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1 1 Issue 170, December 2019

The UK’s Number ONE read for all waterways users










Season’s greetings A snowy scene beside the Trent & Mersey Canal at Wychnor in Staffordshire. A carol service will take place in St Leonard’s Church on Sunday, December 8 at 6pm and early morning communion on Christmas Day at 9am. PHOTO: WATERWAY IMAGES


Planners give green light for £3.37m Leeds inland port







THE Canal & River Trust has been granted full planning permission by Leeds City Council to bring the vision for Leeds Inland Port at Stourton Wharf in West Yorkshire one step closer. Designs have also been revealed by the trust, which is now speaking to West Yorkshire Combined Authority to secure the £3.37 million needed for the scheme.

It hopes to start construction in summer 2020. CRT Yorkshire & North East regional director Sean McGinley said the port would have the capacity to take up to half a million tonnes of freight traffic off the roads. “The overall marketplace for freight within West Yorkshire is over 10 million tonnes per annum and the potential to

Vandalism hits heritage

INCIDENTS affecting waterways heritage stood at 626 in 2017/18 and 635 in 2018/19, down from 800 recorded in 2016/17. The most common cause of damage was vandalism (42% and 41% in 2017/18 and 2018/19, with half involving graffiti). The figures are revealed in the CRT’s latest heritage report, for 20172019. Less frequent, but significant, were incidents of damage caused by impact from vehicles or boats. In 2017/18, 40% of all such incidents were caused by boats, reducing to 19% in 2018/19. Vehicle collisions typically damage canal bridges, and in 2017/18 there were 63 reported incidents, rising to 85 in 2018/19.

move a considerable proportion of this by water is high,” he said. Aggregates will initially be the first goods to be delivered to the site. Plans to accommodate other goods and container freight are also under development. Sean added: “Leeds Inland Port presents a fantastic opportunity for our charity to help to reduce the environmental impact of transporting goods, reducing carbon

Barrier gate arrives

A 300-TONNE barrier gate has arrived in Boston, Lincolnshire, ready to be installed as part of a £100 million flood defence scheme. The project will help protect more than 14,000 properties in the area from tidal flooding and is due to be fully finished in 2021, as reported in last month’s Towpath Talk. The Boston Barrier 25m gate has been shipped by barge from The Netherlands and will now be driven into place. Delivery itself was a complex operation and had to be completed on a neap tide – when there is least difference between high and low water.

emissions and road congestion, as inland waterways across the world continue to be effective and efficient transport corridors. “By improving the connection between Leeds and the North Sea through our canal network, we hope to pave the way for further development of the inland waterway freight sector across Britain and internationally.” • Continued on page 2

Oxford towpath boost

WORK to improve the canal towpath in Oxford has begun. The Canal & River Trust, in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council, has started work on a section from Aristotle Lane to Godstow Road. The project aims to upgrade 2.3km of towpath and is being funded by the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal to a value of around £750,000. This is a key route into the city with lots of links to residential areas, schools, university and green spaces. It is a very popular area for boaters with a range of moorings. The work will widen the towpath to up to two metres where possible.



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AS I write, South Yorkshire is still in the grip of flooding with severe flood warnings out for the Don Valley. I count myself lucky to have got back to Lincoln by taxi on the night shoppers were stranded at Meadowhall, having had my train journey terminated at Sheffield with no bus replacement. I had been in Leeds for the British Marine Inland Boating conference and AGM at which outgoing chairman Russell Chase commented: “At the beginning of the year there was not enough water, at the end of the season too much.” What true words these turned out to be. Not surprisingly, climate change is getting the blame for these extreme weather events and measures to cut greenhouse gases by reducing emissions and their impact on the boating industry – whether with regard to solid fuel stoves or diesel engines – was one of the talking points, see my report on page 49. But listening to the comments of local farmers and residents on regional news programmes, some watercourses have not been dredged for many years and another contributory factor must be the building of new homes on flood meadows. On the same day as the Leeds conference, assistant editor Sarah Spencer travelled to Leicester for the Canal & River Trust’s East Midlands APM, see her report on page 5. Although not as critical as the situation in South Yorkshire, the region has also been hit by flooding especially around the rivers Trent and Soar, leading to the cancellation of the stoppage open day which had been due to take place at Belgrave Lock in Leicester on November 17. And on a lighter note, if you don’t want to hit the high street, turn to page 51 for the second of our gift guides with more ideas for your boating friends and family.




Editor Janet Richardson

Assistant editor Sarah Spencer Publisher Tim Hartley Group advertising manager Sue Keily Advertising sales team leader Tania Shaw – Advertising sales representatives Chris Heaton – Aiste Davydove – Editorial design Chris Abrams

See page 18 or call 01507 529529

Planners give green light for £3.37m Leeds inland port • Continued from page 1 Coun James Lewis, Leeds City Council executive member for air quality, said: “Utilising our waterways better to improve the flow of road traffic and cut air pollution is a real step forward in helping to shape the city’s greener, cleaner future. “Our city’s waterways have historically played a significant role in transportation and with this new investment rightfully reinstate their importance for moving goods once again.” The Yorkshire and North East waterways region handles on average 330,000 tonnes of freight a year. The Aire & Calder Navigation is classified as a commercial

waterway under the 1963 Transport Act and is recognised as a priority freight route in the trust’s freight policy. The Aire & Calder Navigation provides sustainable transport routes between Leeds, South Yorkshire and the Humber Ports. Barges using the inland port at Leeds will be able to grow the freight volume significantly, making a significant contribution to reducing road congestion and improving air quality.

An aerial view of the Stourton Wharf site.

These were the last barges to run on the Aire & Calder Navigation in 2013. They operated from the River Trent at Besthorpe to Whitwood near Castleford.

The route along the Aire & Calder Navigation from Goole into Leeds – the inland port will be less than three miles outside the city centre. PHOTOS SUPPLIED

Rufford arm reopens for window before next stoppage By Colin Wareing

A STOPPAGE notice was issued by the Canal & River Trust on October 24 following an inspection by engineers of the towpath side tailgate of lock 2 on the Rufford Arm of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Lancashire. The problem was at the top of the gate post where the balance beam is fixed to the gate. Mindful of the planned stoppage further down the canal for a railway

bridge replacement due to start on November 11, and with boaters wanting to leave the branch or get down it to their marinas in Rufford for winter, a plan was devised to fabricate a bracket to fix the balance beam to the gate to allow safe operation of the lock. The bracket was fitted in the pouring rain on Thursday, November 7 and the canal reopened to boating traffic the following morning, giving a few days’ window for movement on and off the branch.

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The new bracket bolted in place between the gate and the balance beam. PHOTOS: COLIN WAREING

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Narrowboat Burnt Oak leaves lock 2 of the Rufford Arm on Friday, November 8 as At Last waits to enter. Both boats and others that passed through the lock on this bright autumn day had been delayed in their travel plans by a few days due to the problem with one of the lock gates that had been rectified the previous day.

HEADLINE private and business boat licence fees will rise by 2.5% from April 1, 2020, the Canal & River Trust has announced. As previously stated in March 2018, following the trust’s national boat licence consultation, a number of changes will be made to licence fees over five years. From April 1, 2020, a 2.5% ‘prompt payment’ discount (reduced from 5%) will apply for those who pay on time in full, and a new 2.5% discount will apply for those who manage their payments online including, for the first time, boaters paying by direct debit.

This means that boaters who may not be able to afford to pay in one lump sum will also be able to benefit from a small discount on the full licence fee. In addition to the current lengthbased pricing, from April 2020 the trust will start the phased introduction of additional pricing bands for boat widths over 2.16m (7ft 1in), as announced in March 2018, with a surcharge of 5% applied until March 2021 (when it will increase to 10%). CRT said the changes were intended to ensure the financial contribution made by boaters was spread fairly.


