HEREWARD AUTUMN 2013
www.iwapeterborough.org.uk The IWA charity registered number 212342 The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Inland Waterways Association or of the Peterborough Branch. They are, however, published as being of interest to our members and readers
ell what a summer we have had! After a wet winter and very cool spring we were all looking forward to something better and we certainly got it. Long hot sunny days and the rain we did get, at least in eastern parts, seemed to fall at night. Ideal boaters weather. I hope you all were able to make the best of it. The main news item from within the Branch has been the Official Hand-over of the new moorings at Three Holes in June which is covered in this issue, opposite and below. There have also been some developments on a national scale which have a significant impact in our area. The main one being the announcement of the postponement of any transfer of the EA managed waterways to CRT until further notice, although it still remains government policy to make the transfer when the financial climate is right. IWA headquarters have made a series of statements branding this decision as a ’missed opportunity’ and pointing to potential increased charges for boaters on EA waterways associated with probable reductions in funding. This has been paralleled by a more local announcement in June that the Middle Level Commissioners are seeking powers to charge fees for navigation. This looks like being a ’double wammy’ for boaters in our area and no doubt lengthy debates will ensue on these topics over the winter months and beyond. As I write this in mid-September the first chills of Autumn are starting to bite and the shorts, tee-shirts and sandals are being packed away. But they can’t take the memories of this wonderful summer away from us.
Philip Halstead THREE HOLES MOORINGS— OFFICIAL HANDOVER
he new moorings at Three Holes were officially handed-over in June to Upwell Parish Council in a ceremony which took place on site. The project to provide this useful facility for boaters was a joint effort involving the Peterborough Branch, who provided funding and co-ordination, the Middle Level Commissioners who undertook the works and Upwell Parish Council who have undertaken responsibility for the on-going upkeep and maintenance of the facility. In the photographs opposite former Branch Chairman, Alastair Chambers can be seen giving an address on behalf of the Branch (centre) as the development and substantial completion of the work took place during his tenure of office. Sincere thanks were also recorded to former Branch Secretary Nigel Long who worked tirelessly in pushing the project through the various stages of planning, design and construction. The assembled crowd can be seen with a view of the moorings and access steps (top) with a view of the flotilla of boats that assembled on the moorings for the occasion (bottom).
MIDDLE LEVEL COMMISSIONERS Fees to be introduced for Navigation?
t has been reported that the Middle Level Commissioners are giving consideration to the introduction of fees for navigation through the Fenland waterways which fall under their jurisdiction. The proposals if introduced could raise up to £50,000 a year which would be used to improve facilities for boaters and improve flood defences. At present due to restrictions in the legal constitution of the MLC, which established the body primarily as a land drainage authority over 200 years ago, they have no powers to charge boaters for passing through their waterway system. In order to introduce navigation charges the Commissioners would need to promote a bill through Parliament in order to obtain the necessary powers. Iain Smith, the Chief Executive of the MLC has said: ”We are fully supportive of a bill which would allow us to levy charges on leisure boats. We estimate this would raise around £50,000 a year which would be spent on improving locks. If such a bill does go through, from our point of view, it would be very pleasing to be able to call on boat owners to make a fair contribution to maintaining the waterways under our control.”
Restricted headroom for navigation is a limitation on several routes on the MLC system. Ramsey Hollow Bridge was raised through funding provided by the Branch using the Army to provide the labour and expertise. Would fees generated from boating allow more of these restrictions to be removed thus extending the cruising range of the system?
NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay is supportive of the levy and has met MP Richard Benyon, the minister responsible for waterways at DEFRA, to discuss this issue. Mr Barclay said: “The minister showed he understood the need to bring the Middle Level Commissioners in line with other waterways around the country. It is currently the only authority in England unable to access funding for improvements from inland waterway users. This limitation is holding 2
back the potential for the waterways in this area to become wonderful attractions for leisure boaters. These waterways are located in beautiful Fenland landscape and could become a key element of the local tourist industry offering a potential growth plan for the area.â€? Whilst the imposition of further costs in boating will be greeted with some caution by those who use the Middle Levels, if these increases are balanced by improved facilities and better standards in the system then they will be seen as more palatable. In recent years the Branch has enjoyed much improved relations with the MLC but it has always been acknowledged that the facilities they are able to provide will always be limited by the fact that they receive no income from boaters. The MLC system covers over 100 miles of waterways but many of these are of restricted use due to limitations in depth or headroom or from obstructions needed to cover the prime land drainage functions. If boating fees allow works to be undertaken to free up many of these restricted routes and
Some of the funding generated from boating fees would allegedly be earmarked for improvements to locks. Horseway Lock whilst serviceable, stands isolated and somewhat forlorn due to problems of retaining water levels in the approach channel leading to Welches Dam and the Old Bedford River. More funding into a navigation budget could help to resolves these problems. The maintenance of water levels can be a problem in several areas and again more funding from boaters could allow improved dredging and weed cutting to ease the passage of boats.
