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HEREWARD SUMMER 2017 Another Old Bedford Success The Caledonian Canal Islip Footbridge Replaced A Tale of Two Locks


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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

Made it! Happy but frustrated boaters at Welches Dam with the obstructions preventing any further progress other than to return to Salters Lode

ANOTHER Old Bedford Success! Following the successful April attempt to navigate the Old Bedford River JOHN REVELL reports on a further successful passage to Welches Dam made in July


n 16 July 2017 the cruiser Marie II (Lois and Roy Parker) and narrow boat Olive Emily (Richard Bramley, Eddy Edwards and John Revell) successfully navigated the Old Bedford from the tidal river at Salters Lode to the current head of navigation, Welches Dam lock, a distance of 14 miles. The two boats returned by the same route as non-tidal access to the Old Bedford ended 11 years ago when the Environment Agency (EA) piled the entrance to Welches Dam lock in 2006. This was the second successful cruise this year of this historic waterway first opened in 1637. May I thank EA staff who made this trip a success and the Middle Level Lock keeper who operated the Old Bedford sluice and guillotine for all his help. The Old Bedford River is a statutory navigation controlled and managed by the EA. On this occasion the proposed dates had been fixed well in advance with EA (Waterways) who had then consulted other parts of EA. EA (Water Resources) had asked the local Middle Level Commissioners lock keeper to put more water into the non-tidal river. This made the normally tricky access from the narrow tidal stream much easier. We set off in good spirits (see photo) and several hours later we had reached our destination (see photo) and returned to the excellent Lamb and Flag in Welney to celebrate and to be told by the locals how good it was to see boats on the river again. There was however one big headache. Out of the blue and at the last minute EA (Waterways) asked for the whole cruise to be called off or delayed until October- a similar request for delay had occurred prior to the trip in April 2017, albeit for a different reason and with rather more notice whereas I had been advised that my unsuccessful trip in November 2016 would have been more successful if I had made it earlier. On this occasion EA (Waterways) cited concerns from EA (Fisheries) about low dissolved oxygen from "wind-blown accumulations of decaying algae" in one section of the river. EA (Fisheries) were of the opinion that navigating through this in our two boats might give rise to a "significant risk of an environmental (Fish distress / kill) incident.� Following discussions with David Venn, Chairman of IWA Peterborough Branch, we decided that a proportionate response to this concern would be to continue the planned trip and assess the situation when we reached there as the problem appeared to be very localised (close to the village of Welney). EA had known about the accumulations of decaying algae for some time and any steps they might have taken to improve the situation had proved largely unsuccessful. Other navigation authorities might have used weed boats to physically remove the material but the next scheduled weed cut was not until October, 4 months later as part of EA's (Flood Defence) budget. We had also been told (confirmed by an eye witness) that EA (Fisheries) had themselves used a small boat with an outboard to take the oxygen measurements in this area on 13 July. 1

As we approached Welney we found a short stretch of foul smelling, floating rotting material see photo. Removing this before we reached there would clearly have benefited everyone and everything. Someone commented that EA appeared to be more concerned about the DO (dissolved oxygen) than the DO (disgusting odour). We were met by two helpful staff from EA (Waterways) team and we discussed what to do. It was decided that the narrow boat could proceed very slowly and cautiously along the middle of the channel under their close supervision. The cruiser was stuck (see photograph) and so it was pulled through the weed by ropes from the narrow boat again under EA's close supervision. Having successfully navigated this localised section of river at Welney to everyone's satisfaction we continued without difficulty to our destination, passing the cheery local eel catcher hard at work accompanied by the equally cheery dogs sharing his small outboard driven boat. Subsequent tests at Welney by EA after the passage and return of our two craft showed minimal effect on oxygen levels. Reaching Welches Dam lock was a bitter /sweet occasion. It is an attractive location with a fine lock side cottage (see photo), close to the extensive RSPB Ouse Washes nature reserve. The residents in the cottage were delighted to see the boats.

What a shame that EA stanked off the lock in 2006. Although EA claimed at the time that piling the entrance to the lock was to prevent water leakage through the gates this is misleading. The piles do not extend across the full face of the lock entrance leaving a gap of about 5 feet, which stops boats using the lock but means that the gates are still preventing water leakage 11 years later. 2