‘Monty’ restoration’s Cash for Braunston cycle link approved £5k triathlon boost FUNDING for a new cycleway and footpath to provide a safe link between Braunston and Daventry has been approved. The £730,000 scheme is set to run from the Middlemore housing estate down to the canal towpath at the western entrance of the Braunston Tunnel. Daventry District Council also hopes to reach an agreement with the Canal & River Trust to carry out improvement works on the towpath near the tunnel entrance, to improve its suitability for walking and cycling. The council has agreed to fund the project using contributions from local housing developers, subject to planning permission being granted. Linking to the existing surfaced cycleway running along the former railway line, the route would provide cyclists and pedestrians with a safe route from Eastern Way in Daventry all

Chris Bushnell, from Friends of the Montgomery Canal, presents a cheque for £5000 to Michael Limbrey. PHOTO SUPPLIED THE Friends of the Montgomery Canal have presented a cheque for £5000 to the ‘Restore the Montgomery Canal!’ appeal. The presentation was made at the group’s annual dinner when committee member Chris Bushnell presented a giant cheque to Michael Limbrey, who chairs the appeal group. Michael said: “This donation from the proceeds of the Montgomery Canal Triathlon, the major event on the canal, will be a real boost to our appeal to reopen the canal to mid-Wales. “The triathlon is organised by the Friends of the Montgomery Canal each year and brings over 200 people from near and far to cycle, walk or run, and canoe the 35 miles of canal from Newtown to Lower Frankton near Ellesmere. “Entrants tell us how much they enjoy the event and appreciate the arrangements made for them. “The triathlon obviously involves a great deal of planning, to receive bookings, make those arrangements and to organise more than 70 volunteers to act as marshals and the Friends of the Canal are to be congratulated on the event and on this substantial contribution to our appeal.” Michael said the ‘Restore the Montgomery Canal!’ appeal was working on the next stages of restoration to follow the current work supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund that will reopen the canal to Crickheath Basin, the next point at which canal boats can turn.

He said: “Our first objective is Schoolhouse Bridge, the last blocked bridge in Shropshire. We hope to get planning permission in the next few weeks and are working hard to finalise the technical details so that work can start in the spring. “The plan for the bridge is as much as possible to use the skills and experience of canal restoration volunteers who work on projects locally and across the country. “This is the only way we can rebuild – the cost of contractors would be much greater than we could manage with voluntary fundraising. We have raised most of our target for the bridge but we are finding extra costs as the detailed designs are being finalised, so every contribution is important and we are still keen to receive donations.” Michael added: “Schoolhouse Bridge is vital to the reopening of the canal through Pant to the Welsh border at Llanymynech. Once it is rebuilt, there will be just two miles of derelict canal to be restored and already expert volunteers are looking at what is needed for that section. “Llanymynech with its natural and industrial heritage will be an ideal intermediate destination while the obstructions in Powys are tackled so that mid-Wales is once again joined to the national canal system.” Next year’s Montgomery Canal Triathlon will be on Saturday, May 2 and booking was due to open in November. Details from montcanaltriath@

the way to Braunston. The extension to Braunston would start at Farnborough Drive and run from about 1km behind homes in Brampton Grange Drive and then across fields to the canal. This avoids drainage and safety issues that would arise from continuing the path along the route of the former railway line, as well as the need to clear vegetation. Coun David James, economic, regeneration and employment portfolio holder at Daventry District Council, said: “The creation of a safe link from Daventry to Braunston is a long-term ambition of the council, so it’s very pleasing to be able to commit these funds towards achieving that, subject to planning considerations.” Tim Coghlan, managing director of Braunston Marina Ltd, said: “Using the old railway line that linked Daventry to Leamington Spa has been under

discussion for many years. I would have preferred the old railway line, as it is far more interesting and dramatic, including a fine cutting and would have helped its future preservation. Too many old railway lines are being destroyed in developments. “But this new cross-fields route has the compensation of providing funding for improving the towpath from the Braunston tunnel entrance down to the village, which is in part unusable in winter.” He added: “I hope this new cycle route to Braunston will inspire the restoration of the towpaths to Napton via the Grand Union, and Rugby via the North Oxford, which are in a very poor state and only accessible to adventurous walkers. “It is important that the canals are made accessible to users other than boaters.”

Plaques celebrate golden year for Calder society NEW commemorative plaques at Brighouse and Mirfield celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Calder Navigation Society. The plaques remember this event and the founder members of the society, which has continued its aims over the last half century. The society is extremely grateful to Canal & River Trust, Marshalls of Brookfoot and Procast of Cleckheaton, for their help and generosity in the execution of this project. The Brighouse plaque was unveiled at the side of the Calder & Hebble Navigation by Keith Noble, a longstanding member and contributor to CNS, and the one in Mirfield by chairman Peter Davies. Mr Noble reminded those present of the achievements of the society and the circumstances leading to its initial conception, and paid tribute to the many campaigners who were no longer with us. The plaques are worded as follows: CALDER & HEBBLE NAVIGATION THIS PLAQUE WAS COMMISSIONED IN 2019 TO COMMEMORATE THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CALDER NAVIGATION SOCIETY. FOUNDED APRIL 1969 THE SOCIETY WAS FORMED TO SAVE THIS WATERWAY FROM ABANDONMENT. APPRECIATE AND ENJOY The Calder Navigation Society (CNS) was originally founded to preserve the local waterway which

The Brighouse ceremony.

The Mirfield gathering. PHOTOS SUPPLIED runs from Sowerby Bridge through Elland, Brighouse, Mirfield and Dewsbury to Wakefield and has continued to do so.

CNS owns a trip boat named Savile where members of the public enjoy trips on the water. The boat is also available for hire, complete with crew.


The team with the first sleeper in place, from left: Dave Gaff, Tom Parkinson, Mike Taylor, Mike Dalzell, Steve Taylor and Stephen John. PHOTOS: ARIANNE DAVEY UNLESS INDICATED

New life for Hickling ‘Grandad’s hut’ Arianne Davey, on work placement with Towpath Talk, meets the team working to restore a lengthsman’s hut on the Grantham Canal in Lincolnshire.

BUILT at the end of the 19th century, the hut at Hickling provided shelter for lengthsmen, who cared for the canal, as well as providing a place to store tools. Dating back to when the canal was owned by the railways, its walls are built from railway sleepers, which would have been in plentiful supply at the time. The last lengthsman to use it was the grandfather of local farmer John Walker and it is still known to the family as Grandad’s hut. Although just a short walk along the towpath from Hickling Basin, the hut fell into disrepair and was engulfed by a nearby hedgerow and ivy, buried away from the sight of passers-by. Its sleepers were found rotted, the roof collapsed and the brickwork chimney beginning

to lean away from the main structure. A determined team of volunteers from the Grantham Canal Society and Hickling Parish Council helped to clear the vegetation, enabling the Canal & River Trust to take on its reconstruction involving its own team members, volunteers and heritage apprentices. This project is part of the restoration of the canal and although this stretch is currently unnavigable, it is an attraction for anglers and walkers. The chimney, which was leaning due to compaction of the lime mortar, was carefully dismantled and rebuilt using traditional techniques. The footings were dug and the spoil flattened out, leaving the original step in place to mark the build’s position.

Rotting sleepers, originally from the railway, were numbered and recorded before being taken to the trust’s Newark Repair Yard for restoration. There, construction craft apprentices helped to restore the timbers, cutting away the rotten parts and replacing them with sections of reclaimed sleepers. On Wednesday, October 30, the first sleeper, which forms the shape and structure of the hut, was placed by workers and volunteers from the Canal & River Trust teams based at Kilby in Leicestershire and Swarkestone in Derbyshire – a significant day in the hut’s history. Steve Taylor, a volunteer leader from the Canal & River Trust, has been working on the rebuild. He said: “Before we levelled it, the hut looked like it was in a hole laid in the hedge bottom. This is a project which has been a long time in coming.” Two coins, thought to be Victorian, were discovered within the old footings, as well as: a carving thought to be of an American Indian, created by hammer and nail; an old shovel head; a hammer head; and a scythe stay. The artefacts will be stored inside a cherish box, which will be preserved within Hickling Village Hall.