provide a truly vibrant system, is this a price worth paying? This situation will need to be monitored more closely and until information becomes available about likely fees and how they would be levied, it is difficult to form a firm opinion. Along with the situation on the EA/CRT front this adds more to the uncertainty surrounding the waterways within the Branch area. Watch this space for details as they become available. 3
s I approached Marmont Priory lock one hot sunny August day I met a canoeist paddling slowly along the river. I told him I would be happy to share the lock with him and that's what happened. We left the lock and headed towards Salters Lode and we started talking. I asked him where he had come from and where he was heading. The answer was surprising. He had flown into Heathrow from North America with his canoe folded up in the aircraft hold. He had then taken a taxi to the Grand Union canal at Uxbridge, assembled his canoe and paddled his way up to Gayton Junction. This had included hitching a ride through Blisworth tunnel on another boat. He then went down the Northampton flight and the River Nene before joining the Middle Level at Stanground. I asked him where he was heading now and he said Cambridge where he was going to fold up his canoe, aptly named a Folbot, take a taxi to Heathrow and return to America with his folded canoe again in the hold. He had had a fantastic time and was already planning next year's trip. I thought France or Europe, he replied India. How did he find the new canoe portage points on the Nene? Useless – they had clearly been designed by someone who didn't canoe much. He simply went up to the lock side, lifted the canoe and belongings and re-launched his boat at the boat landing stage below the lock, just as he did for the canals. What was the best thing about his trip? The peace and quiet. What was his luxury? His laptop and charger. Several years ago I wrote an article in ‘Hereward’ after I shared many of the locks between Wellingborough and Northampton with someone rowing a white pram dinghy from Peterborough to Northampton. That person's luxury had been listening to radio 4 on his portable radio. John Revell 4
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NEW FOOTBRIDGE OPENED AT BENWICK
new replica cart bridge costing ÂŁ190,000 was opened at Benwick in June. Villagers helped to celebrate the occasion with charity stalls and games, a duck race on the River Nene and a visit from boats belonging to the Middle Level Watermanâ€™s Club. The original timber beam structure of the footbridge was nearing the end of its life and Cambridgeshire County Council installed a new footbridge across the Nene in keeping with the original design. County and local councillor John Clark cut the ribbon helped by members of the Parish Council. It was a busy weekend for the village as the following day, several hundred villagers turned out to watch over 200 cyclists go through Benwick as part of a national Circuit of the Fens 205km road race. The sprint section went through the village and over 100 top cyclists powered through six times. Over 100 amateur cyclists also took part in the cycle event which was organised by St Ives Cycle club. This event was also supported with stalls, games and competitions held in the village.
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POSTPONEMENT OF EA-CRT MERGER
am sure that most of you will have heard that the proposed transfer of the Environment Agency Navigations to the Canal and River Trust, originally planned for 2015, was postponed by the Government in July. The announcement appeared to be made with very little warning and came as a surprise to most of the waterways fraternity. The Inland Waterways Association strongly supported the transfer as it was one of the main facets of Robert Aikman’s original visions of a single Waterways Conservancy. This would have provided the opportunity to raise additional funds, access grants only available to the charitable sector and secure voluntary sector support that the transfer to the charitable sector would provide. Staff at both the EA and CRT had advanced plans in place ready for the transfer to take place on the originally planned date. There seem to be a number of reasons for this disappointing postponement, which at present has no revised transfer date, but the main one is based on a lack of available funding to make the transfer and perhaps political will within Defra. The IWA are asking all branches to do what they can to increase the profile of the issues that this delay will cause and put pressure on our local Members of Parliament to ask them to ask questions and encourage the transfer of EA to CRT to be put back on the political agenda as soon as possible. As a result the Peterborough Branch will be writing accordingly to the five constituent MPs that cover our membership area. This issue is particularly important for our own branch as most of our navigable waterways are managed by the EA and we already know they are facing significant funding cuts from Defra which will lead to a deterioration in the support for navigational maintenance and improvement. The EA are already beginning to look at well above inflation increases for our river licences. I am sure that many of you would welcome the notion of a single charitable body responsible for national navigation and, one day, a single licence across the whole of the inland waterways network!
