The storms and flooding that hit the UK over the Christmas and New Year holidays have had a significant impact on some waterways, particularly in the South East. Waterways affected include the Wey & Godalming Navigations (Surrey), Basingstoke Canal (Surrey and Hampshire), River Medway(Kent), the Thames and even IWA’s own Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation. Many river navigations further north have also been impassable at times, including the Severn, Nene, Great Ouse, Aire & Calder, Trent, Calder & Hebble and Yorkshire Ouse.
The Environment Agency has issued Strong Stream Advice warnings along the whole Thames between Cricklade and Teddington for much of the time. A Strong Stream Advice warning is issued to advise users of all boats not to navigate because the strong flows make it difficult and dangerous.
There have been fallen trees blocking rivers, canals and towpaths around the network. For example, 45 fallen trees fell along the Basingstoke Canal over the Christmas holidays and the Canal Authority has held water levels low to try to manage the water as safely as possible.
Probably worst hit has been the River Wey, where boats were sunk and the towpath has been closed in many areas including Guildford where there is some concern the whole bank and towpath could collapse into this deep section of the river.
IWA's Essex Waterways Ltd which manages the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation has been working hard to keep the navigation and towpath open and safe, by clearing fallen trees, removing debris from the river and keeping property and access secure. Earlier in December, the flood tide saw the Navigation Manager and Heybridge Caretakers evacuating residential boats and visitors at Heybridge Basin overnight as part of a major evacuation around the Heybridge area.
Photo: Flooding at Thames Lock River Wey, 26th December 2013, courtesy of NT River Wey Navigations and Shalford Mill Facebook page.
Elizabeth Jane Howard, the novelist who died on 2nd January aged 90, was lesser known in public life for her role in the inland waterways, but which was significant during IWA’s formative years.
Elizabeth Jane Howard was the Association’s first employee, commencing duties shortly after the Association was formed in 1946, working in a secretarial role to Robert Aickman (who effectively ran the Association in its early years). Initially this was for two mornings a week at a nominal sum, but soon extended to ‘several days’ a week for the grand sum of £2 and 10 shillings. Elizabeth Jane Howard (she was generally known just as ‘Jane’ within early IWA circles) was introduced to Aickman through Peter Scott. Scott, son of the Antarctic explorer, and later to become the famous naturalist, was a close friend of Aickman, and Peter Scott had met Jane when they were both at drama school during the war (Scott being on sick leave from his Royal Navy duties), and they swiftly married – Jane aged just 19 and Scott 16 years her senior. Their marriage lasted only 3 years, until Jane walked out on Scott abandoning their baby daughter.
In the Association’s early years, IWA’s office was Robert Aickman’s home, and Jane soon became a permanent fixture there. Her romantic involvement with Aickman became a cause of tension within the Association, but Scott and Aickman remained on good terms. Aickman’s wife, Ray, accepted the situation as her marriage to Aickman was more a business relationship, but she once famously said that she did draw the line at having to take them breakfast in bed. Aickman and Jane produced the Association’s early Bulletins; Aickman dictated the text as Jane typed direct on to stencils for duplicating. In 1948, Jane accompanied Aickman on his six-week tour of the northern waterways, on the boat Ailsa Craig, including the famous passage of Standedge Tunnel, with other key IWA figures joining them for parts of the trip.
Jane resigned from IWA’s employment in 1950 to concentrate on her writing career, but joined the Association’s Council shortly afterwards, and was a key figure at the 1950 Market Harborough Rally of Boats and Festival, directing one of the plays put on at the event. Although Aickman and Jane wrote a collection of short ghost stories for commercial publication together, their relationship waned. Her eventual break-up with Aickman was traumatic and led to estrangement with mutual friends and Jane left the waterways scene, but she met Aickman again in a reconciliatory meeting during his long illness from cancer in 1980, shortly before his death in 1981 and gave a reading at his funeral.
Photo: Elizabeth Jane Howard
IWA's Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) handed over an early Christmas present for Buckingham Canal Society in the shape of WRG’s much-loved former JCB 803 excavator.
Known as ‘Blue’ the machine was purchased for WRG following an appeal to celebrate IWA's 50th anniversary in 1996.