Putting the first sleeper into position. Volunteers Mike Taylor and Chris Marriott have also been working on the project. Mike, a volunteer lock keeper on the Trent and Mersey Canal and the South Derbyshire Towpath Task Force, has been involved with the project right from the start and said he is keen to see it through to the end. With many walking past, the community appears excited to see the new hut. One passer-by, a local resident, said: “Twenty years ago it was in bracken and bushes, and very overgrown. “Most of the hut was falling apart. It is nice to see it coming back to life after so many years.” The Hickling hut will be finished with a new roof, making it watertight and better protected. With plans for a window to be placed on the canal side, it is hoped it will be used for bird watching, as well as an information point. The reconstruction is very much a community project, with members of the local community set to finish the hut with red-brick flooring. With expected completion by Christmas, the team hopes for a grass and flowerbed surround and a hut they hope the community will really care for and cherish for future generations.

Carrying one of the heavy sleepers.

Some of the artefacts found within the old footings. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Reporter Arianne Davey chats to Stephen John. PHOTO: JANET RICHARDSON

The original step left in place to mark the hut’s position.

The pile of repaired sleepers, ready to be put back in place.

Volunteer Chris Marriott levelling out the base. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The sleeper walls start to take shape. PHOTO SUPPLIED


Gold rush for East Midlands volunteers By Sarah Spencer

Chair of the CRT’s East Midlands Regional Advisory Board Anil Majithia addresses the audience at the East Midlands annual public meeting.

Ambitious plans unveiled to put the green flags out By Sarah Spencer

A GREEN Flag for the Nottingham and Beeston Canal in the next 12 months – with another one for the waterways through Leicester the year after – are two of the ambitious aims of Canal & River Trust’s East Midlands team. “Wouldn’t that be amazing,” said Philip Mulligan, regional director. The Green Flag Award scheme recognises well-run parks and green spaces and sets the standard for managing recreational outdoor spaces across the UK. Philip was speaking at the annual public meeting of the Canal & River Trust East Midlands. He said the next year also presented opportunities to reduce negative perceptions of the waterways, reduce antisocial behaviour and improve safety through the introduction of initiatives such as towpath rangers and street art projects, and encourage more youth engagement. Other aims were to “create a destination” in central Nottingham, turn Stoke Bruerne into a “world class heritage experience”, improve Leicester’s canal corridor, and enhance the Foxton “visitor offer”. He thanked the many groups present at the meeting and others involved and said: “We couldn’t do it without all of you. “We believe if we work together we will all achieve more. “Let’s take this to the next stage and really work together to make our waterways work for everyone.” Philip said he believed doing 75 new participatory events and “engaging new audiences through them” had been a major achievement and continued: “I think the opening of lock 15 on the Grantham Canal was a really massive

achievement at one end, and then at the other end we have something like the restoration of Hickling Hut – that sums up everything we do. “We are for everyone and we do so many things. “The main aim now is building on what we have been doing.” CRT chief executive Richard Parry said: “I’m really proud of what we are doing in the East Midlands. You can see how many different activities and events are taking place and the connections that we are making. “It really feels like we are moving forward very positively.” Chair of the East Midlands Regional Advisory Board Anil Majithia welcomed all those present, who also included the Mayor of Leicester Sir Peter Soulsby, and introduced the speakers. Anil described the event as “an opportunity for the trust to build on existing partnerships and make new connections to strengthen our work as a waterways and well-being charity”. He particularly congratulated Liz Fleuty, community engagement manager, and her team, for “the scale of the work” they had done, describing it as “great”.

The CRT’s East Midlands regional director Philip Mulligan outlines some of the main aims for the coming year.

VOLUNTEERS in the East Midlands who had contributed to some major achievements in the region were celebrated with the presentation of prestigious awards. The winners were announced at the Canal & River Trust East Midlands annual public meeting by Liz Fleuty, community engagement manager. Liz also highlighted just some of the many successful projects of the last year. The Marsh Award for high impact volunteer team (East Midlands) went to South Derbyshire Towpath Taskforce for their work on offside vegetation at Derwent Mouth Lock. And the Marsh Award for the high impact volunteer went to Neil Page, River Trent volunteer lock keeper. The Marsh Awards are part of a national scheme that celebrates the outstanding contributions of people who are committed to social, cultural and environmental causes. They are aimed at people who are at the heart of the charity sector and who go above and beyond to make a difference. Added to this, CRT gold awards recognising the achievement of 2000 volunteering hours went to: Alan and Pam Simmons – Newark lockside garden, River Trent volunteer lock keepers, events Margaret Kirk – River Trent volunteer lock keeper Robert Burns – Watford volunteer lock keeper, operations support David Beresford – Sawley volunteer lock keeper Louise Wilkinson – Cranfleet volunteer lock keeper Kathryn Dodington – Stoke Bruerne, NB Sculptor, Blisworth tunnel wide beam passage (among other roles!). Kathryn, who describes herself as “a Kiwi living in Stoke Bruerne”, was present to collect her award. She lives alongside the Grand Union Canal near the museum at Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire, formerly had a 60ft narrowboat Leo No. 2, is a member of the Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership, East Midlands Regional Advisory Board and the Historic Narrow Boat Club, as well as being very involved with the museum and the former working boat Sculptor. Kathryn used to live in rural Surrey alongside the Basingstoke Canal. She said: “I do whatever needs doing. It’s about putting something back.

Members of the South Derbyshire Towpath Taskforce who were presented with a Marsh Award. “I’m putting something back into what I believe in. And at my age (69) as soon as you stop doing something it’s hard to get going again. “It can be frustrating at times, but you meet new people with different skills and backgrounds and with different views – especially at the moment!”

CRT chief executive Richard Parry says thank you to Kathryn Dodington with a gold award marking at least 2000 volunteer hours. PHOTOS: SARAH SPENCER

Liz paid tribute to the volunteers and said it had been “a really, really busy year” in the East Midlands, but a new team had “hit the ground running”. “I think the biggest success has been the breadth of the activities we have been trialling out,” she said, giving the examples of paddleboarding and narrowboat tasters, “and the partnerships that have been formed”. She added: “We can’t run all those events, we need to have organisations to work with us to run them.” Liz told the meeting about some of the events and activities in the region, but stressed these were only about one-fifth of what had actually been going on. They included: Erewash Canal hedge-laying training; clearing large amounts of vegetation at Derwent Lock; participation in the Light Night at Nottingham; an open day in Northampton; hedgerow planting by Braunston Canal Society; efforts by Leicester Towpath Taskforce to open up the area; installation of new mooring rings in Leicester with the IWA; the launch of a plastics challenge; a Green Flag Award for the Erewash Canal; and the participation of almost 1000 people in this year’s Let’s Fish scheme. She added Boston’s River Witham had featured in the Wild Bill ITV series starring Rob Lowe.

