West Midlands

Peter Braybrook reports

Since the last Council meeting, I attended the WM Regional Forum on 25th May. I have commented to Matthew Symonds about the constant spin that boaters only pay a fifth of the cost of canal upkeep. I have noticed that there are more infrastructure failures than ever – Hillmorton locks and Factory locks are closed for unplanned gate repairs, apart from other repairs due to ‘bridge strikes’, ‘vandalism’ etc., and two lift-bridge failures so far this season.  Paddle defects are not being attended to in a timely fashion. Apparently it is OK to leave a lock with only one paddle working for months. The mowing trial on the Oxford canal is at option three (i.e. one cut from edge to hedge at the end of the season) and hence this is a typical towpath at the moment. I have spoken to two CCers and a leisure boater (a NABO member) who told me they have received no notice of the T&C consultation. They were surprised that display of their ‘KG’ logo was being proscribed without express consent in writing. I have been engaged as part of a BSS AC sub-group in supporting the interim review of the BSS examination checking procedures of 2015.

We have been boating in the West Midlands and are heading for the BCN. I was not surprised to find that the infrastructure is not as good as the CRT management would maintain and has been suggested by the various meetings that I have been attending on Zoom. I was surprised by the simple errors that have even made in maintenance of the lock paddle gear on the Warwick and Napton Canal (GU) Calcutt flight. I sent a safety notice in about the over greasing of the gear that prevented the locking keys engaging with the spindles thus demanding that the paddle be held open by the windlass all the time it is being operated. There were also several locks on the South Oxford which were reduced to one bottom paddle and no sign of any attempt to repair. All this indicates a ‘wait till it breaks’ attitude.

The towpaths I walked on the Oxford Canal were also overgrown and the canal had washed much of the bank away right up to the very narrow path that was left. It appears to me that the paths have been undermined, possibly by mink. The mining collapses leaving holes that are soon joined up to the canal as an inlet. I believe in being environmentally sensitive but think that towpaths should not be unsafe for walkers, boaters and cyclists. I spoke to a CRT inspector who told me he had reported the damage on two previous bimonthly reports and money had been set aside for repairs. I wonder what the hold-up is.

I am looking forward to the end of social distancing rules when I may get the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with the West Midlands management to find out what there maintenance policy really is. If you find areas of concern and decay I would really like to hear from you.