When new, the machine was formally handed over to WRG at the World Canal Conference at Birmingham in 1996, by the then Waterways Minister Robert Jones MP. Over the past 17 years the excavator has given sterling service to WRG and a range of waterway restoration groups around the country, to whom it has been loaned.
Although ‘Blue’ is still going strong, it is beginning to show signs of age and WRG decided that its days of travelling around the country to different work sites should come to an end, and so WRG is looking to buy a new machine in 2014, largely utilising ‘restricted purpose funds’ that have given to IWA for Waterway Recovery Group work.
Expressions of interest for ‘Blue’ were sought from waterway restoration groups around the country and Buckingham Canal Society put in a particularly good case for taking on the machine.
WRG has now donated the machine, with the Society just paying transportation costs for delivery.
The JCB excavator will now hopefully enjoy many years of productive retirement helping Buckingham Canal Society restore the Buckingham Arm of the Grand Union Canal. Currently it is being stored with the kind support of Cosgrove Marina prior to the restoration works the Society are expecting to undertake later in 2014.
Photo: WRG Excavator "Blue"
IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch and Chester Canal Heritage Trust have been lobbying Canal & River Trust to ensure the retention of good slipway access for trail boats on to the Shropshire Union Canalin Chester. There is an existing slipway at Chester Basin, but this has been deemed unsafe to use due to a large masonry block which projects over the ramp at water level, and restricts the width (see photo above). CRT has agreed to retain the slipway for eventual restoration but a proposed large student hostel could block access to it should the planning application be approved.
There are proposals for a new 2.7 metre slipway as part of the Tower Wharf redevelopment. This is narrower than IWA's recommended width (3.5 metres - See the IWA engineers' slipway drawing) due to the position of a storm drain. The width and location of the new slipway is under discussion.
The developers have accepted CRT's insistence that should access to the existing slipway be blocked, then slipway access for boat launching into the basin must be maintained, and if the existing one is to be obstructed then a new one must be constructed. This is particularly important for trail boaters, as the next nearest slipway at Christleton is due to be filled-in as the site has been sold for a housing development that has been approved.
Photo: Existing slipway at Chester Basin
Booking forms for the 2014 IWA National Trailboat Festival at the Grand Western Canal Country Park are now available. The festival will take place over the late May Bank Holiday weekend, 24th to 26th May in 2014. There will be a big public festival day held at the Mid-Devon Showground on Saturday 24th May, with a range of live music, performers and entertainments, all with a birthday party theme to celebrate the Canal’s bicentenary year. This year the event is being organised and run for IWA by Devon County Council's ranger service.
Download the trailboat entry form (PDF, 103.5KB).
Camping entry forms will be available from the end of January 2014.
IWA is looking for nominations for its annual National Awards.
Nominations are invited from members, branches and regions and should be emailed to email@example.com by 31st March 2014. Nominations should state which award is appropriate and how the nominee's contribution relates to the award criteria.
The names and contact details of the nominator and nominee should also be provided.
The award categories are as follows:
Award nominations will be considered by an Awards Panel nominated by trustees, and recommendations made to trustees for final approval.
Find out more about each award and the winners from previous years.
Nominations for the post of Eastern and East Midlands Region Chairmen closed on 2nd January. Just one nomination for each post was received – for Richard Collet-Fenson and David Pullen respectively, and therefore in accordance with the provisions of the procedures set down by the trustees, they are duly elected as Eastern and East Midlands Region Chairmen respectively, and each a trustee of the Association. Because in both cases, there was no sitting region chairman, the appointments are with immediate effect. The full procedures are available to view on the IWA website.
IWA launched its annual calendar competition at the end of last year and would like to thank everyone who has submitted photos so far. Photos entered can be viewed in the calendar competition group on Flickr.
For those who have not yet entered the competition the closing date is 31st January 2014, so make sure you submit your photos soon. The winning entrants will receive three free copies of the IWA's 2015 calendar in which their photo will feature.
Entrants may submit up to twenty photos of UK waterways. Please include a brief description of the waterway location when uploading your photos.
Photos can be submitted by:
Find out more about the calendar competition.
We have a list of speakers on waterways subjects, for public meetings, listed on the website. You can browse by topic, speaker or location
If you would like your details to be added to our list of speakers please email firstname.lastname@example.org with details of your waterway topics, any fees, areas covered, whether you are willing to travel if expenses are covered and contact details.