6 NEWS 6

Louth canal bank repairs set to start in the new year By Janet Richardson

LINDSEY Marsh Drainage Board (LMDB) has been described as the ‘white knight’ which has come to the rescue of the Louth Navigation Regeneration Partnership in its bid to reinstate the canal bank at Keddington Lock. Erosion and years of decay were factors behind a breach early in 2018 which caused a loss of water supply to the River Lud and exposed part of the unstable lock structure on the outskirts of the town from where the Louth

Navigation starts its 11-mile route north to Tetney Haven. LMDB engineer Neil Kemble brought Louth Navigation Trust and partnership members up to date before their meeting on October 16 on the progress of preparations to carry out remedial work. A cheque for £1000 was also presented on behalf of the IWA Lincolnshire branch by its chairman David Carnell. Other contributions are being sought. Neil told the meeting that he had taken a proposal to LMDB suggesting it might

The extent of the damage caused by last year’s breach pictured following recent heavy rain. It exposed part of the unstable structure at Keddington Lock. PHOTO: PETER HILL want to do something to help using its staff and construction equipment. He commented: “I have been a catalyst but individuals on the board have been very supportive. It was a unanimous vote and they were very quick to say yes.” LMDB is working with East Lindsey District Council, which is also making a contribution, and the Environment Agency. An application is being made in the name of the Louth Navigation Trust for the necessary EA permit and the process of obtaining a closure of the three footpaths which merge at the site is under way. Lincolnshire County Council is also supporting the work by agreeing to waive the fee for the footpath closure which could be in excess of £1000. Neil explained: “The intention is to start work immediately after Christmas from Ticklepenny Lock along the southern bank where we have a right of access.” On the north side, access across Gary Laverick’s land has also been agreed. “We have to construct a weir to raise upstream water levels and ensure that water goes back into the course of the old River Lud,” Neil continued. Pipes will be laid in the bed of the river to manage normal river flows while construction takes place and these will be covered with more than 200 tonnes of stone which will be brought in by road. The old lock will be demolished fairly early in the process. The old bywash will be intercepted and piped above the weir. Repair work will take place in two halves using the partially constructed weir as a working platform for the reinstatement to the opposite bank. Plastic mesh will be used to hold the soil in place and will not be seen once vegetation re-establishes itself. Materials recovered from the bed of the watercourse will be used for infilling together with some debris from the removal of the existing lock structure. Neil told members: “The existing lock structure will be demolished but

the stone quoins can be placed on the towpath wherever you want them. We can’t do much to preserve the lock but the whole area will start to look better in a short space of time.” The work is expected to take three to four weeks. A temporary weir will be constructed just upstream of the existing lock cill. Following the works, the towpath, which is already in a poor state of repair, will be upgraded with limestone material using a similar method to that used by the Canal & River Trust. The work will also enable the water supply to be restored to the Grade II

listed Alvingham Watermill which has been out of action since the lock collapse last year. Neil concluded: “While our responsibilities as a drainage board are to maintain water levels to land in Lincolnshire below the 8ft contour, we also have a duty to conserve and enhance the environment wherever possible. We have to make sure farmers have enough water in the summer for irrigation and we evacuate excess water in the winter. With the work at Keddington Lock we will be doing something that benefits the wider community.”

Crowdfunding appeal launched LOUTH Navigation Trust has launched an appeal to raise funds towards the cost of the repairs at Keddington Lock. The scale of work is beyond the capabilities of the trust’s own volunteers and, as reported, Lindsey Marsh Drainage Board has stepped in to help as a goodwill gesture. It is estimated that the works will cost £25,000 and contributions

have already been received from East Lindsey District Council, IWA Lincolnshire Branch, Lincolnshire County Council and Alvingham Mill. LNT has set a target of £18,000 and its secretary Paula Hunt has opened a crowdfunding page at the Charities Trust. To contribute visit https:// keddingtonlock.aspx

Receiving the £1000 from the Lincolnshire IWA branch are, from left: Roger Subden, chairman LNT; Neil Kemble, engineer LMDB and right, David Carnell, branch chairman IWA. PHOTO: JANET RICHARDSON


Rail and sail join forces to support steam aims

COOPERATION between rail and sail looks set to reap rewards in an innovative new partnership. The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society, which is rebuilding the Southern Railway Merchant Navy Class Locomotive 35011 named after the General Steam Navigation (GSN), and the New Medway Steam Packet Co (Medway Queen Preservation Society) which has rebuilt a ship that operated under

GSN management, are working together in a bid to support one another’s aims. Richard Halton, of the Medway Queen Preservation Society, said: “Co-operation between railway preservation societies and between ship societies is far from unknown, but this may well be the first to link a steamship and steam railway locomotive in this way.” He added: “Besides the name link, both rely on volunteers, both have a lot of work still to do and, needless to say, both are in need of maximum publicity

35011 at Blunsdon. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Medway Queen moored at Gillingham Pier. PHOTO: RICHARD HALTON and a great deal of cash!” As well as swapping publicity material, web links and information for members’ newsletters, the groups plan to develop some joint niche marketing projects – the first of these being a promotional wagon for 00-gauge model railways. For some years now the Medway Queen has benefited from income generated by a series of such wagons and it is hoped that a joint project will reach a wider market and generate funds for both teams. Details will be announced when the model goes on sale early next year. The General Steam Navigation Company was founded in 1821 to run steam ship services from London. Almost 100 years later P&O Navigation bought a controlling interest in the company but it continued to trade under its original name. On the River Medway, GSN worked closely with the New Medway Steam Packet Company and Captain J H Wills

of GSN and his wife were on board when PS Medway Queen made her maiden voyage across the Thames Estuary on Friday, July 18, 1924. In 1936 GSN acquired the New Medway Company but, again, retained the name for trading purposes. The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society recently moved their locomotive, Merchant Navy Class 35011, to Blunsdon on the Swindon and Cricklade Railway. There they are working to convert the locomotive back to its 1940s specification; before the class was rebuilt into the more conventional form by British Railways. This includes restoring the iconic air smoothed casing along with Bulleid’s oil bath encased chain-driven valve gear. Once complete, General Steam Navigation will be the first engine to be restored to as-built condition within the ranks of preserved Merchant Navy class locomotives.

The Medway Queen Preservation Society has rebuilt its vessel structurally with the aid of HLF funding and is now engaged in fitting out the ship, initially for use as a floating venue for meetings and events. The long-term aim is to see the ship sail again under its own power. Medway Queen, which was used as a minesweeper in the Second World War and is famous for her seven trips to Dunkirk in 1940, is berthed in Gillingham, Kent, where a small team of dedicated volunteers are pushing the project forward. Like the locomotive, progress on the ship is governed by the availability of resources – both physical and financial. Although a Kent-based organisation, MQPS has worldwide support and has a PR team based, conveniently, in Wiltshire and not far from Blunsdon! For more information on the two societies, go to and


Dredging begins at Titford Pools WORK has begun to dredge Titford Pools in Oldbury as part of a £3.1 million Canal & River Trust project to improve water quality and encourage wildlife back to the area. Working in partnership with the European Regional Development Fund, Highways England, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council and volunteers from the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society, the dredging will see a long-reach excavator hauling out mud and silt from the bottom of the pools. As well as improving water quality, removing the silt will make it easier for boaters to enter and moor at the pools. Around 21,617m3 of silt is expected to be removed. The dredging is expected to last four

months and finish early next year. Titford Pools are located along the Titford Canal near the M5 motorway and are part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations – which this year is celebrating its 250th birthday.

The ‘oasis’ that is Titford Pools.

Dredging at Titford will make it easier for boaters to moor at the pools. PHOTOS: CRT

The pools were originally constructed as a small reservoir in the 1770s to feed the Titford Canal and today feed water to both the canal and Edgbaston Reservoir in Birmingham. The dredging is the first stage of a two-year project that aims to open up the area, encouraging more plants and wildlife to this part of the canal. The project also includes plans to upgrade the towpath around the pools, cut back overgrown trees, bushes and shrubs and update the visitor signage. Samantha Bucknall, from the CRT, said: “Titford Pools is a wonderful surprise to visitors exploring this part of the canal so it’s great news we’ve started work to improve this area for people and wildlife.” Highways England’s regional director Catherine Brookes said: “We’re delighted to see this dredging work getting under way at Titford Pools and we look forward to it being restored to its former glory in the coming months.” Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for safer communities, Coun Maria Crompton, said: “So many people won’t realise that when they’re driving along the M5 viaduct at Oldbury, there’s this little oasis right underneath them. “I remember coming here as a little girl and it’s a lovely spot. I know the work we are doing with the Canal & River Trust and Highways England is going to transform it and make it more accessible for people by boat, by bike and on foot. “We’re looking forward to even more people, and more wildlife, enjoying Titford Pools.”

Aramark team members alongside the canal.

