As the scent of honeysuckle wafts through an open window and is subsequently overpowered by the inimitable odour of barbecue from a neighbour, I realise summer has indeed arrived.
I have received over 50 notices of works and other stoppages in the last week, the presentation of the notices is not great. The headline information, for example ‘Navigation closure notice: Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Navigation: Closed, Towpath: Open’ then on opening the email, ‘The bridge has been repaired and navigation traffic can resume.’ I’m sure it saves a few seconds although it wouldn’t take much to preface the notice headline with ‘Amendment’ or ‘Navigation reopened’.
As we travel around the network I have heard from many people on its perceived state, how it used to be better etc. As a boater for over 30 years, I’m not sure that memory is the best or most accurate way of recording the works required or indeed of the repairs achieved. Stourbridge only re-opened on the 27th May 1967 after a battle with British Waterways in 1962 who wanted to close it, the Kennet & Avon Canal only reopened in 1990 and the Droitwich canal in 2011. Three good examples of improvements in the network that perhaps get forgotten.
I would like to propose that we keep a database of observations of instances of disrepair. Canal and River Trust are usually aware of the problems and schedule work, as dictated by funds and severity. However, as one example, the non-towpath top gate paddle mechanism on Park Gate lock on the Staffs and Worcester has been destroyed, including the concrete base. I’ve seen it in this condition for two years, although locals say it’s been like it much longer, but its restoration does not appear in the latest winter schedule. Whilst it is possible to operate the lock on one paddle it does cause delays in busy periods and there is the chance of the other paddle failing, which will close the canal.
‘Waiting Patiently for the Lock to fill’ image3077.jpg
I am not proposing this database as a way of criticising CRT, it would be helpful to have the data to assess the general state of the network accurately when requesting Government funding. I believe it would encourage boaters to be more involved in the upkeep of the network, enhance greater involvement with CRT and aid understanding of their problems of funding and maintenance. We could also highlight works completed in a short turnaround or in the longer term, find volunteers or even help raise funds.
So, if you find a problem that requires attention or will do in the future, please send the location, date observed, concise detail of the problem, photo if possible, your name and contact details to email@example.com or Tweet #RepairWaterways. I will keep personal data private and only use the contact details to update you on the progress of any repair work. Let nobody moan about the state of canals unless they have reported its problems.
That’s my summer project, in between cruising. So far our progress has not been halted by anything other than the weather although we have had to choose canals that are, and likely to remain, open. Happy cruising to all!