When is a mooring not a mooring?

August 2017 - Bank works and dredging are always a welcome sight, especially on a notoriously shallow canal like the Ashby, but as boater Gareth Haines discovered all is not quite what it first appears.

Those who have cruised the Ashby will appreciate that it is shallow in places and also there is a general difficulty mooring away from recognised wharves due to the condition of the banks.

The northern section is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), but one gets the feeling that the Ashby is something of a nature canal, in the same spirit as the Droitwich Barge Canal.

There is lots of vegetation, both towpath side and bankside and, indeed, it appears to have been left to go wild in many places, to the detriment of the boater, so it was nice to see works going on in the area of Ashby Hire Boat Company at Stoke Golding to improve a long section of towpath and make it moorable.

​Upon closer inspection though, a different picture emerges. The works are directly opposite the hire base and they extend through Wharf Bridge (no. 25) and on towards Foxwell’s Bridge (no. 26). They do not quite reach to the next bridge hole though, as I’m told money will likely have run out by then.

Works include piling, dredging and using spoil to back-fill and create a good landing for mooring. Instead of the usual armco barrier-type edging, seasoned oak beams are being used, and not just for the edge either, they are being used to create the box-section areas that are then filled with spoil (see picture).

Being ever the cynic, I remarked to the on-site team that it was nice that the Canal and River Trust were providing moorings on the towpath for Ashby Hire Boat Company’s boats when they were vacant out of season (a quick glance at Google Maps will confirm this observation). To my not so great surprise, I had my suspicions confirmed as I was told that this was exactly the reason for the bank works in this particular location.

I then queried the use of the solid oak beams for the works, as opposed to the usual armco. I was told that it is what the surveyor decreed and, further, it was costing £17,000 as a result. Apparently, oak was the order of the day because it had to be in-keeping with the “feel” of the Ashby.

This despite the fact that within a mile there is normal armco piling and, of course, the vast majority of this oak is being covered by dredgings and is destined never to be seen!

Even now, in numerous places along the Ashby, one can see the results of using wooden beams for piling edging. Over time, it gets knocked, bashed and ends up damaged or breaking off completely.

Boaters may find it difficult to work out what to be more annoyed about: the apparent pandering of C&RT to hire boat companies, new towpath moorings that will be unavailable to licence paying private boaters, or the huge waste of money and resources in oak.

I also learned of recent works in the SSSI area of the Ashby which were to erect a plastic barrier on the offside bank to protect a “valuable weed”.

Knocking in the poles which the plastic sheeting attached to necessitated the use of a boat with legs. These legs, unavoidably, had to be deployed right on top of the weed, thus crushing it.

Photos: (1st) Bank improvements use lots of oak opposite the hire boat yard, (2nd) The oak is then buried under dredgings, (3rd) Straightening the towpath means less canal width.

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