Roger Green VOLUNTEERING AND THE EA
ne of the cornerstones of the establishment of CRT has been the use of volunteers to fulfil a variety of roles alongside, or to replace, the use of employed staff. Many IWA Branches and individual members have been involved in this initiative. The EA however has so far been less enthusiastic in adopting the use of volunteers but indications are this could be about to change. Alison Smedley, who is responsible for the promotion and co-ordination of volunteers at IWA Headquarters will be addressing the next Branch committee meeting in October with a view to exploring the possibilities for carrying out voluntary work with the EA. More details will be provided in the next edition of ‘Hereward’ when hopefully the situation may be more clearly understood. 11
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BOOK REVIEW Izzie—A Child of the Cut: by Rupert Ashby (Paper Cut Books)
or anyone who likes a good read and is of a waterways persuasion this book is a good tale, well written. It is set in the years before WW2 where Isobel Horne is a boat girl with an ambition to learn to read, encouraged by her mother. A family tragedy and the declaration of war turns Izzie’s life upside down. To help the war effort she learns to steer the butty ’Aphrodite’ then the motor ’Zeus’ and becomes involved in running important cargo between London and the Midlands. Her boating life of love and loss in a country at war is beautifully drawn, against a background of spying, bombings and treachery. The author has weaved his knowledge into a gripping and fascinating story set in the authentic background of the working canals. The book is available from Waterstones at £7.50.
FENS WATERWAYS LINK
he Boston Barrier flood protection scheme has received an £11 million funding boost from Lincolnshire County Council as the authority's financial contribution to the £74 million project which is due to be built between Spring 2016 and Spring 2018. Apart from major flood protection benefits the scheme will enable the water level between Boston’s Grand Sluice and the new barrier to be controlled and this would be a major improvement to navigation of this stretch which, of course, includes entry into the proposed new Fens Waterway Link. A document has been submitted by the EA’s Large Project Review Group to the Chief Executive to secure the business case for the barrier project which once approved would enable progress to be made to the delivery stage. It is understood that the document includes details of the proposed link route through to the River Welland and the onward projected route from the Welland near Crowland through to the River Nene. Possible new routes into the Middle Levels have also been indicated. Much will obviously depend on the availability of funding and with the current constraints being placed on DEFRA and the EA by the Treasury, The Haven at Boston would be much improved by timescales are likely to be fairly prothe proposed flood barrier with controlled jected. water levels and safer navigation. 13
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MEMBERâ€™S LETTER I was very pleased to attend the opening of the new moorings at Three Holes on 29th June and it was fitting that Alastair Chambers, the previous branch Chairman, was asked to say a few words. Six members of the Branch Committee retired at this year's AGM and we should be extremely grateful for everything they achieved. Later that weekend I took my boat along the Forty Foot and passed under Ramsey Hollow Bridge which was raised in height a few years ago and also used the new moorings at Benwick. Earlier in the year I travelled the River Nene and found that a further lock had been electrified. It was not long ago that the Environment Agency fitted those awful wheels to the manual locks but now most of them have been replaced. Further concrete achievements by the last committee. Nigel Long who also retired at the AGM was an exceptional branch and regional secretary and I hope he will now be able to find time to use his boat rather attend meetings. It is obviously a shame that Welches Dam Lock remains unnavigable and that the Old Bedford remains closed to all but the most determined boaters but I take heart that since I started boating the Southern Stratford, the Ashton, the Kennet and Avon, the Huddersfield Narrow, the Rochdale and the Droitwich canals have all been restored and reopened. John Revell 14
INLAND WATERWAYS ASSOCIATION Peterborough Branch
COMMITTEE MEMBERS ACTING CHAIRMAN: David Venn, Bruffs Lodge, High Street, Nordelph, Downham Market PE38 0BL Tel: 01366 324102 e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
SECRETARY: Roger Green, 70 Windmill Close, Ellington, Huntingdon, Cambs PE28 0AJ Tel: 01480 890215 Mobile: 07799 066001 e-mail: email@example.com
