The motorway in your head

Stella Ridgway urges boaters to slow down and enjoy the view

The Marple Flight reopened at the end of May, so we have been treated to a great deal more traffic as boaters cross Bugsworth Basin off their tick-list of places to go. We have noticed the speed and lack of boating etiquette that seems to have crept (or is that marched?) in over the last few years. When we moved aboard, the person we bought our boat from said: “you con­sciously need to slow down for the first three days as it takes that long to lose the motorway in your head”. We notice that with the boaters who are obviously on a schedule speeding past us. I think they don't even no­tice the views over the landscape, which are particularly stunning this year. I think they forget that it isn't just the destination; it's the journey that is as important. We hear boaters complaining about the shallowness of the canal, but they are trying to cruise at maximum speed. (As this was one of the last canals to be built in the North West, costs were key and it was built to an average depth of about a metre, so it isn't the deepest of canals). But if you go slowly and enjoy the scenery, it will be a much better experience for everyone.

Boaters moan about the Canal and River Trust not doing enough maintenance and dredging, but along here they have done dredging surveys and taken boaters' feedback into account when deciding where to dredge. Unfortunately, the use of bow thrusters, particularly on shal­low canals, means silt banks are created quite quickly on bends and in winding holes, creating further dredging needs. So it’s a vicious cir­cle, particularly on shallower canals.

Widebeams on narrow canals

The Trust says it is aware of the is­sues on the North Oxford, but the issues faced on other canals are mainly anecdotal, so please report everything, either by phone, email or on the Trust’s web-form.

I attended CRT’s Council Boaters Rep. meeting in Birmingham, where we stressed the need for consist­ency of language across waterways authorities, particularly in places where a canal joins a river. Currently, the Trust uses the height of water to determine safety; not flow, which could cause problems. The EA pro­duces data for most rivers and so the issue is really just about using the same language and it meaning the same, no matter where you cruise.

We talked about the challenge that the Trust faces with the in­creased cost of rubbish removal and fly-tipping that seems to happen near to towns. Lack of recycling is also a challenge for boaters as most recycling centres are not next to a canal and are inaccessible on foot. Perhaps the answer is barges that go around collecting recycling and rubbish, or bins only available on the offside and emptied via barges? Let me know your thoughts.

Meanwhile, I hope the sum­mer stays good and we don't get too much rain. We wanted to paint our roof as it was reasonably nice weather; then it rained as soon as we started. Still, we finally got the front third done this week and hopefully the rain will keep off long enough to do the next two thirds. Happy boat­ing everyone—remember to keep the motorway out of your head and enjoy the journey.