One of the Aramark volunteers strimming alongside the towpath. PHOTOS SUPPLIED

Company holds community day on the BCN

WORKERS from national food services company Aramark have been helping the Canal & River Trust care for the Birmingham Canal Navigations. As part of their annual Aramark Building Community Day, 24 volunteers spent the day on the canal in the Ladywood area. They cut back and tidied overgrown vegetation along the towpath and at access points. To ensure the canal is tidy and welcoming, they also removed litter and plastics. Terry Hodgetts, business and corporate engagement

manager at CRT, said: “Aramark did a fantastic job helping us tidy up this stretch of the canal in Birmingham and it’s amazing how much you can achieve in just one day.” According to research, being next to water can make you feel happier and healthier and the day of volunteering helped the employees escape the office and help look after the local canal. Jane Cookson, from Aramark, said: “Everyone really enjoyed the activity, and all got a real sense of achievement from the

Tunnel Vision Fund bids to reach £1m milestone WITH work well advanced for installing the Southern Bypass railway bridge over the Christmas period, the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust is redoubling

efforts to help its Tunnel Vision Fund reach the £1 million goal. The fund stood at £575,000 in November but needs to raise the remainder to attract further funding.

The proposed route of the Lichfield Canal. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Coffee morning boosts charities MORE than £1000 was raised for charity at a coffee morning held by L R Harris & Son. A Macmillan Coffee Morning has been held at the site for the last few years, but in a change this year it was decided new charities chosen by the families of two young men who had recently died would also benefit. These charities were Derby, Leicester and Rutland Air Ambulance and The Matt Hampson Foundation, in memory of Richard Nicholls, and Mind and Brain Tumour Research for Paul Marshall. L R Harris & Son, of Old Junction Boatyard on the Grand Union River Soar navigation in Syston, had taken in donations of good-quality pre-owned clothing and bric-a-brac, with some sold over social media

prior to the day and some sold alongside the cakes and savouries on the day. The coffee morning was so well supported, despite poor weather, that donations of £181 went to each charity plus a £200 donation to Macmillan. With online donations made directly to some of the charities,

work we did with the Canal & River Trust. “The day was very well organised, and everyone commented that not only did they get a buzz from the teamwork, they enjoyed a day away from the office and the daily grind. “We hope the local residents enjoy the canal’s beautiful green spaces for many years to come.” To find out how you can volunteer with the Canal & River Trust and help care for or adopt a stretch of your local canal, visit

Finance director Bob Williams said: “We are now pursuing competitive quotations for various stages of the tunnel work in tandem with local property developments related to the canal tunnel. “In the meantime, please continue to support our Tunnel Vision Appeal.” LHCRT recently commissioned CAJA Ltd, a firm of professional consultants, to collaborate on developing a bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund under the fund’s new Heritage Horizon Awards. The trust would be required to provide a 10% contribution towards the grant bid but is well placed to do so. Initial success would lead to several selection stages before progressing to a two-year Development Phase and hopefully a further three-year Delivery Phase. If you would like to make a real difference this Christmas, see details in the advertisement on this page. the total reached an amazing £1000. Money is already coming in for next year’s collection from people who didn’t make it this year. The owners of the business were all completely overwhelmed by everyone’s support and generosity and wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended or donated.

The family business L R Harris & Son supports the Macmillan Coffee Morning event every year. PHOTO SUPPLIED


Characters of the cut Foxy Lady Creations By Alice Griffin

LIVING on a narrowboat is a lifestyle choice that affords the ability to slow down the pace, nurture a deeper connection to nature and, if you’re environmentally aware, a way to walk (or cruise) your talk. Sarah Mackfall, otherwise known as ‘Foxy Lady’, is one such resident of the waterways, but she’s not just walking her talk by living in a way that is more compatible with the environment, she has built her business around this lifestyle too. Aboard her 69ft narrowboat in Newbury, where she has lived for more than 10 years, Sarah runs Foxy Lady Creations, which produces original and unique items made from reclaimed, vintage or remnant cloth. Having been into second-hand clothes and upcycling fabric since she was a teenager and with the desire to be a stay-at-home mum, Sarah saw an opportunity to create a business that would allow her to return to her fashion design roots while also reflecting her environmental stance. “I got into being an environmental activist after I started living afloat, before that I guess I took things for granted. Living on a boat, you have to be mindful of your water consumption, and everything you do that damages the environment.” Eight months of the year Sarah can work on solar alone, but during the winter months she uses a generator to top up the batteries and plans necessary tasks with the weather in mind. “Using fossil fuels to charge electric is a last resort for me,” she explains. “For example, on a sunny day I will do pressing because I will have plenty of solar to heat the iron. I have used irons on the fire in the past, but it’s messy and not practical. I also have Tilley irons, but it requires skill and patience to get them working.” Sourcing second-hand fabrics from local initiatives, eBay and charity shops, Sarah likes to focus on bright vivid prints: “It’s great for my mental health,” she tells me and as she sells not just online and via local shops, but also on the towpath, I can imagine her clothes would certainly brighten up any dreary canal day! In these times when we are all becoming increasingly more aware of the need to protect our earth, nurturing a smaller carbon footprint through how we choose to live is appealing and to create a business with the same principles in mind is doubly so. Sarah sees her business as an extension of her campaigning, practising what she believes in. “I love creating, being resourceful and helping the planet, so I will make things from the tiniest scrap!” Armageddon is perhaps a long way off, but certainly I think it’s reasonable to say that the more of us who learn to conserve and preserve may have a better chance of working through the environmental issues we are facing. Living on the water certainly brings you close to everything that you use, as well as to nature and the impact us humans can have on it, so I’m inclined to agree with Sarah’s observation that “people that live on boats will be more ready and capable of coping with climate change, and the disasters it may cause, e.g., power cuts, fuel shortages, water shortages, because we are used to managing our lives frugally.” I believe it wouldn’t be a bad thing for all of us, whether land or water-based, to become aware and acknowledge the need to shift these new times towards older ways, such as embracing

Sarah at work on board her narrowboat Foxy Lady. skill-sharing and community support. Having led sewing classes myself within my daughter’s friendship group, I am very much aware of the increasing need to get back to these self-sufficient skills and also to teach our children to think about making rather than just buying. As Sarah says: “The way things are going skills like sewing are becoming relevant again. I am finding that more and more people are wanting clothes repaired or altered, so they don’t have to throw it away or worse, buy fast fashion.” The option to live and work afloat is not one available to everyone, but ‘Foxy Lady’ is certainly an example to be inspired by on the water, living as she does with the environment at the forefront of her mind and sending a message out that encourages us all to think about what we use and how we use it. Of course, she’s also doing a great job of dressing boat dwellers in unique and meaningful clothes. Alice Griffin is a writer, nature-lover, slow-living advocate and intermittent boatdweller.

Sarah’s website: www.foxyladycreations. Facebook: FoxyLadyCreations Instagram: @foxyladycreations Twitter: @UKFoxyLady Etsy:

Sarah describes her clothing as ‘contemporary retro’. PHOTOS SUPPLIED

Selling on the towpath as well as online and through local shops.


Business volunteers enjoy awayday KEEN volunteers from Virgin Media Business carried out vegetation clearance along the Chesterfield Canal. They had heard about the work Chesterfield Canal Trust does to keep the waterways from becoming overgrown and wanted to do their bit to help. For the past two years, Chesterfield Canal Trust’s ex-British Waterways workboat Python has supported volunteers cutting back vegetation on the towpath and overhanging the waterway itself. This was the first day of this autumn’s programme and the seven volunteers, from Virgin Media Business project delivery team, made a superb start. They went to Kiveton Park where they were equipped with hard hats, gloves and hi-vis jackets and given a safety

briefing. They were supplied with a variety of cutting and lopping tools and set off up to the portal of the Norwood Tunnel. Here some cleared the landing stage, while others worked their way along the towpath, removing overgrown brambles and trimming back overhanging branches.

