iwa waterways for today 3

iwa waterways for today

benefits to local communities

IWA’s Waterways for Today report highlights the benefits of the waterways to the LOCAL COMMUNITY

Having looked at both the economic and environmental benefits of the waterways, we are now looking at the benefits for the LOCAL COMMUNITY as outlined in the IWA’s recently launched report – Waterways for Today, which highlights 12 Major Benefits of Britain’s Inland Waterways network.

The benefits for the local communities are wide ranging. They create active travel corridors that connect communities and provide free, inclusive and level routes for walking, jogging, cycling and more.

Connecting Communities

Due to their industrial past, the waterways often run through towns and cities, providing traffic-free passage for residents to get out into the countryside and vice-versa. Those in more rural areas can use the towpaths for easy access into towns and villages. Within cities, the waterways should be considered as sustainable transport networks, contributing towards zero carbon, economic recovery and changing behaviour patterns.

Benefits of Inland Waterways to communities

The regeneration of inland waterways can spur local communities into taking ownership of “their” river or canal, seeing it as a community asset that needs to be protected and improved. It provides a sense of place and civic pride. This is particularly true since the Covid pandemic, where many people discovered their local waterways for the first time and began to realise what a positive environment it can be.

Education and Inspiration for Young People

The inland waterways offer real hands-on education opportunities particularly in science, technology and maths subjects but also humanities and the arts. Outdoor classrooms and visits to local waterways provide a unique opportunity for school-aged children to see the built and natural heritage of their waterway – at near zero cost to the education budget. The waterways can bring history to life for young people.

learning in outdoor classroom

Creating Jobs, Training and Apprenticeships

It's not just school-aged children that benefit from visiting the inland waterways, the learning can be inter-generational and they can provide opportunities for employment, training and apprenticeships. These include jobs in tourism and leisure or the hospitality sector. Restoration projects also offer training and work experience opportunities. Often run by volunteers, restoration sites must comply with all construction, environmental, heritage, health and safety legislation and processes. They have proved valuable for people looking to retrain before seeking employment in the construction industry, civil engineering and other fields including boat design.

benefits of waterways to local communities - apprenticeships

Some statistics in the report include:

  • Of the 76 places now designated as cities in England, Scotland and Wales, 41 are on a navigable waterway. Restoring up to 500 more miles would add another seven cities, connecting them to their neighbouring communities
  • Improving towpaths attracts high numbers of visitors to an area. Canalside paths in Birmingham saw a 128% increase in use by cyclists between 2012 and 2016
    Research by the Blagrave Trust found that almost all outdoor learning interventions have a positive effect
  • Understanding and appreciating what has gone before is essential for creating a more sustainable planet
  • A study carried out 10 years after the Millennium-funded restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow and Rochdale canals found that around 500 jobs had been created

To read the full IWA Waterways for Today report or to read the case studies related to the Environmental benefits of the waterways please visit our WEBSITE

Join us next time to look at the benefits that the waterways provide for IMPROVING PEOPLE’S LIVES.

where have all the birdies gone?

where have all the birdies gone?

I’m back!
Let’s have a show of hands - who’s missed me?
Oh, no one eh?

Well never mind, I’ll carry on regardless, while you all uncomfortably shuffle your feet thinking of the mental anguish you’ve inflicted on me with your noncommittal attitude.
See, that’s better. I heard that, ‘where’ve you been?’ I’ll tactfully ignore the rest of the comment, ‘and why the bloody hell have you come back?'

I’ve been writing see, no not for this wonderful magazine, but plays. Yes, that’s right, plays as, ‘in the theatre.’ I’m a bit of a thespian don’t ya know.
No, madam, those are ladies who fancy other ladies, a thespian is - oh, never mind.
Anyway, like I said, I’m back. And that brings me to the topic of this article, which is...
You again. What now?
No it’s not another ‘festive scribbling,’ as you so eloquently put it. I live not far from Wolverhampton and I haven’t heard Noddy Holder holler, ‘It’s Chrrrrristmassss’ yet.
No, this one’s a bit more serious I’m afraid.