Restoring Welches Dam lock to full navigation is not rocket science nor restoring the short distance of Horseways Channel which connects the Old Bedford to the Middle Level and then to the rest of the system. A single lock needs to be lengthened and modernised (the Canal and River Trust and IWA's Waterway Recovery Group do this all the time). The short section of Horseways Channel needs to be re-lined to prevent leaks. Remember that restoring the leaking pound at Limpley Stoke on the Kennet and Avon canal more than 25 years ago was just a small part of that project and many using that canal now will be completely unaware of what took place. Discussions continue at national and local level to make progress but with little success and many will have read of the extraordinary development of EA issuing a formal emergency closure of this lock back dated to July 1, 2006 with a footnote added "created on May 2, 2017". Personally, I think the main stumbling block is not money but the unwillingness of the navigation authority (EA) to address the problems in good faith either themselves or by using the voluntary sector or by transferring responsibility for navigation to someone who can. The Old Bedford river is not a dead-end waterway leading nowhere but part of a long-established route connecting the Middle Level and the rest of the canal and river system. It needs to be restored to full navigation. It would make an interesting cruising ring. It has been navigable since 1637, well before the main canal era started, it is a statutory navigation and it needs to be maintained. I remain convinced that responsibility for navigation matters on rivers currently managed by EA should be transferred to the Canal and River Trust (CRT). No one would claim CRT is perfect but I think there is a clear sense of purpose in what it does and what it is trying to achieve. A major advantage is that CRT has the ability to raise funds and invest with far more flexibility and speed than EA can achieve with its multi-functional systems, competing and at times conflicting priorities and complex organisation. I cannot believe that CRT would have allowed this disgusting and polluting algae / weed to remain so long. Waiting 4 months for another part of EA to clear an obvious obstruction to navigation and general environmental hazard is not in anyone's interest, least of all the residents of Welney and those who walk, fish, collect eels, and occasionally boat along the river.

John Revell 3

Sale of Ouse Moorings at Ely Controversy has arisen over the EA’s proposal for the sale of three lengths of moorings in Ely. The plots amount to over 300m of river frontage in total and have been offered by private auction, together or separately, with a closing date set at 8th September. IWA considers that this is extremely short-sighted given that the businesses and moorings at this location bring in an income to EA as the navigation authority. IWA is extremely concerned at the impact the sale will have on the three waterway-related businesses based on the site: Bridge Boatyard, which has been operating for over 40 years and which is now the only holiday boat hire company on the River Great Ouse, hotel barge Water Nimf and The Boat Yard boat restoration business. Bridge Boatyard brings between 2000 and 2500 people on to the river each year on their hire boats, the loss of which would have a serious effect on the tourism and leisure use of the river and consequently on the economy of Ely and other towns and villages along the river through loss of visitor spend. The EA are claiming the land is being sold as it is considered “surplus to operational requirements” but the objectors view is that the moorings and the hire business at the site should be considered as essential for income and the future sustainability of the river and the land should therefore be retained in EA ownership. As this edition went to press meetings were being arranged with the local authorities involved, with local MP’s and lobbying was being made to the EA Chief Executive to try to get the decision reversed or at least delayed until a full debate on the sale is undertaken. 4



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The Caledonian Canal Roger Green describes his cruise through the Great Glen he Caledonian Canal follows the route of Scotland’s Great Glen, traversing the highlands from Inverness south west to Fort William. The canal consists of 22 miles of manmade links between some of Scotland’s best-known lochs – Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. The canal is approximately 60 miles long from the sea locks at Corpach and Inverness. Engineered by Thomas Telford the canal opened in 1822 for through passage.


Inspired by Tim and Pru’s Great Canal journeys we decided to hire a boat from Caley Cruisers, at Inverness so that we could replicate their cruise on the Caledonian canal. Unfortunately, we chose the wettest June on record for Scotland for our adventure and had waterproofs on for most of the week! Despite the rain, low cloud and mist we able to enjoy some splendid views of the shore and mountains along the way, however we did have to use our imagination at times! The canalised sections between the lochs are, in the main, sterile with sloping rock lined banks and a wide and deep channel. Mooring is only possible near locks and the many swing bridges. The loch moorings are managed by the lock keepers, now known as “Transit Assistants” The scenery and engineering heritage comes into its own around the locks and bridges where the huge granite blocks that make up the lock walls, the wide and sturdy gates, small but purposeful lock cottages and the original cast iron swing bridges are a delight that deserve more than a quick passing glance. The 5 staircase locks at Fort Augustus provide interest for boat crews and tourists alike. As we prepared to ascend the locks a lone piper with a collecting box was entertaining coach parties on the towpath with his mournful melodies. Passage through the locks requires roping boats through as engines have to be turned off. This can be quite a challenge when faced with a couple of coach parties all trying to get as close to the lock as possible. Fortunately, there were Scottish Canals transit assistants and paid summer assistants in abundance. Not sure how this can be afforded but they must be more lavishly funded than navigation agencies in England. The canal section and lochs between Fort Augustus and Banavie is the most interesting as the lochs are smaller and have several mooring opportunities, locks and swing bridges are quite frequent adding interest to the trip. 6

