With Easter already passed, let us all hope that there will be an improvement in our weather and we can look forward to a proper summer.
We held our annual Users Meeting at Langford at the end of January and this was well attended and several interesting and useful comments resulted from this.
The unusually wet weather has delayed our improvement work programme especially with progress on the proposed new toilet facilities at the North Bank moorings at Paper Mill and at Sandford, as the waterlogged ground conditions have prevented the deep excavations necessary. Work will be delayed until conditions improve.
The recent months have seen us undertaking extensive willow planting with over 2000 trees planted. The cropping of trees last year was greater than planned due to the need to remove trees infected with watermark disease. Replacement of these is not only a requirement of the felling licences, but necessary to ensure that future income from willow growing is maintained. Willow trees are also an important part of the character of the river valley.
Visiting volunteer groups from both Essex Waterway Recovery Group and London Waterway Recovery Group have spent weekends clearing excessive vegetation from the tow path between Heybridge Basin and Wave Bridge and the work was completed by a week-long volunteer WRG Canal Camp during February. This section of tow path, which is a public bridleway, is now being informally surfaced by Essex County Council.
We are planning a busy year of lock repairs along the Navigation and these will involve closures of some locks to navigation. The programme aims to avoid the summer months and is outlined below. It may be subject to change if work is affected by excessive river flow conditions:
2nd April – 30th April. Barnes Lock, replacement of cills. Closure of the lock from 8th April for 2 to 3 weeks
7th May – 24th May. Hoe Mill Lock, bank piling above the lock; no closure planned but lock access may be restricted at times
27th August – 20th September, Little Baddow Lock for repair of cills. Closure of lock from 9th to 20th September
23rd September -25th October, Paper Mill Lock for repair of cills. Closure for 2 to 3 weeks during this time
4th November – 23rd December, Hoe Mill Lock, replacement of bottom gates
Whilst it might be preferable from a boaters’ viewpoint for all these works to be undertaken during the winter, we know from past experience that higher river flows would almost certainly lead to delays, and the shorter daylight hours and poorer working conditions would also mean the work taking longer and being more expensive.
We are also planning to undertake some major bank repairs below Paper Mill Lock later this year, where water from the weir has been undermining the towpath. The volume of water and strength of flow at this point is sufficiently great that some very substantial piling is need that will require work by specialist contractors. We expect to avoid any interruption to Navigation, but it is likely that the boaters’ car park at Paper Mill will need to be closed for short periods, and there will be a diversion of the towpath.
We apologise for any inconvenience that any of these works may cause to you, but please be assured that we will endeavour to keep disruption to a minimum.
Heybridge visitor moorings
The recently provided overnight visitor moorings for craft from above Hall Bridge are located just below the Basin Pleasure Boats kiosk adjoining the Daisy Meadow car park. We plan to install a water point at these moorings soon, and this will require the use of your standard EWL car park key for use. This facility will also allow boats on the upper moorings at Heybridge to take on water and dispose of refuse without having to enter the Basin.
Residential Caretaker opportunity
From time to time, there are opportunities for residential caretaker positions on the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation. There is currently a vacancy at Heybridge Basin at the upstream end of the moorings, away from the facilities.
Residential Caretaker positions come with a residential mooring (with local authority planning permission) at various locations along the Navigation. The incumbent is charged the residential mooring rate (1.5 x normal mooring rate) for the mooring, (dependent on boat length) and then provides a minimum of 8 hours per week undertaking maintenance and security duties at the mooring area for which they receive a modest salary. For more information please see Essex Waterways website pages.
or contact Graham Brown, Navigation Manager.
Boat Safety - warning
We have been asked to draw your attention to the following report by a Boat Safety Examiner working locally. When visiting a boat to carry out a Boat Safety Inspection on behalf of a new owner, the Examiner realised that he had previously carried out an inspection on the same vessel. However, the boat failed the new inspection because electricity cables were in close proximity to a gas pipe, the gas cylinder was loosely positioned in a locker together with other components including the petrol tank, there was unsecured gas pipe work, insufficient cabin ventilation and no labelling for the emergency gas valve. All of these are potentially serious faults which could result in fatalities.
