Chairmans column January 2024

Looking back, looking ahead
Chair Anne Husar reflects on a sunny winter’s day

As I write this, there’s a beautifully clear blue sky from which the sun is streaming in through the portholes, warming the boat even though outside there’s a smattering of snow on the towpath.
The canal contains plenty of water and there’s boats going past so no stoppages at the moment, all seems well with our watery world. There will, I’m sure, be plenty of appealing wintery canal photos in the coming days now that the greyness has lifted.
Difficult to maintain the message that all is not right with our watery world. So much easier to simply do what boating you can, while you can, rather than keeping an eye on what is really happening across the waterways, the wider picture. But days like this we can take a breath, appreciate what we’ve still got.
A friend with a great interest in the old working boats recently are reminded of Fred Heritage who, along with his wife Sadie, we were honoured to know. As well as being considered a ‘real’ gentleman, he was also a ‘real’ boatman. His knowledge of the canals, along with that of the experienced lengthsmen at the time, served the system so well.
Today, enthusiastic volunteers have their place but, in an historic system whose workings have not substantially changed over 200 years, the accumulated wisdom of experienced boaters and skilled on-the-ground workers, the few who are left, should be taken seriously and acted upon. Their early warnings that would in the past have meant the probable avoidance of large scale, expensive repairs, are even more necessary in these constrained times? “Wait ’til it breaks” should have no role in the protection of our waterways.

Continuing with a look back to the past that has implications for the present, NABO is currently supporting a member in an ongoing dispute with CRT about mooring his boat.  Nothing unusual about that you may think but this involves an Act from 1793 enabling the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal to be built. Now better known as the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, CRT’s legal department may be about to delve in to some of its history, leading to our boater being allowed to moor without hindrance. However this is resolved, it is thanks to our knowledgeable council member Peter Braybrook who remembered the provisions of this still in statute Act.
We have a talented team on council!
Not so far back, the Fund Britain’s Waterways’ steering group (FBW) met in January and discussions were lively about how to progress in 2024. One of the main campaigning events will be timed to coincide with the next FBW Westminster flotilla in the first week of May along with the yearly Canalway Cavalcade at Little Venice. Other events supporting the cause will be happening over all the waterways during that bank holiday weekend so if you’re out and about on your boat, please keep an eye open for something to join in with.
The other way you can help spread the word is by having leaflets and stickers on board ready to give out to gongoozlers and others on your travels this year. Email me to arrange delivery, every little helps!
Finally, thanks to you all for supporting and helping with NABO’s work and here’s to a productive year for our waterways in 2024.