Despite rather mixed weather, they did a sterling job and certainly had a good time – perhaps the plentiful supplies of hot drinks and cake helped. Volunteer team lead Carole Payton said: “It was a fabulous opportunity to utilise our allocated Volunteer Day supporting the Chesterfield

Volunteers made a productive start to Chesterfield Canal Trust’s autumn programme. PHOTOS SUPPLIED

Canal Trust team. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the historic narrowboat Python to cut back vegetation along the canal banks and towpath.” Jan Warsop from the Chesterfield Canal Trust said: “It was wonderful to welcome such a highly motivated and enthusiastic team to join us maintaining the canal.” The work of Python has recently been recognised at two awards ceremonies. In September, the Python Litter Pickers won a Community Award from Retford in Bloom 2019. The citation read: “In recognition of their clearance of litter and debris from the water and banks of the Chesterfield Canal.” And in October, Python was Commended in the Canal & River Trust’s Living Waterways Awards in the Engaging Communities section.

Jan and Dave Warsop, representing Python, with the Living Waterways award. PHOTO: CHRIS BENNETT The aims of the Chesterfield Canal Trust are to promote the full restoration and appropriate development of the Chesterfield Canal. It has a target to get the canal fully restored by 2027, the 250th anniversary of its opening.

The trust welcomes any groups who would like to help to maintain or restore the canal. This could be public or private sector businesses or those from the voluntary sector. For further information, ring 01246 477569.

Lichfield canal trust wins national award LICHFIELD and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust is celebrating its win in the Canal & River Trust’s Living Waterways Awards, the results of which we reported last month. The awards shone a spotlight on the amazing work done by individuals, communities and organisations to make life better by water by creating vibrant, thriving, living waterways. LHCRT’s Fosseway Heath Nature Reserve/Lichfield Canal Restoration was judged the best in the Learning and Skills category at an awards ceremony in Birmingham, hosted by waterways champion, poet and raconteur Ian McMillan. The Learning and Skills category identifies the scheme or project which uses the inland waterway as a means to develop and increase knowledge and skills, and to raise awareness, involvement and understanding through either formal or informal learning. Entrants also have to show how the scheme has provided wider social benefits and led to improved personal development and employment opportunities. Lichfield canal trust was recognised in the awards for offering youngsters from colleges, schools and scouting groups valuable opportunities to learn and practise new skills. One of the huge benefits the trust brings to learning and skills is for the local colleges – students from South Staffs

The CRT Living Waterways award being collected by LHCRT volunteers Christine Howles and Peter Buck, right, with the award sponsor from Vinci. College and Walsall College attend the Fosseway Heath site to gain practical work experience in bricklaying, engineering, carpentry and other disciplines. The colleges have previously found difficulty sourcing places for these 100-plus students to obtain the necessary work experience for the courses they are studying, so the opportunity to work with the trust on the restoration of the canal is a very rare and valuable one. Peter Buck, engineering director at LHCRT, said: “We are so pleased to win this award as it recognises us, on a national level, for the work our volunteers do. “We’re happy to give local students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience on a real building site. The bricklaying students, in

particular, adore coming to site. “In the classroom their work is knocked down at the end of each day. We give them the chance to build a piece of heritage wall which will still be there in 200 years.” The Living Waterways Awards judges commented: “Many volunteers are retired skilled professionals, this project gives them the opportunity to use their skills and to teach others. The use of the site for practical training for construction students is inspiring and could be replicated on many other sites.” With volunteers from the trust’s own teams, added to those from the colleges as well as from Queens Croft High School, scout groups and corporate volunteers, the trust has a diverse range of people benefiting from the upskilling the project provides.

Walsall College students with Alan Davies and Steve Homer. PHOTOS SUPPLIED


The Narrow Boat Trust team, after loading 16 tons of bagged smokeless coal, from left: Tony Pancost, Peter Lovet, Ray Oakhill, Norman Townsend, Nick Lake, Stephanie Goodacre and Howard Williams. PHOTO: TIM COGHLAN

Loading 16 tons of coal... By Tim Coghlan

ON FRIDAY, October 4, the old wharf at what is today Braunston Marina, became alive with a tradition that has gone on for more than 200 years – the loading and unloading of canal-cargoes by hand. However, on this occasion it was not by tough working boatmen and women, as it had been in the past, but by a team of six volunteers from the Narrow Boat Trust, who in just four hours, succeeded in loading 16 tons of bagged smokeless coal into the holds of the former working narrow boats, the motor Nutfield, paired with the butty Brighton. In loading the boats, the average team member handled two-and-a-half tons of coal. What was astonishing was that the team’s average age was about 65, with some into their seventies, and the one female, Stephanie Goodacre, showing the men how to do it!

Only Ray Oakhill, a longserving volunteer aged 82, was excused the physical lifting, with his duties confined to making the tea to slake the dry throats of the thirsty workers. The sense of urgency was due to the need for the boats to be under way for a long autumnal journey southward by the Oxford Canal and the River Thames down to London, and back up the Grand Union, with dog’s legs up the rivers Kennet and Wey. Along their journey the cargo would be unloaded at a number of wharves, and to residential boaters and Thames lock keepers. A number of crew changes were planned to keep the boats moving without rest days. This autumn’s run had to be completed in just one month, with the boats due back on November 4, against a threat of heavy rain and flooding in the wake of a succession of the remains of hurricanes. But at the time of writing,

the boats had coped and were on the lower Thames, with the run up the River Wey still to come. There would be a final gruelling run up the Grand Union from Brentford to Braunston in just four days, when the remnants of the cargo would also be unloaded. For some years now, the Narrow Boat Trust has being making two smokeless-coal runs a year, having loaded at Braunston Marina wharf. They are in the spring, as soon as the winter stoppages are lifted across the waterways; and in October, before the stoppages arrive again. This gives the volunteers the challenge of working the boats over several days, even weeks, sometimes starting before dawn and tying up after dark, going all day, and sleeping two to a boatman’s cabin. It helps keep the traditions of carrying and the old working boatmen’s skills alive.

Volunteers tidy canalside car park A TEAM from the finance department of Oldham Council recently swapped their offices for the outdoors to spend a day working beside the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The volunteers worked alongside Uppermill Community Action Network (UCAN) members clearing vegetation and tidying around the Wool Road canal car park. UCAN was very grateful for their efforts and plans to arrange another joint project day next year.

Thanks to recent good weather, UCAN volunteers have been able to do some painting to spruce up Wade Lock and its surroundings; treating the lock gates and paddle gear. The faded brown stained fencing was brightened up with white preservative to the rails and black to the posts. Peter Killan, from UCAN, said: “There is still more work to do, weather permitting, but we feel that the results have improved the vista of the

approach to our village.” Throughout winter, UCAN plans to continue with vegetation and leaf clearance, and also make a start on a pond project in the Viaduct Woodland. Always pleased to welcome new members, UCAN has opportunities to get involved in volunteering in the local environment during the coming months. Contact Peter Killan for more information on 07717 508163 or email

Oldham Council volunteers helping UCAN members to clear vegetation around the Wool Road canal car park.



Bonfire bash on the Uttoxeter Canal

EARY in November, IWA’s Waterway Recovery Group held its annual Bonfire Bash Weekend on the Uttoxeter Canal in Staffordshire. Sixty volunteers from across the country carried out major vegetation clearance along the line of the old, but now very overgrown, canal and towpath at Alton, bordering the edge of the famous theme park, Alton Towers. The work carried out will help the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust establish a walking route along the length of the Uttoxeter Canal.

Waterway Recovery Group volunteers get the bonfire bash under way.

Autumn clean-up at Milton Keynes IWA Milton Keynes Branch held its autumn clean-up along the Grand Union Canal in October. Working from Fenny Stratford, volunteers cleared a 10-mile stretch of rubbish and plastics over two days. Interesting finds included a speed camera, massive speakers, an even bigger tyre, a boat petrol tank, a small motorbike, cycles, a pogo stick and, of course, a shopping trolley. The clean-up included volunteers from Canal & River Trust, the Parks Trust, Buckingham Canal Society, Milton Keynes Canoe Club and the general public. Some of the rubbish cleared from the canal.