You see - and I should say that this started in the spring - that I was a little perplexed.
A good friend of mine used to greet the Spring Equinox with the rather charming saying of, ‘Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the birdies is?’
And I did.
Wonder that is.
And I’ve spent most of the rest of the year wondering as well.

Now you may well say that there are more serious things to wonder and worry about. Climate change, the Ukrainian conflict, the cost of living crisis and the fact that number 10 Downing Street seems to have had a revolving door fitted.
But wonder I have.

Where for instance are all the ducks? Have you noticed as you’ve been cruising along the cut? It seems to me that there are considerably less than usual.

misty waters on Staffs and Worcs

I notice these things you see, because as I wander the towpaths with Blue he likes to chase them. And he’s been getting considerably less exercise than in previous years, meaning that I have to do more walking. That’s Border Collies for you. He’s had to resort to chasing mountain bikers, and they’re not too happy about it I can tell you.

And it’s not just ducks. What about our little feathered friends that flit hither and thither midst the hedgerows, twixt the breaking of day and the lowering of eve’s dark mantle?
I know, that was nearly poetic wasn’t it?
There’s no tits - stop sniggering at the front. Or sparrows. Or swallows. Or kingfishers.
Crows - I think they’ve been murdered. I could go on.
O.k., there are a few about.
But not many.

bridge over Staffs and Worcs Canal

And then I was watching the telly the other night and...
Not Strictly, no.
Not I’m A Non-Entity Get Me Out Of Here either.
How about that Hatt Mancock though eh? At least he’s been eating bollocks instead of talking it I suppose.

Anyway I was watching the news and they were talking about the feathered version of Covid. And I thought, ‘Oh dear.’ It made me really sad to be honest. No wonder there’s been a dearth of activity in our skies.
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting - well culled actually. Along with our turkey dinner (by the way, aren’t sprouts the devil’s testicles. Blaghh!)
And that ain’t fair either.
Why not?
I’ll tell you.
If one gets it, then the whole flock gets the chop. That’s just not cricket if you ask me.

Before you all start berating me, let me say that it is a terrible disease and a horrible way to go. But surely they won’t all get it? Surely there are some that are resistant? Shouldn’t they allow them to live in order to build up some immunity? I don’t know,
I’m not a vet, or a scientist, but it does seem crazy to me.

Let’s face it, I had Covid this time last year and DEFRA didn’t come marching along to this charming park home site adjacent the cut to have me and the rest of the inhabitants shot. (I have to call it a park home site officially - I call my place a caravan, but that gets the neighbours up in arms. We’ve gone posh).
Oh, and I did notice the murmuration of disappointment (see what I did there?) when I revealed that I hadn’t been shot. Thanks a bunch!

So I just wanted to say that when those of you who haven’t foregone the consuming of our fellow earthly companions in favour of piles of the devil’s you know what’s, please offer up a little prayer of thanks this Christmas for the meaty treat on your plate. She was one of the lucky ones. At least she made it to Christmas.

Got to go, I think I hear Noddy clearing his throat. Either that or they’re dredging the Staffs and Worcs again.

Have a good one folks.

snippets from another life

snippets from another life

a little seasonal Mayfly tale

I often wonder what Jim and Amanda would be doing at this time of year at the various times in their joint adventures. My guess is they could well be looking along the canal from one of the many narrow waisted red brick bridges that carry a path that comes from nowhere in particular and leads somewhere even less significant.

Mayfly books by Mike Nye

As darkness eventually falls they will probably return to the shelter of their little boat and brew yet another mug of tea before turning in for the night.

Maybe it's unexciting, but to them it would be a pleasure beyond words. The clearness of an autumnal night, with fresh air blowing gently across the back of their little boat was always something too good to miss for the pair in the early days. Many conversations were had, and stories shared by the soft light of one of the old hurricane lamps they had. Sometimes they would talk, and others they would just sit and look at the night sky.

