In the Chair, June 2017

In the Chair

Don’t rush – explore the places where you moor

NABO Chair, Stella Ridgway says make the most of your overnight stays

This is a shortened column this month and I have not been able to attend many meetings, so others have stepped into my place. We are still well-represented within CRT and I am due in Birmingham next month for a meeting with the Trust. I will let you know the outcomes in due course. If you have any issues you would like me to raise, please let me know.

My illness means that we cannot cruise as we would like, but the compensation is that we are moored on, in my opinion, one of the prettiest canals in England on the edge of the Peak District. The Cheshire Ring is closed at present, with the Bridgewater Canal being out of action until May. This means that we had the first flurry of hire-boats and summer cruisers going past us over the last month, with the school holidays and longer days. However, it amazes me that we see them go up towards Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin and come back about three hours later – enough time to wind. It is such a shame that boaters don’t factor in at least one or even two nights in this amazing place. It is Britain’s largest inland port, recovered by volunteers for use by boaters; I think they miss its fascinating history. So my advice to everyone is to plan overnight stays in different places. Manchester, for instance, is a brilliant place and, if you stop in Castlefield Basin, it is only a short walk to the Roman Fort and to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, which offer a fascinating glance into Manchester’s past and to the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. So my advice is to plan your cruising with lengthened stays, and if you come to Manchester, I can recommend the afternoon teas at various places, although ‘Cloud 23’ edges it for the fantastic views of Manchester and its surrounds.

The Bridgewater Canal was built to bring coal into Manchester, halving the price of coal and enabling the huge mills to process the cotton, wool and other raw materials. The canals enabled all that in their day and they now provide a green corridor and a sense of wellbeing to all those who use them. So I urge everyone to take the time to explore the area around where you moor, and especially those canals that run through cities, as it offers a chance to step back in time and imagine the noise, the boats, the horses, and the blacksmiths and other trades that relied (and still do rely) on canals for a living.

The nights are lighter and it isn’t dark until 9.30pm up here. Although we have had some bright days, the ever-present icy wind is still with us, making boating a lovely experience. I travelled by train down to the Council meeting, and I love to see how the railways followed the canals, knowing it was the canals that enabled those railways to be built. We use these same canals today predominantly for pleasure rather than trading, although trade is increasing as companies discover that having goods travel by boat saves warehouse space.