Consultation and funding - a lack of both for some

Editor Peter Fellows compares navigation authorities

Following the complaints throughout last year over lack of vegetation management on the South Oxford Canal, it is good to see that CRT is spending the winter putting the situation right. And it is also good that CRT is consulting widely on a proposal by Birmingham City Council to pay for widening of the towpath through Edgbaston Tunnel. This would reduce the width of the canal, enforcing one-way passage of boats through the tunnel. In NABO’s view, it is totally unacceptable to compromise the navigation in this way and disadvantage boaters (who pay for the waterways’ upkeep) for the benefit of speeding cyclists (who pay nothing) and who could simply be told to dismount and walk through the tunnel.


Another successful AGM at Wolverhampton Boat Club (many thanks for the excellent food and hospitality), with Stella taking over the reins from Mike and farewells to longstanding Council members Geoffrey Rogerson and Stephen Peters and London rep, Simon Robbins. It was good to meet Ken Hylins, who has a special interest in assisting boaters with disabilities. I also had a conversation with a continuous cruising member, who, when she stops at different places, helps ring the bells at the local church. She’d been moored up for a week or so at Brewood when the vicar asked if she could ring the bells at a wedding three weeks later. She replied that she would love to, but didn’t think that CRT would allow it. “I potter slowly around the system, doing no-one any harm and obeying the rules, and I don’t see why CRT should be allowed to dictate how I live or what I choose to do”. I agree with her, and I think a lot of other boaters would also. She could ask the local waterway manager for an exception to the 14-day rule on this occasion, but she would not automatically qualify (no illness, pregnancy or breakdown). But why should she? It is not the role of a navigation authority to give permission for someone to do something. She could also go somewhere else and return to Brewood in a couple of weeks time, but she risks falling foul of the ‘progressive journey’ rule – and again why should she have to do this?

Winter’s on its way

Editor Peter Fellows hangs up his tiller pin for the year.

After the boat spent the summer on the River Great Ouse, my last cruise this year was back up the River Nene to Northampton, which coincided with the Indian summer at the beginning of October - wonderful to be in shirt-sleeves instead of waterproofs! The aim was to get the boat back onto the canals before winter storms made the Nene impassable, but we needn’t have worried: I travelled with a narrowboat having a draught of 30 inches, and they were told by the EA that, due to lack of rainfall in the catchment area, the river was too shallow for them to proceed and they should hole up in White Mills Marina until it rained again! Generally, the locks and river are well-maintained, so CRT will not have to incur vast expenditure if, or when, they take over the navigation, but there were a few places where tree growth restricted the river to a single boat width. This is not due to lack of cutting back over the last few years - some of these trees must be 20 years old.

Lock failures, too much vegetation or too little water?

Editor Peter Fellows offers some choices for NABO to focus on



Trust the Trust?

Editor Peter Fellows worries about CRT governance


It may seem odd to focus on elections to NABO Council and CRT Council in this issue as neither will be taking place for another four to five months. But NABO Councillors are taking a well-earned break until September and that wouldn’t give members much time to put in their nominations to stand for election - so I’ve included the nomination form in this issue. Mike Rodd uses his Chairman’s column to air his views on NABO Council (doing a good job) and CRT Council (plenty of room for improvement). Ivor Caplin, one of the boaters’ representatives, gives his views on the first three years of the work of CRT Council, and Allan Richards has unearthed some very poor attendance figures at Council meetings by both members and trustees, which makes me wonder if we should trust the oversight of the Trust. Allan has also spent a lot of time digging into the workings of the Waterways Ombudsman Committee, which oversees the work of the Waterways’ Ombudsman - an aspect of waterway administration that is little-known to most boaters. His findings should give us all cause for concern. Overall, these articles point to the need for some radical rethinking on the governance of the Trust.

But it’s not all bad news for CRT: I’m pleased to include an article by Sean Williams, CRT’s Welfare Officer, on his first eight months in the job. He is making some good progress in building support networks that can help boaters in trouble. With a caseload of 70 boaters in this time, there is clearly a need for his work. He has already successfully helped 35 boaters, avoiding court action and so saving CRT the huge legal fees that otherwise might have been incurred - hopefully savings that can now go to waterway improvements. I’m also pleased to introduce a regular column featuring people who earn a living by trading on the canals and rivers; this time, it’s Helen and Andy Tidy on their ‘Jam Butty’.

Finally in this issue, Mark Tizard brings us up to date with CRT’s new terms and conditions and enforcement of the continuous cruising rules - and what the next steps might be. So, a packed issue to keep you busy over the summer. Please think about standing for election to NABO Council and give me a wave if you see me around the Midlands canals over the next few months.