The Waterways Ombudsman and the Waterways Ombudsman Committee issue Annual Reports for 2021/22.
This is the third annual report of the current Ombudsman, Sarah Daniel.
During the year, the Ombudsman received 63 enquiries, 51 of which were directly about the Canal & River Trust, one was about the Avon Navigation Trust, the others about bodies not in jurisdiction. Twelve new investigations about the Canal & River Trust were opened, of which 11 were closed within the year.
The Report includes details of other work completed by Sarah this year and sets out details of future work plans for the Committee and the Ombudsman for the coming year.
Mike Rodd contemplates future CRT funding, BSS examinations and ‘composite’ lock-gates during an extended cruise.
How good it was to have another real meeting at Alvechurch, even if a few folk couldn't make it - damn nuisance this boating! Good to see the pub flourishing and many boats moving. But strangely on the K&A we are seeing relatively little movement - are folk still holding back or is there a drop in interest? For me, my wife has officially (but not practically) retired as our vicar and is required to take time away from her parish (to give her successor time to settle in?) so we are having a longer than usual few months’ holiday on the beautiful Mon & Brec. It is at its loveliest, but the vegetation is at its very worst - in the almost 20 years we have been based here, I have never ever seen it so overgrown. Approaching most of the nearly 100 bridge holes makes it almost impossible to line the boat up, and the result is, like most of the hire-boats, my newly painted boat is now seriously scratched. Many hire-boats also have clear damage to their sides and tops. The only place where the vegetation seems to have been nicely cut is where the excellent CRT volunteers are doing their very best to help. And I have to say how well the CRT lock volunteers are doing here in South Wales - indeed so well that some hire-boaters don’t even bother to get off their boats to help!
A focus on BSS (and our forgotten anniversary!)
The extended period of hot, dry weather has continued and, as predicted in the last issue, the more vulnerable canals are now seeing closures due to water shortages – particularly the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals. Helen Hutt and Mark Tizard both comment on the lack of boat movements on the K&A and Southern Broads respectively, which raises a question of whether the recent fuel price hikes (and more generally the cost of living increases) are having an effect on peoples’ boating. However, Mike Rodd reports that the hire trade is thriving on the Mon & Brec.
This issue has a focus on the BSS: Mike, who is a user rep on the BSS Advisory Committee, describes the debates taking place to improve inspection consistency by examiners. David Fletcher will step down after 10 years as Chair of the BSS Technical Committee and he responds to feedback from members Peter Caswell, Nick Norman and John Hancox, who describe their own experiences of BSS examinations. David has also revisits the new CRT towpath mowing plans to see how they are being implemented this summer and concludes that not all is well – except for the proliferation wild flowers.
Grass cutting update
In April’s NABO News, we set the scene for CRT’s mowing plans for this summer. So how is it going? Well it is clear that not all is well. The only really good point is that there are a very great number of wild flowers on the towpath fringes.In an unprecedented admission, CRT’s Boaters Update in June admits that the transfer of work from Fountains to three separate contracts is not going well and mowing is not getting done.We are now at the peak growth period and mowing should be happening monthly to keep walking areas clear and safe, but I see little evidence of this in the West Midlands area where I am cruising. The longstanding requirements for cut to edge at bridge holes, lines of sight and casual moorings are just not being done. I see towpaths are generally cut, but I doubt the month frequency. I am hearing reports of lock flights left uncut.The main cutting routine for this year was to have been four cuts in April, May June and July, and then the final autumn cut to edge. So if your local mowing is poor so far, there is really only July to get this back on track. So what can you do? As always report, report and report. Be specific on location and use the website tool or the regional Twitter account. The CRT words on this are provided below. All really rather disappointing.
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