The House of Commons Public Bill Committee met on the 5th December 2013 to discuss the Water Bill.
Canal & River Trust (CRT) had previously met with Dan Rogerson MP (the Waterways Minister) and Andrew Miller MP to raise concerns about Clause 12 of the Water Bill.
Clause 12 gives Ministers the power to make Regulations concerning the supply of water by a person other than an incumbent water company. It is designed to create a regulated market in which those with private water storage are empowered to sell water to the public supply, building resilience.
Following discussions with CRT, two amendments to the Bill were tabled to address these concerns. The first amendment was to make explicit on the face of the Bill that historic agreements are not within scope of the Regulations. This has the effect of ensuring that Ofwat does not have the potential power to vary or terminate an agreement made before the Regulations come into force, even with the consent of a party to the agreement. The second amendment stated that future Regulations under this clause may exclude specified descriptions of agreements, such as variations of historic agreements, from future regulations.
The effect of this is that CRT’s concerns over the potential loss of substantial income in the future from water sales appear to have been avoided.
Read the full Water Bill meeting minutes.
A rare barge has been craned out of the water, ahead of its planned conservation.
Mossdale is one of the last surviving all-wooden wide Mersey ‘flats’, a type of barge which was once a common sight across the North West with history dating back 150 years.
Volunteers and staff from Canal & River Trust’s National Waterways Museum will be carrying out conservation work, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, to save the historic vessel.
Mossdale would originally have been carrying cargoes such as iron, flour and grain along the Bridgewater Canal as far as Manchester and across the Mersey between Ellesmere Port and Liverpool.
Mossdale was built in circa 1863 of oak, elm and pitch pine. Originally named Ruby, she was renamed Mossdale when Abel & Sons of Runcorn, Cheshire, bought her in the 1930s. They extensively rebuilt and deepened her to obtain the maximum load for a minimum displacement.
The boat was donated to the National Waterways Museum by Peter Froud in the 1970s and has been cared for by staff and volunteers. In June 2012, a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid for £147,300 meant the Museum could start preparations for the conservation by lifting Mossdale from the water.
At one time, Mersey Flats were to be seen trading in their hundreds, not only on the Mersey but along the adjacent coastline, connecting canals and other inland waterways. Flats were the principal carriers, under sail alone, until supplemented and eventually taken over by steam power and finally the diesel engine. Over time, rail and then lorries took away their trade, and the vessel diminished; now just Mossdale and Oakdale survive as the only two remaining examples.
IWA has acquired the remaining stock of the definitive history of these unique vessels and their working days on the North West inland waterways. Written by the late Mike Stammers, formerly keeper of Merseyside Maritime Museum, this 216-page richly illustrated history, with both archive photos and drawings by Edward Paget-Tomlinson, was published in 1993 at £19.95. The hardback book, with attractive dustcover is available now for only £3.95 plus p&p. Buy Mersey Flats and Flatmen - Michael Stammers from IWAShop.com
Photo: Mossdale being craned out of the water
Due to reduced Grant in Aid (see December Bulletin) and, as a consequence, the Environment Agency’s decision to migrate from a three tier business, (National, Region and Area), to a two tier business (National and Area), the Agency has been looking at other ways to raise income for funding maintenance work on .
Recent improvements to licence enforcement have brought some additional income, but the Agency recognises that more could be done. One aspect is the status of boats within marinas alongside the river, where the recent Transport & Works Order clarified the requirement for a licence.
The Agency is checking that licences are in place for all accommodation structures. Any construction in or over the Thames is described as an ‘accommodation’, for which an annual fee is usually payable to the Agency from the owner. Investigations are underway to identify all non-paying ‘accommodations’, but progress to identify them has been slow.
New facilities along the river, such as lock-side tea houses, are being looked at as another means of income
This section contains volunteer reports from IWA branches and IWA's Waterway Recovery Group (WRG). IWA branch reports contain information from their latest work parties where volunteers have worked to help maintain their local canals. WRG reports on its canal camps and weekend digs to keep readers up to date with the restoration work they have been undertaking.
