupil at the Edinburgh Steiner School, did exactly that – then climbed Scotland’s highest peak afterwards for fun. The teenager built her own kayak and paddled from Fort William to Inverness along the Caledonian Canal as part of a five day journey – an achievement made even more impressive by the fact it was her first major kayaking trip. Following the 60-mile paddle, during which Kitty battled strong winds, she decided to climb Ben Nevis while still in the area....

  • Historic occasion as Northern Ireland's Strabane canal towpath officially reopened after half a century strabaneweekly.co.uk

    Strabane's historic 300-year-old canal route has been reopened for the first time in 50 years - in response to public demand for access to the site. On Thursday, local councillors gathered - alongside council representatives - to witness the grand opening of the 'tow path' section of the route. The section is now temporarily open to walkers, runners and cyclists to avail of during the summer. A considerable amount of redevelopment has taken place to restore this part of the canal, and it is envisaged that parking and toilet facilities will also be developed later this year. ...

Friday 8 June

Today's news from the web

  • Maidenhead waterways plans recommended for approval maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk

    Sweeping plans to revamp the town centre with a navigable waterway could be given the green light by Royal Borough councillors at a special meeting on Wednesday. Visionaries at the Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group (MWRG) have spent six years working on a £5m scheme to create a 2km 'ring' of water around the town which can be used by small boats and canoeists. The scheme has been recommended for approval by council officers, subject to conditions. MWRG Chairman Richard Davenport said the councillors' decision will be 'hugely important' for the development of the town. "We believe having a waterway in the town centre will bring huge amounts of investment," he said. ...

  • Smart way to follow Cotswold canal trail thisisgloucestershire.co.uk

    An audio trail of the canals that are so far restored through Stroud has been recorded by volunteers. The description, which works on smart phones, is narrated by Rhiannon Adams, Matt Harwood and Aeryn Morgan. The group researched the route and were then trained to record oral history by expert producer Julia Letts. The first gateway panel is at Wallbridge and a series of waymarkers at the canalside will allow smart phone users to download the audio from the towpath....

  • Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant: BBC chief 'proud' of coverage telegraph.co.uk

    The BBC’s coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations was “impressive”, Mark Thompson, the director general, has said despite, the corporation receiving almost 2500 complaints. The public broadcaster's chief dismissed the growing backlash against the corporation for its widely-ridiculed programming, insisting he was “proud” of the "outstanding journalism". ...

  • Thames Water could lift hosepipe ban sooner than expected unless weather 'takes Saharan twist' thisislondon.co.uk

    The UK's biggest water company has said it could lift its hosepipe ban sooner than expected after wet weather reduced the risk of drought. Thames Water, which serves 8.8 million customers in London and the Thames Valley area, said unless the weather takes "an unexpectedly Saharan twist", it no longer expected to keep the ban in place through to the autumn. Anglian Water and Southern Water are thought to be in a similar position after the heavy rain the UK received in April and May boosted river levels and reservoir stocks....

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