Hire cruisers must stop and turn at the top of Banavie locks (Neptune’s Staircase). A stroll down the flight of 8 locks, which descend 20m in about 450m, is an experience not to be missed. While we were there we gongoozled a wide range of craft working up and down the locks. The canal is used as a transit route for small cruise/hotel boats, fishing boats, naval patrol boat and sailing craft of all sizes. Again, coach parties arrived in regular succession to witness Telford’s engineering and the variety of craft using the locks. Our second week was spent in a restored lock keeper’s cottage situated at Crinan alongside the sea lock entrance to the Crinan Canal. The weather improved and we able to explore the beautiful Crinan Canal on foot and cycle. This canal is only 9 miles long and was built in 1809 on a much smaller scale than the Caledonian it hugs the coastal estuary for much of its journey to Ardrishaig. The short cut, to avoid the treacherous waters of the Mull of Kintyre, is used mainly by sailing cruisers. During our stay we were entertained and covered in black smuts from the restored VIC 32 Clyde Puffer which is based in Crinan Basin and makes frequent trips out to the islands with passengers who are expected to work their passage bunkering and helping with domestic chores!

Photos: Roger Green


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EA Consultation Document on Navigation Charges Your committee has responded to the consultation document issued by the EA in July on the proposed increase in navigation charges. The responses made are as follows:Q1. Do you support the need for an increase to Environment Agency boat registration charges? We would support a proportionate increase if it was matched by a proportionate increase in clearly identified and matched service and navigation improvements. Services and facilities on navigations in the Anglian Region fall far short of those provided and maintained by CRT on the canal system. Visitor moorings and elsan disposal points are particularly lacking on much of the system. A commitment to improve navigation facilities must be a priority linked to licence increases. Q2. Do you support the level of increase proposed through this consultation? Absolutely not! 7.5% increase will create real problems for those on a low income and will simply exacerbate a continuing increase in boats not displaying a valid licence, name and EA Registration number. Whilst we applaud the actions of the enforcement team to prosecute owners of unlicensed boats we still see boats across the Anglian region that are not displaying a valid licence. We understand that loss of revenue for EA is considerable due to unlicensed craft but our concern is more about these same craft probably not having a valid BSS certificate and/or insurance. The potential danger to other navigation users is probably more important to us! Q3. If not, what level would you support? An increase in line with the rate of inflation. Q4. If we were not to increase charges, what elements of the service would you be prepared to see reduce or stop? Corresponding cuts in management and management remuneration and more efficient use of EA money - we have all witnessed examples of profligate spending that defies logic and reason The EA’s continued refusal to utilise volunteers to do tasks previously done by full time employees (despite paying lip service to the principle) cuts across their continued pleas of poverty. The use of Volunteer resources was the cornerstone of CRT’s ethos when they were set up and appears to have been successful in controlling costs on their waterways. Using volunteers also creates a sense of team spirit among management and waterway users within CRT, something which is patently absent from EA world. CRT’s Annual Report for 2016/7 reports 540,000 hours of volunteer input having been used during the year and can now call on 750 volunteer lock keepers. EA’s proposed 10 "meet and greet" volunteers begin to look a bit sick but it may be a start if it happens. These responses were the views of your committee and members are of course fully entitled to express their individual views to the EA through the consultation process which may or many not line with the committee’s views. 9





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A Tale of Two Locks A clear demonstraon of how CRT and EA Waterways are being treated so differently. While the EA are busy closing and neglecng exisng assets on Bank Holiday Monday CRT celebrated the compleon and official opening of a brand new lock in East London. The Opening Ceremony

Carpenters Road Lock in the Bow Back Rivers system which lies within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was officially opened during a waterways fesval aended by thousands of people from East London. Blessed by hot and sunny weather it was a huge boost to the profile of CRT and Chief Execuve Richard Parry led the official opening ceremony. This lock is the last piece in the jigsaw of the revival of these once neglected waterways and provides a cruising ring off the Lee Navigaon through the park. What price this happening soon at Welches Dam? I’m not holding my breath!

The first boats entering and leaving the new lock






COMMITTEE MEMBERS CHAIRMAN: David Venn e-mail: DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Chris Howes e-mail: SECRETARY: Roger Green, 70 Windmill Close, Ellington, Huntingdon, Cambs PE28 0AJ Tel: 01480 890215 Mobile: 07799 066001 e-mail: TREASURER: Roger Mungham Tel: 01945 773002 e-mail: EDITOR: Philip Halstead, 20 Cane Avenue, Peterborough PE2 9QT Tel: 01733 348500 e-mail: ENTERTAINMENTS OFFICER: Richard Fairman, The Old Railway House, Cowbit, Spalding, Lincs PE12 0XD Tel: 01406 380575 Roger Sexton

