Chair, Stella Ridgway, has had an eventful time in the High Peak.

Since my last missive, it all started with rain; lots and lots of rain. On July 29th, we noticed a video on Facebook of Toddbrook reservoir overtopping - hardly surprising considering the amount of rain we’d experienced. The canal was so full that the water was level with the bank and CRT opened sluice gates near us to feed water into the River Goyt. On Thursday morning, 1st August, the local news said that Whaley Bridge was being evacuated; all excitement and apprehension. Toddbrook reservoir supplies the Peak Forest canal and is the top feeder for the Cheshire Ring. If it flooded, it would take out the Whaley Bridge shops, the railway station, the school, houses, the basin and any boats in Whaley Bridge, plus Tesco, the new B&M near to the aqueduct on Bugsworth Arm and the one at Furness Vale. Although the police advised boaters to leave their boats, we studied all the projections and, while there might have been a slight surge, the river and floodplain would have taken the full impact. Videos on local Facebook groups showed the river at 14-15 feet above its normal level on the Wednesday and there had already been evacuations due to the river flooding. But on Thursday this had dropped seven or eight feet as the Environment Agency managed levels further upstream and downstream. All traffic was stopped going through New Mills, the A6 was closed and there were no Buxton trains; it was quiet.

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.

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.