Listening to boat owners, Speaking out for boat owners, Representing boat owners.


Canals full of boats, but frustrations galore.

Editor, Peter Fellows, includes a roundup of members’ photos.

It’s been a busy summer on the waterways as many people decided on a ‘staycation’ instead of holidaying abroad, with hireboat companies reportedly fully booked. Unfortunately, those who decided to head north had their travel plans disrupted by a series of stoppages on the Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Leeds and Liverpool and Rochdale canals. Further south those on the Leicester Arm of the GU and the South Oxford did not fare much better. The lack of maintenance brought lock failures and a lack of vegetation management resulted in many members sharing photos of overhanging trees with lines of sight obscured, encroaching reed beds and places where the canals were narrowed to one boat-width. I’ve included a selection of their photos in this issue. The issue of CRT’s revised terms and conditions rumbles on, with letters from members agreeing with NABO’s stance and Mike Rodd further questioning aspects of them in his Chairman’s column. Mike is also delighted that the EA has made a U-turn in employing the car parking company to manage Thames moorings, but is concerned that the waterways may becoming ‘Disneyfied’, like Forestry England’s Westonbirt National Arboretum in an attempt to broaden their appeal to a wider audience to secure further Government funding.

Time for a rethink?

Editor, Peter Fellows, considers an alternative to
the present CRT structure

Two aspects have dominated NABO’s work since the last issue: CRT’s new licence terms and conditions and the threats to the waterway heritage. The T&Cs continue to exercise people who realise the significance of the changes – unfortunately not the majority of boaters. I’ve included correspondence between Mike Rodd and CRT’s Head of Customer Service Support, and David Fletcher gives a ‘blow-by-blow’ account of events over the weeks from the end of May. Anne Husar has written a letter to members, outlining the four areas where NABO is unhappy and asking for your feedback. The new T&Cs made Mark Tizard look back over changes in CRT’s enforcement policy for movement of boats without a home mooring, concluding that the vast majority of continuous cruisers are boating below CRT’s enforcement radar.

I’ve been banging on about the loss of historic buildings from the CRT portfolio for years. In this issue, Anne Husar calls on CRT to better care for our historic canal system and its structures. Several members share their disquiet at the loss of heritage: Mark Sullivan and Peter Caswell write letters concerning the Toll House at Pontymoile and the multiple small losses that go unnoticed until their cumulative effect hits you by their absence, and Allan Richards clarifies what is a protected operational asset. The two most recent proposed sales – Pontymoile’s toll house and the Stop House at Braunston – seem different: CRT withdrew the former from auction and is looking for a tenant for the latter. Let’s hope this is some sort of epiphany for CRT and from now on it will take its heritage responsibilities more seriously.

Elsewhere, Ken Hylins recalls his own experiences of needing help from medical and care providers while living on a boat and he looks at the impact of moving around on finding care. Matthew Symonds, National Boating Manager, has written to clarify CRT’s support for disabled boaters and those with access requirements. In Techies’ Corner, John Devonald looks at some of the reasons that boaters give for not installing solar panels on their roofs. David has updated his article from last year on CRT’s mowing regimes, asking you to use mowing maps when out on the cut so that we can recommend improvements to specific areas. Ian Hutson also offers some views on towpath vegetation in his own idiosyncratic style and a letter from Ann Street describes the lack of vegetation management on the Llangollen. This month’s Rewind recalls that, despite BW’s ‘veg pledge’, lack of vegetation management was still a problem 15 years ago. Howard Anguish also finds that in 2006 the world was in the grips of the highly contagious Bird Flu disease, triggering fears of a pandemic - plus ça change!

Finally, I’ve included nomination forms for the autumn AGM – if you want to keep your paper copy of NN intact they can be downloaded from the NABO website.

Happy summer boating.


Time for a rethink?

Editor, Peter Fellows, considers an alternative to the present CRT structure.

This issue reflects two concerns that have been raised recently regarding the poor state of the canal infrastructure and the loss of waterway heritage. There are currently a record number of unplanned canal closures and lock or culvert failures, especially in the North. Given that the waterways have largely been out of use for months due to the Covid lockdown, these failures have to be due to inadequate inspection and/or lack of maintenance, rather than the usual excuse of blaming boaters. On the second point, CRT does not seem to understand that not all of its building assets are available to be sold off to generate income. There has to be due attention paid to the heritage of the waterways, which is embedded in CRT’s objects as a charity. These topics are longstanding criticisms that have featured in NABO News for many years, and appear again in articles and reports in this issue by Mark Tizard. But CRT seems to consistently ignore them. Mark also reviews the results of the latest boaters’ perception survey which, unsurprisingly, does not make happy reading for CRT.
I suspect that every boater would agree that a renewal of the Government grant to CRT is essential for the upkeep of the waterways. We are where we are with CRT’s senior management, and they are probably the best people to lead the negotiations with DEFRA. However, as part of these negotiations, I believe that there should be thought given to planning for a new structure for CRT. This should clearly separate the Trust’s responsibilities as a navigation authority from its wellbeing agenda that promotes the waterways to the wider public. Currently, these seem to be completely intertwined, but the Trust’s responsibilities for maintaining and improving the waterway infrastructure seem to take a decidedly backseat position. As Mike Rodd notes in the Chair’s column, boats and navigation are rarely mentioned, let alone discussed, at CRT forums and regional meetings. A separate wellbeing division would allow the Trust to continue to generate income from a wide range of sources as it currently does. So the bulk of the new Government grant could be made available to the navigation division, to maintain what are unique national assets (with of course the income from boat licence fees). The division could then employ senior staff with the expertise and experience to properly manage the waterways.

“There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Editor, Peter Fellows, is hoping to be back on board this month.

After what seems to have been an eternal winter, it’s good to see spring arriving again. Some members have used the latest lockdown to reflect on boating as it used to be: Stephen Peters looks back over 50 years to, among other boat facilities, instantaneous Ascot water heaters, and John Devonald recalls a simpler, electricity-free life afloat. 

NABO has been busy throughout the lockdown and this issue has our response to CRT’s London strategy consultation, together with a perspective on progress to date from London liveaboard, Simon Robbins. There is also a BSS report on serious incidents in 2020, especially injuries caused by propellers, fires and explosions – although fewer incidents of CO poisoning, possibly because of the requirement last year to fit CO alarms.

Lockdown blues

Editor, Peter Fellows, has spotted inconsistencies in the way that boaters are being treated.

Despite it being midwinter with a national lockdown in place – or on reflection, perhaps because of this – I’ve received a bountiful crop of contributions for this issue. Clearly, people are thinking about boating even though they are unable to do so. Which raises the question of why has boating been suspended, when being on a moving boat is one of the safest places to be in a pandemic? And if navigation authorities consider fishing to be a legitimate form of exercise, why do they think that boating isn’t? If any of the senior managers who make such decisions had tried to ascend flights of locks on the Rochdale or Huddersfield Narrow – or, for that matter, battled stiff paddles and unyielding gates across the system – they would know that boating certainly is exercise. Instead, liveaboards are forced to moor up, alongside crowded towpaths in some areas, as visitors respond to CRT’s exhortations to exercise by the waterways.