Andrew Storrar

Stephen Heywood

IWA Festival of Water Over 15,000 people attended the three-day event held on the Erewash Canal at Ilkeston over the Bank holiday weekend. The festival included classic cars, live music, craft stalls, birds of prey, children’s rides and the chance to drive a digger under the guidance of restoration experts from IWA’s Waterway Recovery Group. Branch Deputy Chairman Chris Howes and his wife Christine Colbert won the AP Herbert Cup for the crew travelling the farthest distance by boat to the Festival. Full details of their journey will be revealed in the next edition of Hereward. St Neots will host the 2018 IWA Festival of Water, again to be held over the August Bank Holiday weekend. The River Great Ouse location has been selected to further support IWA’s campaign to see better funded waterways throughout Environment Agency’s Anglian Region and to encourage boats to cruise the under visited Middle Level system. The festival is being supported by both St Neots Town Council and Huntingdonshire District Council who are very enthusiastic about the event visiting their local waterway. The event site will be Regatta Playing Fields is at the heart of the town and the site of many successful river-based events. Planning has already begun and details as they develop will be given in future editions of Hereward. 13

Email: 14

A Ghostly Tale This incomplete email was received on the 31st October last year:I'm currently moored near Prickwillow on the River Lark, somewhere between the middle of nowhere and the back of beyond. I've just been reading a local folk tale of a lady who had come from India to live near Prickwillow with a 'child' who appeared to be half human and half ape. The child was captured and taken to Cambridge but escaped, terrifying the local townsfolk. Although she was shot and wounded, she managed to make her way home across the fen, killing those she met. She died after strangling the lady who had looked after her. The derelict cottage lies near a remote mooring on the River Lark. No one goes near the old home as, on a misty night, two shadowy figures can be seen, one a lady, the other an ape with its arm around the lady's waist. There's just been an awful commotion outside of the boat's window, I've managed to snatch a picture, and I'm going out to investigate ......... the email abruptly ďŹ nished there. This is the photo that came with it :


Islip Footbridge — up with the Old down with the New Roger Green reports on the bridge replacement


slip footbridge is located 100metres downstream from Islip Lock at Thrapston. Headroom can vary from 1.5 to 2.2 metres and things can change in a matter of minutes due to the close proximity of the automatic weir stream joining the channel next to the lock tail. Users of the Nene will be familiar with the problem when water levels are higher than normal and will probably have faced the consequences of either squeezing underneath the rusty structure or playing safe and mooring up on the EA moorings adjacent to the sailing club or remaining on the downstream lock landing waiting to watch for a brave skipper to attempt passage before risking an attempt.

The old bridge is lifted out

In 2015, we had an exciting experience when exiting the lock to travel downstream. Immediately after leaving the lock landing a strong current from the Weir stream caught us before we could make way. As we headed for the wall on the far bank with little control we began to realise that the footbridge seemed rather too close to the water level. We managed to creep forward by holding on to roots and vegetation along the bridge approach wall before the cratch and tunnel light began to catch on the underside of the bridge at this point we agreed that discretion was the better part of valour and managed to reverse back from under the bridge and more by good luck that expert skippering managed to carry on crabbing in reverse to moor up against the opposite bank. I decided to remove the cratch and cover ready for another attempt later in the day when we hoped the level might have dropped. It didn’t and in fact it continued to rise nearly half a metre during the next hour! Other boats coming upstream were, of course, having the same problem. During the afternoon, we met up on the bridge with other boaters to commiserate! As if by magic at 6.0pm the water level suddenly began to drop as though a plug had been pulled out! Within an hour all of the waiting boats were able to pass under the footbridge with horns blazing in jubilation. During the last few years this navigational hazard has been recognised and much work has been done by Northamptonshire County Council, Association of Nene River Clubs and Environment Agency to find a solution for a replacement footbridge. On 26th June, the old Islip footbridge was craned up and away for good and new foundations prepared in readiness for a replacement bridge to be installed on 1st September. By lunchtime the splendid new bridge, steps and ramp were installed much to the delight of the contractors, boaters and Thrapston public. The new footbridge has at least 3 metres clearance which should be more than sufficient to allow safe passage within the navigable water channel for the craft likely to pass on the Nene. 16

The new bridge is lifted into position on new piled foundations by the large crane

The new Islip Footbridge Photos: Roger Green The new bridge in position with the ramped access provided for cycles, pushchairs and wheelchairs

Branch Work Parties The Branch intends to hold the popular Work Parties again this autumn and winter on the Middle Level system. At the time of going to press full details of the sites for the work and the dates had still to be agreed with the MLC but it is hoped the work undertaken on the Horseway Channel during last Winter can be continued. The plan is to hold mid-week sessions with occasional weekend get-togethers with possibly some social involvement. Full details when finalised will be communicated through the Branch website and in the next edition of Hereward. 17

Profile for The Inland Waterways Association

Hereward Summer 2017  

Hereward Summer 2017