IWA Lichfield Branch logged more than 700 volunteer hours on the Trent & Mersey Canal in 2013, about double the hours of 2012. Over the year the Branch and volunteers renovated and widened the path from Wolseley Road, made improvements at Brindley Bank, began to restore the old tramway, restored the pathway at the bottom of the 'Bloody Steps', began work at the canal bank on St Augustine's Field, maintained and kept tidy the new visitor moorings at Brindley Bank, and two branch volunteers are now fully authorised to use CRT strimmers.
Plans for work to be carried out during 2014 are being developed and several jobs have already been identified. Old British Waterways signs need to be replaced, access at Leathermill Lane needs to be improved and work on the canal wall and towpath at Brindley Bank needs to be continued. The branch are hoping to start work parties again in February.
Have a look at the list of volunteer opportunities within local IWA committees. There is a full list of volunteer opportunities within IWA branches.
The following IWA region and branch magazines have been added to the website since the last edition of the Bulletin:
The following IWA region and branch magazines have been added in recent weeks:
Manchester Branch - Manchester Packet - December 2013
Major IWA events in 2014
Branch Boating Events in 2014
2nd - 5th May 2014 - Braunston Boat Gathering (IWA Northampton Branch)
4th - 6th July 2014 - Ware Boat Festival (IWA Lee & Stort Branch)
6th - 7th September 2014 - Maesbury Canal Festival (IWA Shrewsbury, District & North Wales Branch)
Have you got a waterway event or activity to promote? - Anyone can add details of a waterways event or activity to this area on the website. You don’t even need to register with the website or provide any sort of password. Simply use the upload event form.
9th January Hedge Planting Work Party - Cheddleton (IWA North Staffs & South Cheshire Branch)
11th - 12th January Work Party Weekend - Tardebigge Lime Kilns (supported by IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch)
16th January Work Party - Lapworth (supported by IWA Warwickshire Branch)
18th January Work Party - Lapworth (supported by IWA Warwickshire Branch)
18th January Work Party - Cheshire Locks (IWA North Staffs & South Cheshire Branch
21st January Work Party - Northampton (IWA Northampton Branch)
25th January Work Party - Hyde (IWA Manchester Branch)
1st February Work Party - Dee Branch, Chester (IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch)
1st - 2nd February Work Party Weekend - Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation (IWA Chelmsford Branch and Essex WRG)
3rd February Work Party - Hatton Locks (supported by IWA Warwickshire Branch)
5th February Work Party - Hatton Locks (supported by IWA Warwickshire Branch)
8th - 9th February Work Party Weekend - Tardebigge Lime Kilns (supported by IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch)
9th February Stoke-on-Trent Canal Clean-up (IWA North Staffs & South Cheshire Branch)
12th February Work Party - Kidderminster (IWA Birmingham, Black Country & Worcestershire Branch)
15th February Work Party - Lapworth (supported by IWA Warwickshire Branch)
18th February Work Party - Malkins Bank (IWA North Staffs & South Cheshire Branch)
20th February Work Party - Lapworth (supported by IWA Warwickshire Branch)
22nd February Work Party - Hyde (IWA Manchester Branch)
23rd February Work Party - Northampton (IWA Northampton Branch)
To advertise your restoration/cleanup events in the bulletin please add details to IWA's events calendar
19th January London Towpath Walk (IWA Towpath Walks Society)
23rd January Waterway Walk (IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch)
2nd February London Towpath Walk (IWA Towpath Walks Society)
16th February Walk - Napton Bridge (IWA Warwickshire Branch)
16th February London Towpath Walk (IWA Towpath Walks Society)
To advertise your towpath walks in the Bulletin, please add details to IWA's events calendar
The following special offers are now available exclusively for IWA members:
Please note: All discounts and offers are entirely at the organisers' discretion.
To see details of how to take advantage of these offers, please go to www.waterways.org.uk/support_us/members_area/member_discounts_special_offers_public
For IWA members who receive a printed copy of this bulletin in the post, please contact the membership team on 01494 783453 for the details of the offers.
Members can also support IWA with a Narrow Boat magazine subscription
IWA has an arrangement with insurers Navigators & General and River Canal Rescue that provides top quality boat insurance and access to the basic waterway rescue service for boat owners, with the added benefit that every policy taken out and subsequently renewed helps IWA, and thus furthers our charitable work for the waterways.
See more information about the IWA insurance scheme for boaters