Lichfield branch tidies towpath as part of community litter pick IWA Lichfield Branch joined a local community group, Brereton Millions, for a litter pick around Brereton and Rugeley on Saturday, October 19. The day followed another community litter pick and regular visits from the Community Payback group. This work in the area means that the towpath area around Rugeley and Brereton has never looked more litter free. A volunteer helps to clear litter from the towpath.

Group tends the plants along the Ashton Canal

Volunteers take a break at Alton on the Uttoxeter Canal.

IWA BRANCH DIARY FOR DECEMBER 2019 Anyone intending to attend one of these events for the first time should contact the organisers beforehand and wear suitable clothing and footwear. If staying all day take a packed lunch unless other arrangements are indicated.



IWA Lincolnshire Branch supporting Sleaford Navigation Trust: Volunteers will carry out

IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch and Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust: Work

Sunday December 8

a variety of tasks to maintain the navigable section of the Sleaford Navigation. Contact: Mel Sowerby 01522 856810, workparty@sleafordnavigation.

MIDLANDS Every Friday

IWA Lichfield Branch and Canal & River Trust: Work party on the

Coventry Canal between Fradley and Fazeley to help clear offside vegetation. Prior training on use of a wood chipper and/or a pole saw may be needed. 9.15am-3.30pm. Contact: Neil Barnett 07808 846434, neil.barnett@waterways.

Sunday December 1 and Tuesday 17th

IWA Northampton Branch: Work

parties on the Northampton Arm. 10am-2pm. Work usually includes a variety of tasks such as painting, vegetation clearance and litter picking. Contact: Geoff Wood

Thursday December 12

party on the Uttoxeter Canal at Crumpwood. 10am- 3pm. Contact: Steve Wood 07976 805858, steve.wood@waterways.

Saturday December 21

IWA Manchester Branch: Work

party in Greater Manchester. 10am to 4pm. Tasks will include vegetation clearance, litter picking, painting and pulling rubbish out of the canal. Contact: 07875 999825,

Saturday December 28

IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch: Work party alongside the

Shropshire Union Canal. 10am4pm. Work will include painting and vegetation clearance. Contact: Jason Watts, jason.watts@

Tuesday December 31

IWA North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Branch supporting Burslem Port Trust: Work party

on the Burslem Arm, Stoke-onTrent. 10am-3pm. Contact: Steve

Wood 07976 805858, steve.wood@


Tuesdays December 17 and 24

IWA Manchester Branch had a fantastic work party in September. Eight volunteers turned up on the Ashton canal at Audenshaw to check the perennial flowers planted in August were doing well. The group hoed the flowerbed with several plants staked and tied, and picked litter from the towpath along

with vegetation removal. There had been a strong growth, courtesy of the wet, warm summer. Another main task was to continue to strip undergrowth off the towpath coping stones also the wash wall. The towpath copings have now been revealed all the way from lock 12 to Lumb Lane.

IWA Oxfordshire Branch supporting Banbury Canal Partnership: Work

parties on the Oxford Canal near Banbury. 9am-1pm. Contact Colin Garnham-Edge: bcpontheoxford@


Every Saturday IWA West Country Branch (Taunton): Work parties in the

Taunton area. 10am-1.30pm. Please let us know if you are intending to join us, by 6pm the day before. Contact: Steve Bulgin 07855 794256, stevebulgin@

Every Tuesday Saturday


IWA West Country Branch (Bridgwater): Work parties in the

Bridgwater area. 10am-1:30pm. Please let us know if you intend to join us, by 6pm the day before. Contact: Mike Slade 07977 263840,

For further information on any of these events, please contact Gemma Bolton on 01494 783453 or email Details can also be found on IWA’s website at

Work party volunteers tend the flowerbed.

Planting bulbs and filling potholes IWA Northampton Branch has had a busy couple of months. Nine volunteers from the Branch met in October to weed and tidy planters at locks 1 and 2 of the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal. Two work parties were carried out in partnership with businesses in the area. At the end of October, volunteers were joined by employees from Network Rail to plant around 500 bulbs and cut the grass. In November, a total of 12 volunteers, including staff from Cummins Power Systems, filled potholes

on the towpath between locks 5 and 12. The Branch had 14 volunteers at a work party around lock 17, to plant 200 daffodil bulbs, strim vegetation and mow the grass. Volunteers also collected about 60 bags of rubbish and other assorted items. VOLUNTEER WITH IWA Find out more about the ways in which you can volunteer with IWA at



Pet pic

Dog-friendly Shardlow Barge Beagle – sniffing out good finds for crews with canines THE inland port of Shardlow stands at the eastern end of the Trent & Mersey Canal. Once thriving with warehouses, workshops and businesses, where goods were transshipped, in 1975 a conservation area was created with the aim to preserve and recognise the historical importance of the port. Today crowds gather here to gongoozle, visit the heritage centre, view the former warehouses and generally soak up the atmosphere of this beautiful bygone place. It was a fine autumnal day when Barge Beagle visited. The sun was unexpectedly warm but the shrubs loaded with shiny red berries, the slight hint of gold from the leaves of the towpath

Maddy, our Devon Cream miniature Dachshund, loves to help with the navigation, shown here on our shared owner boat Keynsham, writes Ian Lee. Someone once asked if our dog was called Horace or Bachelor, but she didn’t take to kindly to the suggestion! People of a certain age will understand the connection. If you have any pet pics, email them to

The Clock Warehouse, a former warehouse now a dog-friendly public house.

View from the bridge: Barge Beagle at Shardlow.

Plenty of dog-friendly places to eat and drink.

trees and the growing length of the shadows, forewarned that winter was on the way. Despite it being a weekday, Shardlow was busy with a constant stream of boaters, cyclists and walkers. There were also many dogs about, both on land and on board craft. The conservation area encompasses good walks along a mixture of grassy towpath and hard surfaces. We found these to be clean, tidy and litter-free with an adequate number of bins for dog waste. You can ensure your route takes in all the main sites of interest by checking out the interpretation board on the road bridge over the canal, which gives some interesting facts about many of the impressive buildings. There are plenty of public houses, almost all displaying signs to tempt weary walkers and their dogs to take a seat and rest awhile. The Navigation Inn caught our eye with the message

Walking the towpath at Shardlow. ‘We are muddy boot and muddy paw friendly’ as did the Clock Warehouse with its ‘Paws for a drink’ signage! As the name implies, this public house was once a warehouse; what makes this one unique is that boats could enter allowing for loading and unloading to be carried out under cover. In the end we opted for the New Inn, which is in fact one of the oldest of Shardlow’s public

Shardlow Heritage Centre.

Pets on the cut Puddle jumping Alison Wilkerson meets the black labrador who enjoys the easy-going pace of life on board. CRUISING up and down on the Grand Union Canal, we pass no end of moored boats; from hire boaters briefly stopping for a picnic-type lunch on board to liveaboards who make the most of their temporary surroundings while continuously cruising. We also come across a number of boats that are being worked on by dedicated DIYers and the odd one or two that have broken down. Usually these ones have scribbled notes with a contact telephone number to phone if any issues. One morning, while heading north, we noticed a boat moored with four concerned-looking occupants who were actually waiting to be rescued... not by any passer-by, but by River Canal Rescue Ltd (RCR). See their advertisement in Towpath Talk. The owners of the stricken 28-year-old 52ft Delta Marine built narrowboat were Jane and Tim. As well as two friends, they also

houses, dating from 1770. The forecourt provides lots of seating overlooking the canal and an equally impressive number of dog drinking bowls which made an instant impression with Barge Beagle, who wasted no time in lapping up the clean, fresh water on offer. For its interesting canal heritage combined with excellent dog friendliness, Shardlow receives the ‘paws up’ from Barge Beagle.

