Time to cut the grass?
Last year I wrote a long article about towpath mowing (‘One man went to mow’, Issue 4, July 2020). I write now with an update. CRT and the Navigation Advisory Group (NAG) have worked on the mowing regimes over the last 12 months to improve the mapping on the towpath maps. These are the instructions to Fountains on what to cut and where. The need is to accurately record the knowledge of where to cut at:
- Approaches to structures, landings/moorings, winding holes
- At sharp bends or obstructions for line of sight.
- At visitor moorings
- At remote mooring places, (a 100-metre length every 1 km to allow informal moorings.)
The national CRT team has carried out a desk review of these points and updated the mowing maps. Boaters from the NAG have assisted with this. The new maps are now available on the CRT website. Please have a look at the mowing as you are cruising and provide feedback to CRT via the web portal. Please provide locations. General comments are useless.
Mapping of the approaches to structures has been very straightforward. Regional policy on this has previously been different, but now all bridge holes, redundant structures and winding holes should be mapped for cutting to edge. And Fountains should be doing it. The line of site for sharp bends and the like has been more difficult, but the CRT team came up with a solution that enabled these to be mapped electronically. These need looking at this season, to make sure nothing is missing.
The most difficult and least successful part has been for remote moorings. The previous mapping did not always record this 100m (or equivalent) per km. The knowledge on these locations was mostly with the Fountains teams and not on the maps. The regions have been asked to finalise and map these places this year. You can help by telling the regions where you want them to be. If you don’t tell them, they will do as they think fit, and that could well be to do nothing because it is not on the maps.
The tests on all this are easy:
- Are bridge holes (and redundant bridge holes) mapped ‘cut to edge’ for 25m either side?
- Are known line of sight situations, on bends etc. and at bridge holes mapped ‘cut to edge’?
- Are visitor mooring mapped cut to edge.
- Are there long lengths of pound (more than about 1 km) and mapped unbroken ‘not cut to edge’ either red and yellow. If so where is a good place to have a mooring of 100m per km?
Remember that a considerable part of the system is cut to edge anyway and all this may not apply. Examples of the canals that are generally cut to edge are as follows: Huddersfield, Rochdale, L&L, T&M East end, Peak Forest, Shropshire Union, Llangollen, Coventry, Ashby, Lee and Stort, BCN and GU North. Unless of course you know different. There is a complication this year because CRT is experimenting with a mowing trial, cutting less in some places to allow for wildflower displays. There is a considerable lobby group at the moment which advocates this. You can read about this by searching for National Mowing Trial 2021. This has nothing to do with cutting around bridges, bends, visitor or remote moorings. These are to be cut short to edge for the necessary use of boaters. The mowing trial is applied to areas on canals previously fully cut to edge, but not in the critical navigation areas. If CRT has not cut the town visitor moorings, then this is an error on their part, not a trial to encourage wildflowers in places.
What can you do? First, have a look at the maps for your area and see what you think. Then run the four-point test above and see what you find. Then get hold of customer services and tell them. Remember they need detail, not generality and I suggest in writing on the web reporting form, or it will get lost. Then go to the user forum and ask questions, remembering that you are asking for mowing in accordance with the published specifications. Then if you are very keen, CRT does customer service inspections every year. Invite yourself and give your input.
Remember, NABO cannot handle the local detail at the national level. It has to be addressed on the towpath with the supervision of local area managers. Finally, don’t mix this up with offside cutting or mowing, hedge cutting or reeds in the cut. These are different issues and not covered by all this. So don’t confuse the work on this one please. Good hunting.