It's not just about navigation – is it?

August 2017 - Boaters have a view of the Canal & River Trust shaped by using its waterways but the Trust itself is bent on promoting itself on a much wider basis and spends lots of money and effort in portraying itself as much more than a navigation authority. Peter Underwood has been going through the press releases to get a view of how C&RT wants to be seen.

Next weekend is Manchester Pride and C&RT is 'transforming a series of historic lock gates and a bridge crossing over the Rochdale Canal into rainbow colours' - to celebrate.

The Rochdale Canal is one of the main focal points of Manchester’s gay village and brightly coloured banners will temporarily transform a 200-year-old bridge over the waterway into a 3D rainbow, along with the lock balance beams.

The Trust will also host a 'unique performance' on a floating pontoon situated on the canal at Canal Street as part of the festivities, as well as taking part in the procession.

Gillian Renshaw, C&RT's development and engagement manager said: "Not many people realise the canals are managed by a charity which is why we wanted to further embrace the location and relationship of the canal with Manchester’s gay village. What better way to show this by transforming our locks and bridge where our live acts stage will be into rainbow colours to celebrate this amazing event!

"This is a wonderful and significant event to be involved in, but we do of course want everyone to take pride in our wonderful canals all year round!

"We’ll also be joining in the procession, look out for Vinnie our Water Vole who will lead us all with pride through the streets of Manchester. We hope everyone has a fantastic time, but please stay safe near the water."

Meanwhile in the East Midlands C&RT's Canal Partnership organisation has come up with a competition to find the area's 'best waterside pub, café or restaurant'.

It wants the public to nominate their favourite spot for a beer, a butty or a fine dining experience by the water.

The grandly named Waterside Hospitality Awards 'celebrate the huge variety of waterside venues across the East Midlands, from lockside tea rooms, to city centre restaurants and even floating pubs', according to C&RT.

Ian on the Village Butty - as a London based boat it won't be eligible for the East Midlands award.
Members of the public are being asked for their views on the quality of food, drink and service offered by venues and how they make the most of their waterside setting.

The awards are divided into two types of venue, cafes and pubs/restaurants, with three awards in each category: food and drink; service and value; and waterside setting. The winners of each, and the overall winners, will be announced at a ceremony in November.

Danny Brennan, chair of the Canal & River Trust’s East Midlands Waterway Partnership, said; “The East Midlands boasts some wonderful waterside eateries but we want to find the best of the best and celebrate what makes them so special.

“They also help to attract people to the waterways, whether for a stroll, as part of a day’s fishing, a stop-off during a bike ride or just some fresh air and fresh perspective. That’s really important to us as a charity. The more that people visit, the more they’ll value their local canal or river and maybe want to help the Trust to protect its wildlife and character for future generations.”

And in Oxford an art project aimed at 'complementing the corridor of colour along the historic Oxford Canal' as C&RT puts it, has been extended to 'further help tackle the problem of graffiti along the waterway'.

Encouraged by the Trust, residents, the Friends of the Trap Grounds, and local artists Dan Wilson, Tom Webb and Richard Wilson, have designed and painted murals in the arches of Frenchay Road Bridge.

The murals took three days to complete and were designed by the community to depict the wide variety of animals, plants and insects that live along the canal.

The project has been funded with money from residents, and leftover money from a previous Tesco’s Bags for Help project which originally donated £8,000 towards the first phase of the project.

Emily Nicholas, another C&RT development and engagement manager, said: "These murals have made a huge difference to the canal in Oxford and have really brightened an area which has suffered from graffiti.

"As a charity, we work with local people and community groups to help us improve the canals and projects such as this one really do make a difference to the thousands of people who visit and use our towpaths every day."

Tom Cox, project organiser said: "The murals have had a big impact along the canal, they have brightened up two bridges but also galvanized the communities that live along the canal and wider communities that use the canal corridor. Local people have raised money, volunteered time and contributed in many different ways to make the murals a success. Everyone feels really proud of what has been achieved and really keen to do more to improve the area.”

Back up north C&RT organised an Open Day at Apperley Bridge, on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, enabling visitors to see behind-the-scenes at the historic site, comprising a smithy and workshops.

The heritage buildings are still used by C&RT for maintenance work and visitors were able to see 'demonstrations of the skills needed to keep the 200 year old canal network in good working order'.

The open day was also used to recruit volunteers and 'Friends' and Tony Entwistle from the Trust said: "This Open Day is a great opportunity to come along to see skilled blacksmiths work the forge and watch modern tradesmen using traditional skills to make items that the canal still needs today."

Warehouses at Apperley Bridge date back to the early 1800s when they held merchandise that was transported along the 127 miles of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

The same weekend saw the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal host a national environmental - Plastic Patrol – using paddleboards.

The programme is being led by adventurer and environmentalist Lizzie Carr - aka Lizzie Outside ( who recently became the first female in history to solo paddle board across the English Channel.

Last year, Lizzie was also the first person to paddle board the 400-mile length of England’s inland waterways solo and unsupported to highlight the problem of plastic pollution through her nationwide initiative – Plastic Patrol.

C&RT is hosting the project at eight clean-up events across the canal network and Lizzie Carr said: "Plastic pollution is the single biggest environmental catastrophe affecting our planet today. And the worst part, we’re responsible. Plastic is an entirely man-made material so every single piece you see littering the planet is a direct result of our actions.

“ I found that a lot of the plastic I came across was caught up in reeds away from the towpath so getting on the water and cleaning up by paddle board means accessing pockets of the waterways that might otherwise remain untouched.

Chantelle Seaborn, North West waterway manager said: "Rubbish in our waterways is a real issue and costs the Trust approximately £1 million per year."

So, sunny August for C&RT has had very little to do with boats and a lot to do with the wider public and hitching the Trust's bandwagon to any cause or event going. Many would argue that is exactly what it should be doing – others might think that the energy, money and effort could be better spent on the navigation.

Photos: (1st) Manchester Pride on the Rochdale Canal in Manchester, (2nd) Ian on the Village Butty - as a London based boat it won't be eligible for the East Midlands award, (3rd) Canal Art on the Oxford, (4th) Apperley Bridge in the past, (5th) Modern blacksmith at work, (6th) Paddle boarding for fun and fitness.

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