Getting to know you
Stella Ridgway is concerned about the disconnect between boaters and local communities.
In the July issue, I expressed a desire that the sun we had in June would be extended, but we have had one of the worst Augusts on record for cloud, rain and cold weather. We have had our stove lit and we are still awaiting the chance of an Indian summer up here. I have been envious of those able to travel, as there seems to have been plenty of sunshine elsewhere. It’s been so bad that we have had to run the engine instead of using our solar panel to charge the batteries sufficiently.
The Partnerships have, or are having, their AGMs and, as it was not on a dialysis day, I managed to get to the Manchester, Pennine and Potteries one, which they call a ‘Shout Out’. Death by Power Point, but there were a couple of interesting presentations: one from a Stoke Councillor about Stoke-on-Trent’s bid to be City of Culture in 2021. Apparently, it is to be shortlisted and they have the canals as a central theme. As was pointed out though, and this applies to most city canals, there is a need to address the disconnect between boaters and the local population ‒ and here I feel CRT is missing a trick. CRT wants local communities to get involved in maintaining canals etc., but what it frequently forgets, in my opinion, is the floating community. It is willing to use us for free advice and consultation to tick boxes but ignores us when planning local events. One instance, not far from me in Whaley Bridge, is the Transhipment Shed. Here is a unique opportunity to combine boat- and land-traders, boaters and the local community, but the consultation, held three years ago, was shelved and ignored (although I believe it might have made a reappearance). They had not even thought about the unique selling point that they have. There should also be a central point on the CRT website where all the volunteering opportunities for towpath tidy-ups etc. are listed, so you can check if you are travelling to an area and want to join in. This could also be used by the different groups on separate lengths of the same canal to coordinate work, pool resources and experience, for work such as fence repairs and hedge-laying. We talked about such a resource in the Manchester, Pennine and Potteries AGM, but it remains to be seen whether the will is there nationally to make it work.
To return to the disconnect between boaters and the local community, you may have seen the recent video, picked up in the national tabloids, of Lock 66 at Failsworth on the Rochdale Canal. Local youths seemed to think it would be funny to jump on boat gunwales, throw stones and generally make nuisances of themselves. While this is the exception rather than the rule, I am sure there are many of us who have had similar experiences on most city canals. Again it is about getting CRT and local councils to address the disconnect, where those who see people on boats as having something they cannot even aspire to.
While this is the exception rather than the rule, I am sure there are many of us who have had similar experiences on most city canals. Again it is about getting CRT and local councils to address the disconnect between those who see people on boats as having something that they cannot even aspire to.
We have noticed that hire-boats often have two families on board, because the cost of hiring in peak season is so high, and therefore out of reach for most people. We have also noticed the local day-boat has been out every day in the holidays with families on board – perhaps this is the way that boating will go in the future, with more day hire-boats or short-stay cruises.
The age profile of boaters is something that CRT and boating organisations are concerned about. If you look at the average age of the London boating community, compared with boaters in the rest of the country, it must be at least 15 to 20 years younger ‒ and the way that they organise their community via social media is wondrous and a credit to them. The London Mooring Strategy has also been a good example of the way boating organisations can work with CRT to find solutions, and it would be nice if this was reciprocated with CRT employees getting more involved with boating and boaters.
I noticed that CRT is finally dredging on the Macclesfield Canal summit pound. This is the new policy of looking to see where the largest volume of complaints over lack of dredging arises and then addressing them. So please do not hesitate to phone, tweet or message CRT about high levels of mud, or where a line of sight at bridges or bends is poor, as it appears they might respond. CRT is also contacting all boaters over the licence consultation and I encourage all members to take part.
From October, our moorings on the Upper Peak Forest are to be managed by the local marina, and I know of one other on the Leeds & Liverpool that CRT has outsourced. I don’t get any sense of the advantages that this has for CRT or for the marina, other than if boats are away for extended periods, will there be a charge for overnight stays? Watch this space and let us know if you come across any other outsourcing.
Finally, did you know that for some years this magazine has been kept as a reference source by the British, Scottish, Irish and Welsh National Libraries and it is now being taken by the French National Library? A true accolade to NABO and our members.