The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the National Festival and Rally of Boats held at Market Harborough. A hundred boats attended the event that would soon become a major annual gathering and showcase for the IWA.
In April, Peter Scott set off aboard Beatrice on a combined campaign voyage and lecture tour for the Severn Wildfowl Trust that was to take him north to Liverpool, across the Mersey to the Manchester Ship Canal and back to Slimbridge by a different route. He was accompanied on this voyage by various leading IWA figures including Robert Aickman.
In February members were told that the services of Mr Boden-Tebbutt, the IWA General Secretary, had not been retained beyond his three-month probationary period. Later Miss Joan Rosetta Davis was appointed to this post. At the AGM, Tom Rolt announced he would be leaving his post of Honorary Secretary and that he would serve jointly with Lewis Edwards until the hand over of duties was complete.
The campaigns for the canals mentioned in previous years were continued. In addition the Worcester & Birmingham Canal was threatened with abandonment and Tom Rolt made a strong case in its defence in Bulletin 24. Fund raising was started for the restoration of the Lower Avon. On the Kennet & Avon Canal, news that several of the locks had been closed because of their dangerous condition was to prove to be the end of this route from Reading to Bristol for the next forty years.
IWA succeeded in getting a more uniform, and generally lower, toll rate for pleasure boats using the canals. Toll rates had previously varied greatly and had caused many difficulties to the use of the waterways for recreation. Increased fees and tolls on the Thames were also opposed. On the Fossdyke Canal and River Witham, IWA managed to get locks opened on Sundays. Other signs of success were on the Coventry Canal, where the City Council were proposing to develop the canal for pleasure use; the first major local authority to propose this enlightened approach to canals. On the River Wey, pleasure boating was encouraged and IWA members received 25% discount.
Three years after IWA's first campaign cruise the Tunnel Lane, Lifford bridge at Kings Norton was replaced by a swing bridge. Efforts could now be concentrated on the southern section of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.
The year concluded with what has been called the Association's first civil war. This clash of policy ended in Tom Rolt, Charles Hadfield and others leaving IWA. It was perhaps rooted in the very different personalities of Rolt and Aickman. Another consequence of this split was the loss of IWA's Kennet & Avon Branch.
Early in the year it was decided that IWA did not have the resources to mount another Festival & Rally of Boats at Market Harborough (or elsewhere) but that they may hold the event again in 1952. However, the Association was successful in ensuring that narrow boats were moored on the Thames at the Festival of Britain, and that their arrival obtained publicity for the cause.
IWA Vice-president Peter Scott addressed the inaugural meeting of the Great Ouse Restoration Society with the aim of restoring navigation of the river to Bedford. The recently formed Lower Avon Navigation Trust continued under the leadership of Douglas Barwell, who had purchased the navigation for £1,500 in 1949.
The North Western Branch of IWA was founded in March. The North Eastern Branch scored an early success with the repair and re-opening of Linton Lock. The Midlands Branch organised a rally of boats at Tewksbury on the Warwickshire Avon.
Concrete staunches were installed on the abandoned Huddersfield Narrow Canal, thus preventing any further attempts at navigation. The closing of the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal was opposed by IWA, as were new threats to the Rochdale Canal. Better news came from the Brecon & Abergavenny Canal where local authorities were considering taking over responsibilities for maintaining the waterway. The closure of Elvington Lock on the River Derwent (Yorkshire) sparked off, what was to become, a major battle over navigation rights on this river.
In October 1951 Robert Aickman resigned his post as IWA chairman and was replaced by "Captain R M Bilton, Rn, DSO, MSc". Aickman then took the title of Founder & Vice-president which he held until his death in 1981.
IWA Head Office moved from 11 Gower Street to 35 Great James Street, London WC1 and Mr R J Evans was appointed General Secretary. There were now 1,300 IWA members. A duplicating machine was given to IWA as a gift from the Mrs Smith Trust, an organisation that was to become a frequent source of funds. It was run by the wife of IWA Honorary Treasurer Captain Vivian Bulkeley-Johnson. Later in the year, "Captain R M Bilton, Rn, DSO, MSc" resigned as IWA's Chairman following allegations that he had claimed more titles and honours than were justified.
The Fenland Branch was reconstituted and new officers appointed following its collapse after the 1950 IWA civil war. The Midland Branch was busy finding active supporters for the restoration of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.
Concerns were raised that navigation on the Lancaster Canal was being discouraged on the section from Tewitfield Locks to Kendal. The Stroudwater Navigation Company called a public meeting to announce that they intended to abandon the canal. Detailed and general waterway concerns continued to be pursued including those relating to the River Cam, Grand Union - Leicester Section, Chesterfield Canal and the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.
Peter Scott offered the Severn Wildfowl Trust's narrowboat Beatrice for sale at £1,500.
It was decided to hold another National Festival and Rally of Boats at Market Harborough but difficulties in raising funds and opposition from the Market Harborough Advertiser caused the plan to be dropped. The Inland Waterways Association held a rally at Brecon.
The Royal Engineers work in restoring Chadbury Lock on the Lower Avon was an early example of enlisting new sources of labour for Waterway restoration.
On the parliamentary front, the Transport Bill and the Rochdale Canal Bill claimed much attention.