Busy like bees

Chair, Stella Ridgway, attended the last CRT Council meeting

February was glorious: unseasonably warm and sunny, and both the birds and trees were slightly confused; an early spring followed by (in Manchester) a month’s rain in two days. There were flood warnings for a lot of rivers and hearing the flood alarms going was slightly scary, but the towns that were flooded in 2015 seemed to have put plans in place, banks had been repaired and held, so a sigh of relief for all.

I have had two meetings in a week and this has had an impact on my ability to keep my energy levels equalised. The NABO Council meeting in Tamworth involved a train journey interspersed with a 90-minute wait for a replacement bus service from Grindleford (which has the most delightful station café) to Sheffield. Then, fortunately, the further two connections worked but resulted in my arriving at the meeting over an hour late.

The Canal and River Trust Council meeting in Manchester on 20th March was rather less stressful as it involved a local journey down the Buxton line to Manchester Oxford Road and a short walk round to the Bridgewater Hall (I discovered two short-cuts that I was unaware of, using the towpath). My report on the meeting is elsewhere in this issue, but it was vastly improved by the addition of a topic for discussion on ‘Shared Space on Towpaths’. The three council members who were asked to make a submission were myself, representing boaters, the Ramblers Association, plus the anglers’ delegates. The cycling delegate didn’t turn up, but we tried not to blame all cyclists, just the inconsiderate ones. The Council has made some recommendations which will be published. There was an interesting topic from the Waterways Ombudsman elect about the work done over the last year and anonymised cases that have been adjudicated upon are on the website. The Ombudsman is considering offering the services to other navigation authorities, which could be useful as the majority of cases concern mooring.

The IWA’s Vision for London was recently published and, while NABO agrees with and supports the IWA position on facilities, a lot of what was said could be applied across the network. Indeed, the provision of washing machines and showers is also important for those boats without a home mooring, particularly liveaboards. However, the minimum recommendations that were made some years ago seem to have become the norm rather than the basis for improvement and increased provision. The report is at https://www.waterways.org.uk/branches_regions/london/pdfs/vision_for_london

A shout out for the Trust teams who have worked long and hard over the winter months on towpath improvement, particularly on the Peak Forest Canal, where I moor, and elsewhere. Sometimes we are quick to criticise the Trust, but the actions of its staff to make boaters’ lives and navigation easier can be overlooked. We also sometimes forget that unless we report something wrong it will not be logged. I have spoken to the Head of Customer Service concerning improvements to the online report form and I would urge everyone to report everything, either by phone on 0303 040 4040, or using the online form (see https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/contact-us/ways-to-contact-us). This is going to be improved with inputs from the boaters’ reps to the Council. We still have a place open on Council and if you would like to volunteer, please let us know.

Finally, the wet weather now seems to have been replaced by a period of sunshine and warmer weather and, for those of you who boat in the summer months, there will possibly be a chance to get out before the Easter break in April. Enjoy your boating.