had an easy-going black labrador called Puddle, who was keeping an eye out for the RCR mechanic. He arrived (with his own dog, a pointer) and worked on their BMC 1.8, while I talked to Jane. She advised that Puddle was nine years old and had been with them since being purchased from a breeder as a puppy. He had only been a year on the boat, which was bought from a private seller on the Ashby Canal. They made the very wise decision (in my opinion) to purchase the boat, of which they are only the second owners, following a trip on a rice boat on the Kerala backwaters in India

Puddle prefers to be on rather than in the water. PHOTO: ALISON WILKERSON

as well as a trip to Goa (now that sounds amazing). These trips planted the seed for boat ownership and a slower pace of life, which is also a wonderful way to see the UK and our lovely countryside. It is also great for towpath walking, both with or without a dog, although Puddle loves walking on it. Puddle loves biscuits as well as retrieving shoes and socks, which is totally understandable considering his breed – a retrieving gun dog. He will tolerate cats but will chase them if they move and likes most dogs except whippets as he had a bad experience. He is not keen on small white dogs for some reason. They have cruised each weekend in the summer with Puddle and their other dog Holly, who recently passed away. Puddle now sits on the back deck, bed or bench as he is not that keen on the water – having fallen in when running on the towpath and not realising there was water next to it. While going under bridges he used to jump off the boat on to the towpath but as the towpath ended under some, he would end up in the canal, swimming behind. However, he has stopped that now. Puddle and his owners have now travelled many miles on canals and rivers over the year and no doubt met all sorts, who make up the great canal and river community spirit we have all hopefully experienced.



A call on the VHF radio soon had the traffic stopped and the bridge lifting for us.

PART TWELVE Ambiorix at the start of the journey, near the Mediterranean.

Ambiorix at journey’s end – within smelling distance of the North Sea.

North Sea in sight From the Mediterranean to the English Channel by boat

OFF we went back out of the delightful city of Ghent. We picked our way along a rather nice little canal and passed some posh places until we reached the Ringvaart. It was Saturday again, which meant it would be quiet, without commercials. Great – we could crack on unhindered. Only one lock today; however, we had traded the locks for lift bridges but this shouldn’t slow us down much. We were still heading north and the next major place on the route was the stunning city of Brugge. The navigable canal skirts around the outside of Brugge and in order to see its inner delights you need to moor up and wander in. However we needed to crack on as we had a meeting to attend with the Belgian authorities. The one lock we had to do was an interesting one as it was oval-shaped with three sets of lock gates, so there was another canal that we could have taken. Not sure where it went as we never investigated it. It might have just been to a loading basin. This lock had an actual lock keeper, grumpy bugger he was too. We shared the lock with a small cruiser and the lock keeper kept a very close eye on the proceedings, as tying up wasn’t that straightforward and it was a big lock. The bridges were interesting – the traffic stopped on the roads and then these massive structures lifted gracefully in front of us, a bit like a military salute. In one place two bridges lifted at once, and we glided underneath while onlookers took photos – or perhaps they whispered ‘hurry up’ under their breath. We soon cleared Brugge and were back out into the rural area that, by now, was very flat indeed. As we moved even further north it opened up to almost flat lands like Norfolk. We passed some smashing mooring places next to proper Belgian bars and restaurants, but, alas,

not enough time to sample them. So we ended up stopping at the junction with the Kanaal NieuwpoortDuinkerke/Neiuwpoort-Plassendale (that’s a mouthful). If we had carried on, we would have dropped into the sea at Ostend just a few kilometres further on, but the next canal was to take us to our winter mooring. The final canal of our journey changed from a wide, deep canal capable of taking 2000-plus-ton barges down to a canal that can cope with 38m x 5m, 350-ton barges, so it was more akin to the UK canals, again inasmuch as it was narrower and shallower and we were now heading west towards Calais and Dunkirk, following the coast. The canal also followed a main road and it was good to see cars whizzing past so close to the boat chugging along at 8kmh. Bridges were spread out and there seemed plenty of them. No manual operation here either and as we approached each bridge, a call on the VHF radio to the central control soon had the traffic stopped and the bridge lifting for us. It all seemed very odd, with these bridges being operated by remote control from a central office and not a canal worker to be seen. We had three locks to negotiate along this stretch of canal, and they were the most amazing structures of the entire journey (apart from the boat lift). But

The antiquated railway lift bridge.

first we needed to get the motorbike off the boat as there was nowhere to do so once we reached our mooring. So we pulled up at another junction where there was another rather large lock. We didn’t quite understand why it was so big as the rest of that canal was small, but we tied up, got the ramps out and rode the bike off the back deck of the boat. We locked it up and then back along the main line of the canal towards the Nieuwpoort lock system. This is well worth going to have a look at. It is a junction of seven waterways and it’s also known as Ganzepoot (goose foot in Dutch). The main river is tidal and called the Yser. It used to have several locks but only two are used. These two we had to do, and they can only be done two hours either side of high tide, so a little bit of planning was needed to ensure we arrived at the right time. These locks are operated by a mobile team of lock keepers and they also have to operate lift bridges at the ends of each lock. We locked through the first one and into the tidal basin at pretty much slack water. There wasn’t even a difference in the height, but this can be either way and the lock gates have two sets of gates at each end – which ones are needed depends on the height of the tide – out into the basin and sharp left and towards the next lock. We pretty much went straight in and then locked through and on to the last leg of the journey – but not immediately. It was a Sunday and the next lock at Veurne and the railway lift bridge was not manned – so we had an enforced stay in Nieuwpoort for the rest of the day and night. That was okay as the bike was only a 15-minute walk away so we could at least do some shopping and get off the boat for a bit! The final day arrived – Monday morning and the last leg of this monumental journey. Off we went and, after what seemed like a short period of time, maybe an hour or so, we reached Veurne and the railway lift bridge. A quick call to the lock keeper and in no time at all, the antiquated railway lift bridge (like the bridge at the Black Country Museum) groaned up into the air, and just after that is the main town lift bridge. Traffic stopped as we glided through there – very tight indeed – and then a sharp right and into the lock

We ended up stopping at the junction with the Kanaal Nieuwpoort-Duinkerke and Neiuwpoort Plassendale.

which was ready for us and not a soul to be seen operating any of it. Locked through and our mooring was in a basin just on our right-hand side. We exited the lock and spun the boat around, reversed into the short basin and moored just in front of another barge tied up there. We had made it – a journey of some 1000 miles and about 250 locks on a 107-year-old, 130-ton, 100ft-long barge in a very short timescale. We had the meeting with the Belgian authorities who needed to do the last survey on the boat which allows it to cruise through the European waterways. That all went well, apart from us needing an ENI number and that’s another story altogether. We put the boat to bed, sorted out the electric supply, did a few jobs on the boat, had to collect the bike from Neiuwpoort (a quick taxi ride), packed some of our personal stuff (can’t get it all on the bike), booked the tunnel crossing and the next morning we set off for England and home (now what side of the road should I be on?). And now? The next part of this story starts next year when we move the boat from Veurne on the Belgium/ France border to the Netherlands for its internal refit!

Simon Jenkins is a well-known figure on the British canal system and has been a boater for decades, living on, working and owning boats and, for the last couple of decades, the managing director of Norbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal. There he runs a brokerage, hire fleet, day boats, a trip boat and a chandlery, as well as a paint dock, dry dock and full engineering services. Simon has dipped his toe into the waters of other boat-related ideas including sea-going charters, but the inland waterways are his first love and he has turned his gaze to Europe, with its wide waterways and fully functioning system of commercial river and canal navigations. He is back from the boat-buying trip of a lifetime, bringing his first historic barge from the Mediterranean to Belgium, and now on to the Channel coast. Last time Ambiorix travelled into the beautiful Belgian city of Ghent. Now, as they reach journey’s end, this is Simon’s latest article, in his own words.

As well as a new paint job, Ambiorix has new covers for the wheelhouse.

These massive structures lifted gracefully in front of us, a bit like a military salute. PHOTOS SUPPLIED

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Towpath Talk - December 2019 - Preview  

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