The Floater March 2017

Two sides of bridges

March 2017 - Boaters tend to see bridge repairs as a hindrance to their passage – especially when they are long term and block the waterway at peak times, like the current stoppage on the Bridgewater Canal and another on the BCN's Wyrley and Essington Canal – but a bridge is a two-way structure, writes Peter Underwood.

Bridges are vital to road and rail traffic and the upside is that means they are sometimes someone else's responsibility and repairs don't have to come out of the navigation authority's resources.

Charity makes strange bedfellows

March 2017 - Rich benefactors are often welcomed with open arms by charities and the Canal & River Trust is no exception – but bringing in cash for a good cause can mean getting into bed with some strange bedfellows, as Peter Underwood reports.

EA inaction takes boaters back to 1950s protests

March 2017 - It seems boaters on Environment Agency waters in Eastern England are having to go back the campaigning cruises of the 1950s in an attempt to shame the Agency into keeping navigations navigable, Peter Underwood reports.

The latest is an attempt to navigate the Old Bedford River by boaters from Project Hereward – although it is not the first.

These Idle Women are not so idle

March 2017 - This year marks the 75th anniversary of start of the Women’s Training Scheme, the wartime attempt to keep the boats at work despite a shortage of crews. Later nicknamed The Idle Women they undertook six weeks training and then worked in teams of three with a pair of boats and 50 tons of cargo.

Now, 21st century ‘Idle Women’ – former Worcestershire Poet Laureate Heather Wastie and writer/performer Kate Saffin - will be recreating their journey, from London to Birmingham and back to London via the Coventry coal fields.

When is a new Towpath Trail really an old one?

March 2017 - The newly appointed spin doctor to the Lancaster Canal Partnership has been earning her £250 per day fees with newspaper and TV stories about what is claimed to be a new 'Towpath Trail' but all is not as it seems, as the Floater has discovered.

The press release boasts:


“Cumbria’s forgotten canal is to be rediscovered with the construction of a new £184,000 towpath trail from Kendal to Natland, thanks to members of the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership.

Questions C&RT have yet to answer

March 2017 - By Peter Underwood

Towards the end of last year's boating 'season' the way in which Brentford lock – the exit from C&RT waters onto the tidal Thames – is operated came into question, according to one concerned boater.

Three incidents of inaccurate or incomplete information being provided and delays being caused that shortened the time available to transit the tidal Thames were reported to the Trust.

Tea shops, trains and training

March 2017 - By Peter Underwood

At least once a month we like to pay tribute to the work of the Canal & River Trust's press office and pass on to Floater readers the things the Trust would like you to know.

Some good news from the Caldon

A former canal wharf at Froghall Basin on the Caldon Canal in Staffordshire is being brought back to life, thanks to Café owner Emma Atkinson, who saw the potential of converting the attractive heritage building into a café and gift shop, with holiday accommodation for rent upstairs.

Has jealousy led to plots on the Lanky?

March 2017 - Peter Underwood looks at some unpleasant rumours surfacing in Lancashire.

Could it be true that the new, C&RT certified, officers of a certain NW canal charity are so fed up with their inactivity being shown up by an upstart new organisation that they are actively seeking an excuse to bring legal action against the livewire who is making them look like lightweights?

Bye Bye Milton Keynes ... Hello Birmingham?

March 2017 - Allan Richards has been examining some recent developments within the Canal & River Trust's senior management and the changes have led him to ask whether C&RT will move its HQ to Birmingham?

With C&RT's predecessor, British Waterways, moving its head office from Watford in London to Milton Keynes just a few years ago, could there now be a second move - from Milton Keynes to centre of the canal network - Birmingham.

Head of Boating search stalled?

March 2017 - By Peter Underwood

It seems the hunt for a replacement Head of Boating for the Canal & River Trust – following the surprise departure of Mike Grimes – scheduled for this Easter – may not be going as smoothly as hoped, reports Peter Underwood

The Trust has just announced it has appointed North East waterway manager Jon Horsfall as the charity’s interim head of boating.

He will start an immediate handover with Mike Grimes who leaves at Easter.

Why do we have part time canals?

March 2017 - Peter Underwood has been looking at a canal which is being blocked at both ends by C&RT's insistence on winter closures.

Few canals have had as much spent on them as the 200 year old Leeds and Liverpool with major urban developments at either end involving millions of pounds in public and private money.

Mooring charges linked to property prices

March 2017 - Peter Underwood looks at the way mooring fees are being increased by the Canal & River Trust – it now seems land-based property prices are being used as an excuse to hike charges.

