Howard reports from the North East
I took part in a Zoom forum in January, which is the first that the Y&NE have held. It was well attended with 42 participants, including a number of CRT managers. These managers were a mix of local and national, and included: Sean McGinley, Regional Director Yorks and North East; Jon Horsfall, Head of Customer Services Support; Mathew Symonds, National Boating Manager, Leisure Boating; and a number of local Y&NE managers.
In the past, I have attended many such meetings and last night’s was probably the best attended for a number of years. In my opinion it was a success. It followed the usual pattern of individual presentations, mainly concerning local issues, with a sprinkling of national subjects as well. The Zoom format allowed questions to be debated throughout the meeting using the chat facility and in that regard it was, if anything, more productive than the traditional meetings. I think the relative success of the meeting may well lead to more Zoom meetings throughout the year, which may allow for local issues to be addressed more quickly. Time will tell.
Helen Hutt reports on a Zoom meeting of The All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways in December.
This was my first experience of the APPWG and it was more interesting than anticipated! Chaired by Michael Fabricant MP, there were three good presentations from Richard Parry, CRT; Adrian Main, Avon Navigation Trust; and John Packham, Broads Authority, all focussing very much on widening the appeal of the waterways and all emphasising how much more money is required to keep them in good shape!
I didn’t get to ask any questions, not surprisingly, but this seems to be a good forum if you can get to the right person. Here’s a short selection:
Lord Dolar Popat asked, on behalf of a constituent, why Cumberland Basin on the Regent’s Canal had not been dredged despite numerous promises. Richard Parry gave no real answer in my view, but he was definitely put on the spot.
Tony Lloyd MP raised the issue of vandalism; it was generally agreed that getting more people to use and love the waterways (initiatives like ‘Let’s Fish’) was helping to combat this.
Lord Bradshaw said that with new housing in the Thames Valley there would be water shortages; the proposal is to install a Severn-Thames pipeline, but he asked whether the Cotswold Canal could be completed and used instead, with many additional benefits. Michael Fabricant thought this should be the topic of another meeting.
Canal blogger, Andrew Denny, asked what was happening with shortage of water on the Rochdale Canal and the potential opening of the Rochdale Town Arm. Richard Parry explained the challenges and hoped the canal would re-open before next summer; he and Tony Lloyd agreed to discuss the Arm project separately.
Roger Stocker of British Cycling commented on the lack of diversity on the waterways (ironic considering all those at the meeting except me were men, mostly white and of a certain age!).
Peter Braybrook explains how this organisation helps boaters in need.
The Waterways Chaplaincy is a growing network of around 100 volunteers serving the Inland Waterways from York to Woking and Llangollen to the Wash. Wherever you are, you can contact a chaplain through the website contact form at www.waterwayschaplaincy.org.uk/contact-us. I am based in Banbury on the South Oxford Canal and cover from Oxford to Napton Junction. But we are not parochial and I have served boaters on the Grand Union and Thames, and even one on the Huddersfield Narrow! Although a ministry of the Christian church, we are there for everybody of all faiths or none. We are pastorally proactive and evangelically reactive, which means that we will not push our faith onto anybody, but will share our story where we are given the opportunity to encourage and to bring the hope that we have found in our own lives.
Not a great deal to report, as all our movements are currently restricted to only the strictly necessary by the Covid regulations. But in line with Government's instructions on daily exercise and CRT's desire that that exercise should take place on the towpaths, they certainly appear to be very busy with runners and cyclists, as well as the usual walkers, at least in my Nottingham area of the canal. In this lockdown, there does appear to be a little more tolerance between local canal moorers and the general public, but it is a pity that the signs CRT has put up, reminding people to keep their distance from moored boats, aren't larger and more frequently placed. The same could also be said of the signs reminding cyclists of their duty to slow down.