Chris Howes - Volunteer of the Month

Created on 12/09/2017

Our volunteer of the month has recently been nominated to become IWA Eastern Region chairman. Find out what Chris is looking forward to about the role, what award he won at this year's Festival of Water at Ilkeston and what Chris will be talking about at IWA AGM on the 30th September.

How did you first become interested in inland waterways?

Growing up in Oxfordshire by first the River Windrush, and later the River Cherwell, I’ve had a lifelong interest in, and enjoyment of, being on the water. I’ve rowed and canoed seemingly all my life, but have only comparatively recently graduated to a 10 ton boat with an engine.

How and when did you get involved in volunteering for IWA/WRG?

Although I have always been interested in the waterways and our industrial heritage, it hadn’t particularly occurred to me to join IWA until I was ‘persuaded’ by the indefatigable Helen Whitehouse at Crick. Judging by the number of people who avidly watch one locking, the seemingly ever increasing numbers of hire boats, and the many TV programmes on canals, that sympathy to the waterways is widely held, our challenge must be to convert it to IWA membership.

What do you do as an IWA/WRG volunteer?

I am the Peterborough Branch Chairman, and will shortly become Eastern Region Chairman. In addition to the many meetings these require me to attend, I also participate in Branch work parties on the Horseway Arm, and campaign cruises. I try to wear IWA branded clothing when I’m boating and act as an ambassador for IWA, particularly when I’m locking with other boats.

Congratulations on your recent nomination to become IWA Eastern Region Chairman. What are you most looking forward to about this role?

I’m interested in unlocking the current seeming impasse over Welches Dam. It’s not as if the E.A. are being asked to reach into their pockets and spend money. All Project Hereward is currently asking for is permission to send engineers into the lock to assess it. Unfortunately the E.A. appear to have been prevaricating over this simple request for something in the region of 2 years!

I’m also very inspired by the vision that was offered by the Fens Waterway Link Project. Although this has stalled, I wonder if it can’t be restarted, perhaps on a smaller and more achievable scale.

What motivates you to keep up the hard work involved in volunteering?

When I consider the truly awe inspiring achievements of the founders of IWA, Rolt, Aickman, Hadfield and many others, I feel that we are “standing on the shoulders of giants”. I’m happy if I can contribute in the smallest part to that remarkable inheritance.

2018 will bring a Summer of festivals on EA waterways, including the Peterborough Cathedral 800 years Anniversary, IWA Festival of Water in St Neots, Bedford River Festival and Nene Valley Festival. Do you think that more boaters will be attracted to the area to take part in this season of festivals?

I hope so! There will be no better opportunity to enjoy our Eastern waterways and I hope that the navigation authorities (E.A. and Middle Level Commissioners) and the local authorities, IWA branches and local businesses will all work together to reward boaters for making the effort to come and visit us!

Congratulations on winning the AP Herbert Trophy at Ilkeston Festival of Water for the longest journey. Where did your journey take you?

My wife has already written an article with some of the details of our epic odyssey, impacted both by me getting knocked off my bicycle, and the arrival of our first grandchild. Our 930 mile, 610 lock trophy journey from 1st May to Ilkeston comprised:-

  • 1 sea trip - across the Wash
  • 5 tidal river sections - the Nene, Ouse, Severn, Trent and Witham
  • 10 non tidal rivers- the Aire, Avon, Calder, Don, Nene, Ouse, Severn, Soar, Trent and Witham
  • 7 narrow canals - Birmingham & Fazely, Chesterfield, Coventry, Llangollen, Montgomery, Staffs & Worcester, Stratford on Avon,
  • 11 wide canals - Aire & Calder, Bridgewater, Calder & Hebble, Fossdyke, Gloucester & Sharpness, Grand Union, Ripon, Rochdale, Selby, South Yorkshire Navigation and Stainforth & Keaby,
  • 2 canals which are variously narrow and wide - the Trent & Mersey, and Shropshire Union,

If we also add our travelling before 1st May, and our trip back to the Middle Levels after IWA Festival of Water our complete trip totalled 745 locks and 1,200 miles.

In your opinion, what are the most concerning issues created by underfunding of EA waterways?

Loss of navigation! It was recently suggested to me that the E.A. is 15 businesses all rolled into one confusing and conflicting mess. Often it appears that the right hand has no idea what the left’s up to. Lack of dredging, the short sighted sale of assets (selling off the family silver?), lack of forward planning, uneven distribution of resources, all of these ‘muddy the waters’.

You are a speaker at this year’s IWA AGM.  What will you be talking about on 30th September?

The work of IWA Peterborough branch in relation to campaigning and lobbying work in connection with Welches Dam and the Old Bedford River, showing how IWA achieves locally as well as nationally.

Inspired? Find out how you can get involved as a volunteer with IWA.

Photo-top: Welches Dam Lock showing piling and photo by Mike Daines and photo of Chris Howes on his boat.

Tags: Volunteer of the Month, IWA Campaigns, Boating