Navigational issues on EA waterways

With finances constrained, routine maintenance has inevitably been compromised on some EA waterways. What does this mean for boaters?  Inconvenience, delays, obstruction and, in some cases, serious danger.

Here’s a round-up of just a few of the problems being faced.

Lack of vegetation management

Budget cuts have meant a reduction in the amount of vegetation management being carried out by the EA on its river navigations in recent years. On some stretches this has seen overhanging trees encroach on the navigation channel causing dangerous conditions for boats, particularly taking into account the fast flows found on river navigations, with crew or belongings in danger of being knocked into the water.  IWA is aware of reports of overgrown vegetation creating a hazard to navgiation on the upper Thames, the Nene and the Great Ouse and its tributaries.  

Problems are encountered when meeting boats travelling in the opposite direction, as there is often not enough room for two craft of any reasonable size to pass without one or both ending up tangled in the overhanging branches.

Photo: Trying to negotiate islands above Bedford on the Great Ouse.

In addition, there are many places where fallen trees have not been removed and have continued to grow. This has reduced the width of available channel for boats and will ultimately make the task of removing these trees signifi cantly more difficult and expensive than if they had been dealt with in the first place.  

Lack of dredging

Over the last couple of years the EA’s constrained maintenance budget has necessitated that it marks areas that need dredging with buoys. In many places there is no signage, and it is often not obvious which side of a buoy the deep water is. This has led to boats getting grounded and being unable to continue their journey until they are towed off or the river level rises.  There are examples of this on the River Great Ouse, the River Nene and the River Thames.  

Photo: Buoys, like these seen on the Thames, should not be an alternative to dredging.

Poor communication

At the moment it is difficult for the EA to get navigation information for boaters added to the government website in a timely way. IWA believes that, under CRT management, boaters would find improvements in the information they receive, certainly in terms of closures and restrictions.

Lack of visitor moorings and boaters' facilities

The lack of visitor moorings is causing problems on the River Nene.  Several EA visitor moorings are unavailable, overgrown or non-existent, for example at Dog in a Doublet Lock, at Titchmarsh Lock where the lock landing is closed and boaters are having to use the visitor mooring instead, and at Wansford where a former EA visitor mooring is simply non-existent.

The Friends of the River Nene have started to address this lack of visitor moorings by making arrangements for, and setting up and maintaining, new mooring sites, but this doesn’t reduce the requirement for the EA to maintain its existing visitor moorings. In the meantime, the lack of mooring provision can deter many people from visiting the river but IWA would encourage boaters to visit in order to support the demand for EA to provide additional visitor moorings.  

Lack of boaters' facilities is also a major issue, on EA's Anglian Waterways in particular, and IWA is campaigning for improvements - both in the facilities that already exist, and in provision of new facilities where there are long cruising times between existing facilities.