All change - or small change - for London boaters at the CRT strategy meeting asksMike Doherty in an article originally written for London Boater News
This year marks the 75th anniversary of start of the Women’s Training Scheme, the wartime attempt to keep the boats at work despite a shortage of crews. Later nicknamed The Idle Women they undertook six weeks training and then worked in teams of three with a pair of boats and 50 tons of cargo.
Now, 21st century ‘Idle Women’ – former Worcestershire Poet Laureate Heather Wastie and writer/performer Kate Saffin - will be recreating their journey, from London to Birmingham and back to London via the Coventry coal fields.
As Alarum Theatre, they will be performing at nearly 50 venues along the route, including historic waterside buildings, a farm, a community wood and, of course, a great many pubs!
The newly appointed spin doctor to the Lancaster Canal Partnership has been earning her £250 per day fees with newspaper and TV stories about what is claimed to be a new 'Towpath Trail' but all is not as it seems, as the Floater has discovered.
The press release boasts:
“CUMBRIA’S LOST CANAL REDISCOVERED – NEW £184,000 TOWPATH TRAIL ANNOUNCED
“Cumbria’s forgotten canal is to be rediscovered with the construction of a new £184,000 towpath trail from Kendal to Natland, thanks to members of the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership.
Towards the end of last year's boating 'season' the way in which Brentford lock – the exit from C&RT waters onto the tidal Thames – is operated came into question, according to one concerned boater.
Three incidents of inaccurate or incomplete information being provided and delays being caused that shortened the time available to transit the tidal Thames were reported to the Trust.
At that time the Port of London Authority (PLA) had only recently been complaining that boaters on the tidal Thames were ignoring navigation orders and putting themselves at risk.
Towards the end of October Ken Churchill, who is no stranger to C&RT intransigence (the charity recently settled out of court a claim he made against them), wanted to move to Environment Agency Waters on the non-tidal Thames by way of PLA waters: “I needed to lock out with enough cruising time to proceed up the River Thames and through Old Windsor Lock before its official closure on 1st November,” he recalls.
At least once a month we like to pay tribute to the work of the Canal & River Trust's press office and pass on to Floater readers the things the Trust would like you to know.
Some good news from the Caldon
A former canal wharf at Froghall Basin on the Caldon Canal in Staffordshire is being brought back to life, thanks to Café owner Emma Atkinson, who saw the potential of converting the attractive heritage building into a café and gift shop, with holiday accommodation for rent upstairs.
She has also arranged for a new trip boat to operate from the wharf, making the whole area into an attractive visitor destination.
Peter Underwood looks at some unpleasant rumours surfacing in Lancashire.
Could it be true that the new, C&RT certified, officers of a certain NW canal charity are so fed up with their inactivity being shown up by an upstart new organisation that they are actively seeking an excuse to bring legal action against the livewire who is making them look like lightweights?
The Canal & River Trust has already persuaded the Lancaster Canal Partnership to spend thousands of pounds on a spin doctor to put a gloss on its lack of activity and the Lancaster Canal Trust, part of the Partnership, is attempting to get back into action after being banned from any restoration work by C&RT edict for two years.
Allan Richards has been examining some recent developments within the Canal & River Trust's senior management and the changes have led him to ask whether C&RT will move its HQ to Birmingham?
With C&RT's predecessor, British Waterways, moving its head office from Watford in London to Milton Keynes just a few years ago, could there now be a second move - from Milton Keynes to centre of the canal network - Birmingham.
In July 2011, British Waterways announced that it was moving its headquarters from Watford to Milton Keynes. The move was justified on the basis that, together with closing its regional office in Paddington, £1 million a year would be saved. Reports at the time suggested that about 80 Staff were affected by the change.
Historically, a large London HQ has been favoured by medium/large UK organisations but, over time, advances in communications have meant the high cost of a London HQ is difficult to justify.
If BW's claims of a £1m per year saving were correct, this would be ample justification for a move. However, many would ask if a move to Milton Keynes was a good idea.
Let's face it. Milton Keynes has something of an image problem. It is noted for its 126 roundabouts and its concrete cows and not exactly renowned for its canal.
Moorings on the offside at Corbridge Crescent in East London have become the subject of a bit of a slanging match between some of the National Bargee Travellers Association and the boater wanting to develop them as a permanent mooring site, Peter Underwood writes.
Earlier this month The Floater published the NBTA case in some detail. Now we have invited Lee Wilshire, Founder of the London Waterways Projects to explain why he feels his project should take precedence over Continuous Cruisers mooring at the site, near an old gasworks, and instead provide community, fixed price moorings.
Lee first approached Canal & River Trust about developing this site as a social enterprise in 2013. After over three years of discussion he says he can finally confirm taking possession of the site.
Lee says: “This site will test and pioneer our approach to moorings provision – on the basis of need and connection to the local area. Through developing fixed price moorings we hope to enable individuals and families with most need, or who have a strong connection to the local area (perhaps through work or school) to put down roots without having to leave the water.
“Initially London Waterways Projects will operate Corbridge Crescent on a short term agreement with the Trust, during which time we will repair and restore the site railings and sow the seeds of a mooring community. We will use this time to finalise details of far more extensive works to repair the canal wall and bring full services to the site.
It seems the hunt for a replacement Head of Boating for the Canal & River Trust – following the surprise departure of Mike Grimes – scheduled for this Easter – may not be going as smoothly as hoped, reports Peter Underwood
The Trust has just announced it has appointed North East waterway manager Jon Horsfall as the charity’s interim head of boating.
He will start an immediate handover with Mike Grimes who leaves at Easter.
The announcement says Jon Horsfall will remain in the post throughout the ongoing review of licensing which is scheduled to last until the autumn.
Recruitment for a permanent head of boating will continue in the meantime, but the application date likely to be extended.
Peter Underwood has been looking at a canal which is being blocked at both ends by C&RT's insistence on winter closures.
Few canals have had as much spent on them as the 200 year old Leeds and Liverpool with major urban developments at either end involving millions of pounds in public and private money.
The canal itself has been massively improved in Liverpool and Leeds and is supposed to play a key role in urban regeneration in both cities, although the most spectacular is the £22m creation of a new canal link through Liverpool's Docks which opened to boats in April 2009 and extends from Stanley Dock Lock Flight via Albert Dock to the South Docks.
Yet, despite the fact that boaters are apparently so keen to spend time in Liverpool that C&RT cut the maximum stay from 14 days to seven, the link is closed for almost half the year.
And at the other end of the magnificent Pennine canal access through the iconic Bingley five rise lock flight into the attractive centre of Leeds is only fully available from mid-March till the end of October.
Allan Richards has been reporting for The Floater since the start. He has a talent for digging through layers of officialese to reach the facts.