Community involvement

Chair, Stella Ridgway, meets the North West Regional Director.

I am going to offer apologies in advance – I have not been well – the downside of chronic kidney disease and renal failure is the body’s inability to shake off infections, and I have had one since late February. I managed to go to Council as it was in Manchester, but the Users’ Forum at the beginning of April was too far for me to travel.

I did meet with Daniel Greenhalgh, the new NW Regional Director (he kindly came to my boat so I didn’t have to travel), and we discussed NABO’s role with the Trust and how we can be a critical friend in assisting it. We discussed lack of facilities; there are no showers at all on the Macclesfield or Peak Forest canals. This may not seem important to some, but the ability to shower for longer than four minutes is a treat (do let me know if you can shower in less time) and to have the use of a washing machine for bulky items would be wonderful, particularly as laundrettes become fewer. We also discussed the transhipment sheds at both Whaley Bridge and Marple, and noticed that the Toll House was open in Marple last Saturday – unfortunately, only open when I was on dialysis, but the photos I saw looked good. The planning application for the wharf development at Marple was refused and I haven’t heard what the next steps will be, but I wish that the Trust would concentrate on looking for ways to engage not only the land-based community but the boating community as well. The transhipment sheds offer a unique opportunity to bring the two communities together and I hope that this is noted.

Too often, and the new Regional Advisory Boards are testament to this, when I enquired at CRT’s AGM about boaters being on the Regional Advisory Group, we were told that it was on the wellbeing agenda for inclusion of the wider community. This is where boaters’ perceptions arise of not being included; the boating community is side-lined as being ‘on the water’ and that boaters ‘animate the canals’, as if we are there just to be gongoozled at and no more. He did make a note of those two points and we will see if anything happens. We also discussed the increase in liveaboard boaters, including the challenges, but also the opportunities, that these boaters bring, such as increased footfall along towpaths and safer areas.

I also mentioned the repairs being undertaken along this section of the Peak Forest canal and in the North West; they have a team that is going round doing small repairs. I hope it’s the same in other regions as it seems to be working up here. As always, if you report a fault to CRT, please do everything through the website or by phone to the central switchboard, so that it gets logged.

This brings me to the ongoing ‘Share the Space’ campaign. I asked that the form on the CRT website be updated, so that you can report incidents, such as near misses, accidents etc. I would encourage the use of this so that there are logged reports and not merely anecdotal evidence of bad behaviour by some towpath users (be they cyclists, anglers, boaters). Increased commuting use and speeding by a very small section of cyclists, who persist in not slowing down for anyone, is a cause for concern. I have also noticed that mobility scooters are a worry. Is increased signage at access points the answer? Let us know.

Finally, I have a CRT Council Boaters’ Reps. meeting on 20th May, which I will be attending. I will be raising the above points, but if there is anything you feel that I should talk about, please email me.