TREASURER: Roger Mungham Boatmans Cottage, Workhouse Lane, Upwell, Wisbech PE14 9ET Tel: 01945 773002 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY: Position Vacant EDITOR: Philip Halstead, 20 Cane Avenue, Peterborough PE2 9QT Tel: 01733 348500 e-mail: email@example.com
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SALTERS LODE TO SURFLEET via KINGS LYNN AND FOSDYKE
By Richard Fairman
he sailing boat ‘March’ had been moored at Salters Lode on the Middle Levels for some weeks as the only opportunities I had to collect her were spoiled by bad weather. We had been on the Middle Levels for the official opening of the new moorings at Three Holes, covered elsewhere in this issue of ‘Hereward’. We were the only sailing boat there. My crew, Peter Root who gave a memorable slide show to the Branch last winter, and I arrived at lunch time and put the kettle on. We made the boat ready and waited for high tide at about 4 pm. Four o'clock on the dot we passed through the lock into the Great Ouse, setting off downstream at a great rate. Suddenly we came to a dramatic stop. A shingle bank in the middle of the river with less than two feet of water over it - and this is just after high tide. Quick, trousers off and over the side, shoulder against the futtocks and shove; remember, this is a falling tide and we do not want to be here for twelve hours! Luckily we managed to free ourselves and continue our journey. In theory the deep water is on the outside of the bends, sometimes very deep and very close to the bank. The difficult part is between the bends, knowing when to cross over to the other side. Twice more we had to repeat the performance which interrupted our usual routine and delayed our progress. We saw friends of ours by one of the bridges; Lord knows what they thought of us in the cockpit with no trousers! Still needs must. Once past St Germans the water was deeper and we could relax more taking turns to go below to dry and off make ourselves respectable! Approaching King’s Lynn we could see the brand new leisure boat moorings, wet paint and not officially open yet. We went past, did a nice ‘U’ turn and came up alongside the pontoon, smartly against the tide to tie up. The next thing to do was raise the mast, sort the rigging and sails for an early start next day. Now the new moorings have a minimum depth of about five feet so most privately owned vessels can safely moor there. An overnight stay is highly recommended as the pubs and restaurants are only fifty yards away. We had our fill of excellent ale and a haggis and salad dinner. They made a great fuss of us as we were the first boat on the new moorings. The next morning, three hours after high water, we cast off under all plain sail. You have guessed it, the wind died. We had to start the motor, often called the iron tops'l amongst other things in sailing. The passage across the Wash was relatively uneventful. Navigation to the 'Sunk Buoy' (don't ask where that name comes from) then to the 'Roaring Middle' and on to the 'Freeman Channel' is all very basic. In the last mile before Fosdyke Bridge we have to down sails and down mast. We raise the mast again before going into our moorings as it is a lot easier to manoeuvre with the stick up and out of the way. In all a great couple of days. Put the kettle on. Surviving crew: Peter Root and Richard Fairman. 16
NEW MOORINGS AT KING’S LYNN
ver the summer a new pontoon mooring has been opened at King’s Lynn South Quay opposite the Marriot’s Warehouse restaurant. The moorings will make it easier for craft from the inland waterways to visit town and also provide a stopping point for sea-going boats crossing The Wash. Our Branch committee member, Richard Fairman claims to have been the skipper of the first boat to use the new moorings as recounted in his tale on the opposite page. His visit was before the moorings were actually officially opened but on tidal water such as the Ouse estuary it is a case of ‘needs must’! Above is an evening shot of Richard’s boat March moored alongside the moorings for an overnight lay-over on his intrepid voyage. King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council have published an informative leaflet giving details of the mooring facilities and some navigation notes relating to the estuary and crossing The Wash. Some general information about what King’s Lynn has to offer the visitor is also included. Information can also be obtained on line from a new website: www.sailthewash.com and a useful feature is a live webcam allowing boaters to see in advance if mooring space is available although spaces can be booked in advance. The facilities have a permitted draft of 1.5m and are provided with secure access supported by CCTV with electricity and water at all berths. The maximum permitted stay is 7 nights. Co-ordinates for the pontoon are 000⁰ 23.60’E 52⁰ 45.06’N. The postcode is PE30 5DT.
The magazine of the Peterborough Branch of the Inland Waterways Association