The new owner reported that there was a BSS certificate when he bought the boat, but it had not been passed on to him. After further research, the Examiner found that the boat had changed ownership and name several times, but when it was last inspected, the examination recorded no engine and no gas system. The Examiner therefore reports that clearly some owners are wilfully evading the safety regulations by removing dangerous equipment and simply reinstalling it after the BSS examination. The sad fact is that they are fooling nobody but themselves, as Examiners keep all records of equipment found and this will be presented if the boat owner manages to kill themselves or someone else as a consequence of safety failings on the vessel. Even if the boat has changed hands, they would still likely be implicated in a manslaughter charge.
Boat Safety Scheme - changes
The Boat Safety Scheme recording process has now moved to a central online database with direct input from Boat Safety Examiners. After a successful boat examination, the owner will get a copy of a new, receipt-style certificate, called a BSS Examination Report, to keep for their own records. The change has been made possible because most navigation authorities, including Essex Waterways, now have access to the BSS central database where they can check your boat’s certification and expiry date.
The change allows BSS Examiners to provide directly the new-look certificates either as electronic files, or printed on plain paper in black ink. The new-look certificate, or BSS Examination Report, may include any failure notifications and advisory information, combined in one multi-page document. Existing BSS certificates will continue to remain valid until reaching expiry date. Boat owners should continue to pass on the BSS certification information from their boat file to the new owner if the boat is sold. BSS examination data is already held on a central database and authorised BSS Examiners have been inputting to this for over two years. It holds only examination and boat data, no owner or personal information is included. A guide to the new-look certificate is available on the BSS website.
Essex Waterways’ requirements for all boats navigating above Hall Bridge, Heybridge to hold a Boat Safety Certificate remains unchanged; all such vessels will be checked against the BSS database and we reserve the right to charge an administration fee if owners fail to maintain a current BSS certificate for any vessel upstream of Hall Bridge.
Consultation on Updated Mooring Contracts
We have drafted a new moorings contract that we will be asking all boat owners to sign and return to us in the autumn. This is a longer, and more detailed document than at present, but the intent is to set out all boat owners’ and Essex Waterways’ obligations and duties to each other in a single clear way, rather than the present short document and range of notices, application forms and byelaw provisions – some of which many boaters may have forgotten about or not be aware of. The new moorings contract is designed to last for five years, and we intend to review it every five years to ensure it keeps up to date with best practice and any legal updates. Most of the provisions in the new contract will already be familiar to boat owners and represent common sense arrangements to avoid upset with other boaters and waterway users. The new document is not intended to herald any change in our arrangements for the moorings – it is simply an attempt to set things out more clearly so that everyone knows where they stand. A copy of the draft new contract is enclosed with this newsletter, and we would be pleased to receive any comments that you may have by 30th June; please send them to Christine Walsh, moorings administrator, at Head Office in Chesham, or via Graham Brown, Navigation Manager or Hugh Turner, Moorings Manager, at the Paper Mill office.
Introductory Free IWA membership Offer
It is still possible to receive an introductory years’ free membership of The Inland Waterways Association, our parent organisation, and you are encouraged to support IWA and its local branches with work carried out nationally in the interests of our waterway heritage. This offer only applies to new members and more information can be found about IWA and the offer in the enclosed leaflet.
See also www.waterways.org.uk for more about IWA.
IWA Chelmsford Social Meetings
You are all welcome to attend these meetings which are held at Moulsham Mill, Parkway, Chelmsford, (next to Tesco Home Store and the Army & Navy roundabout), and timed at 7.45pm for an 8.00pm start. The forthcoming programme is:
11th April: C. Barltrop – A live-aboard-view of the Olympics and Exclusion Zone
9th May: Tim Coghlan – The Braunston Historic Narrow boat Rally
Navigation Manager, Graham Brown 07966 375351
Mooring and Fisheries Manager, Hugh Turner 07910 558465
Essex Waterways Helmsman School, Hugh Turner 07910 558465
Heybridge Lock Keeper, Martin Maudsley, 07712 079764/ VHF Channel 80 ‘Heybridge Lock’