In the past British Waterways would compare prices amongst marinas and other moorings providers before setting the price on one of its mooring sites.

Even when the controversial auction system was introduced, prices would often fall after the initial three contract as the standard price per metre for that mooring site – rather than a boater's auction bid – would come into effect.

Too many chiefs at C&RT?

March 2017 - Allan Richards has been taking a look at the management costs of the National Trust and the Canal & River Trust and the ever-expanding top management of C&RT gives rise to some serious questions

Leaving aside its 11 trustees, why does Canal & River Trust (C&RT) have nine highly paid executive directors? In 2012, it only had six.

Now it has three more but it is difficult to see what has changed that increases the need for executive directors with remuneration packages ranging from over £100,000 to more than £200,000.

Mugs Afloat trade from a D'riculous boat

March 2017 - By Peter Underwood

The Floater takes another of its monthly looks at canal traders – people creating businesses on our canals and rivers. Their numbers are increasing almost daily and the chances are you will see a floating market or a sole trader on the canal at most times of the year. As Peter Underwood reports, our latest traders combine design with a determination to live a different lifestyle.

Explorer cruise of highest, deepest, longest tunnel

March 2017 - By Peter Underwood

There is no shortage of boaters who fancy stretching their boundaries and tackling the many locks leading to and from the Standedge Tunnel – but are a little nervous of the sheer amount of work and the unknown.

More gassing about the gasworks

March 2017 - By Peter Underwood

Moorings on the offside at Corbridge Crescent in East London have become the subject of a bit of a slanging match between some of the National Bargee Travellers Association and the boater wanting to develop them as a permanent mooring site, Peter Underwood writes.

Boaters protest East End gentrification

March 2017 - By Peter Underwood

The National Bargee Travellers Association is keeping up the pressure on the Canal & River Trust on several fronts – and the latest is what they see as the gentrification of the canals in London. Peter Underwood has tidied up the press release.

The area in question are former public moorings on an historic wharf right next to the gas works (Corbridge Crescent) in Tower Hamlets that are set to be made into private leisure moorings as part of “regeneration” of the area.

Boater's Appeal Court victory on Human Rights

March 2017 - Peter Underwood looks at an unprecedented Appeal Court victory which says the human rights of boaters must be taken into account by C&RT.

An Appeal Court decision may put the brakes on the Canal & River Trust's attempts to make life increasingly difficult for continuously cruising live-aboard boaters.

How C&RT lost in the Appeal Court

March 2017 - Allan Richards looks at how C&RT ended up with an Appeal Court decision that questions its approach to Continuous cruisers.

Three Law Lords have upheld an appeal by boater Mathew Jones in a Section 8 case. Lord Justice Jackson, Lord Justice McCombe and Lord Justice Sales found that a County Court Judge was wrong in striking out a number of paragraphs in Mr Jones defence based on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR).

Contractors endanger our future say boaters

March 2017 - Peter Underwood looks at boaters' reaction to the massive contracts handed out by the Canal & River Trust at the start of the year.

It seems boaters are not as fond of contractors working on our waterways as the Canal & River Trust. Nearly nine out of ten think contractors are a threat to the future of the waterways.

Boaters tell C&RT to think again on tunnel plan

March 2017 - Peter Underwood has been looking at boaters' response to C&RT plans to narrow a Birmingham canal tunnel to make more space on the towpath.

There has been an overwhelming rejection by boaters of plans to narrow the canal through Birmingham's Edgbaston tunnel in order to widen the towpath for cyclists and pedestrians.

When in trouble - hire a spin doctor

March 2017 - Peter Underwood has been looking at the 'cunning plan' of C&RT in the North West to get out of the swamp of failure it has created on the Lancaster Canal and its abandoned Northern Reaches.

The Canal & River Trust has finally decided to do something about its squabbling with the Lancaster Canal Trust – which has effectively neutered the organisation - and the failure of the Lancaster Canal Regeneration Partnership to do anything effective about restoring the Northern Reaches.

The 'Friends' numbers just keep changing

March 2017 - Allan Richards has kept tabs on the many and various claims made by C&RT for the numbers of paying 'Friends' recruited for some years – and it seems there is still a glaring disparity as it attempts to cloak its failures.

C&RT has told its trustees that that it will not meet this year’s revised target of 22,500 ‘Friends’ by the end of March (Still not enough ‘Friends’ income for C&RT).

Lobbying isn't always done in public

March 2017 - Allan Richards has been looking at some of the less publicised corners of the charity lobbying business.

The dark art of political lobbying is probably regarded as a necessity by major charities but it is not so much the public contacts with politicians as the murky, behind-the-scenes contacts that are fascinating.

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