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.

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.

Capturing knowledge

Chair, Stella Ridgway, is concerned that CRT’s redundancies will result in experience being lost.

Happy New Year, although tinged with sadness as we report the death of our Vice Chair, Paul Howland. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him; his knowledge was always welcome and his advice given freely and always useful. This leaves a place open on NABO Council and, therefore, if you would like to volunteer, please let us know.

I have had a quiet few months, although the Trust hasn’t. It announced the next lot of redundancies just before Christmas and the outcomes should be known before the start of summer. We wait to see the impact of these and how many people will opt for redundancy. But, potentially, this could result in the loss of people with decades of experience of working on the waterways. NABO realises the need for these redundancies, but we hope that the potential loss of knowledge is being captured. The meetings with the North West and North East Waterway Directors have been postponed until next month, and, although this is not ideal, we realise that people are concerned about options and jobs. However, it is encouraging that these meetings are being held and maybe it is true that the Trust wants to listen to boaters and capture the knowledge in that way.

A Challenging Year. Stella Ridgway reviews the last twelve months.

My thanks go to this year’s Council members for their support and especially to Mark, Mike and Paul for attending meetings and covering for me. This year has been challenging for boaters in the North, with the North West being virtually cut off from the system. In July, there were 13 emergency or long-term stoppages due to water shortages, maintenance and pollution incidents. There are a lot of places where the canal bottom seemed too close to the top, either because it hadn’t been dredged or it had not been cleared properly after a stoppage. While most canals are now open, in the Peak District we are not getting the rain required so I anticipate a challenging year ahead. Some maintenance works were done during the stoppages, so the winter closures might not be as long in some areas.

Getting to know you

Stella Ridgway looks back over five years of engagement with CRT.

As the CRT Annual General Meeting is coming up, I thought I would reflect on the last year and, indeed, the five years since I started attending these AGMs. The Trust started out with Richard Parry going to boaters’ forums, meeting with boaters’ organisations and generally engaging ... and then this engagement evaporated. While Richard still goes to events (I know he attends most Roving Traders’ Events), we in NABO have had a void in formal communications for the last two years. The only engagement is the six-monthly Regional User Forums, the National Advisory Groups (the Licensing NAG was recently disbanded) and the National User Forum. The reorganisation, announced last November, finally came into effect in June and it is proposed that there will be meetings held quarterly around the regions to give us a chance to get to know the new Regional Directors. It is hoped that they will be able to establish best practice with regards to having boaters represented on Regional Advisory Boards. NABO held an initial meeting with Jon Horsfall, the new Head of Customer Service, and has scheduled another meeting for September, so we hope to have met by the time you read this. The focus for this next meeting is ‘working together’, which seems to be a recurring theme at every meeting the Trust has; ‘using boaters’ knowledge’. But if the Trust wants boaters and boating organisations to help, it should acknowledge publicly the assistance and advice provided by NABO, other organisations and the Boaters’ Reps on Council. Boaters give their time and expertise through their representation on NAG and various sub-groups.