Mike Nye Mayfly Christmas

Mayfly was, and is, an easy little boat to like, and though as fragile as the lifestyle that had been landed on the pair, she wasn't one to let her occupants down. No matter what the day had thrown at the two unlikely friends, it was hard for either of them not to enjoy the life they were now living.

One morning, some months later, there was still plenty of snow about when they woke up and it was clear that a bit more would come but, despite the cold, Jim and Amanda were in optimistic mood.
“You know it's a bit daft for us to have slept on Fly when we could have been warmer in...” Amanda said.
“But we both wanted to be here,” Jim replied, cutting her sentence a little bit short. “It doesn't have to make sense, nothing does. When you think of it, when does anything make sense even when you’re normal.”
“Well, Mr Diogenes, thanks for calling me a freak. I'm still bagging the toilet though!” Amanda laughed. “I really wish we could have taken that part of the bungalow with us.”

Jim looked across the short distance from Mayfly to the little wooden building that was not much more than a summer house. It was hard to believe that Amanda had lived there by herself only months previously, and harder to believe what had happened in the intervening period.
“Are you sure you didn't stash one in that bag of yours,” he laughed. “You seemed to have plenty of things in it!”
“If I’d known all of the stuff that was going to happen I might just have taken a screwdriver to it and pushed it in my bag and all,” Amanda laughed. “But then there’s all the plumbing.”
Jim was still deep in thought when he heard her footsteps crunching across the fresh snow towards the place. He eventually set about lighting the Primus stove for the first cup of tea ready for her return. He thought for a moment and then lit the other one as he started work on an idea that had flashed across his mind.

mayfly books by Mike Nye

On her return, Amanda could hear the roaring, but waited until both stoves were off before she boarded the little boat.
“Was I really that long?” she asked.
“Why not enjoy the simple pleasure of a relaxed morning in the bog,” Jim smiled.
“I was thinking of doing a big fry up but then that probably wouldn't be all that sensible.”
“Not with Mum and Dad coming over,” Amanda laughed. “She said I looked really well when we got back, but I never could stop her trying to feed me up! That smells pretty good though Jimbo. What is it?” she asked as he handed her a plate.
“I was thinking of making something special, like an even bigger fry up than usual, then I remembered this one. It's sort of cinnamon toast only done in a frying pan,” he smiled.
“That and a mug of tea will hit the spot really well,” Amanda replied, looking across the stern of Mayfly and down the river. “Did we really just sail away like the owl and the pussycat and fix all that stuff? Or is this just a hallucination.”
“They didn’t have an outboard motor, but I heard some people say that all of life is an illusion, but I banged my head getting the cinnamon out from the deed box and that seemed pretty real,” Jim said.
“This toast seems pretty real too, and good. Eat yours whilst it's still hot won't you,” Amanda smiled.

mayfly books Mike Nye

The sky had been getting greyer as they spoke, and the crisp smell of frost began to give way to a slightly damper smell that was half river and half weather with a hint of boat and petrol thrown in for good measure. The first of the thick flakes of snow began to fall as Amanda finished her mug of tea and reached into her bag.
“I know we're skint,” she said, pulling out a couple of lengths of tinsel.
“It's O.K.” Jim replied, reaching into one of the other deed boxes and lifting out a very small artificial tree.
“Oh well,” Amanda laughed as they decorated the cockpit of their little boat.
“You'd better have this too,” she added, handing a little parcel to Jim.
“Thanks Mand,” Jim smiled, handing her a neatly wrapped package.
“Mayfly did us proud, she really did,” Amanda said thoughtfully. “Thanks for... Well just thanks.”
“Same goes to you, as well. I'm happy with the way it all turned out too,” Jim replied, “And you're right, I know what you're thinking.”
“We couldn't just ignore her, not today,” Amanda frowned. “Wouldn't be right.”
“Happy Christmas,” Jim said, kissing his friend.
“Yes Jimbo, it is one, and well, we should both, well... You know,” Amanda smiled, looking at Jim and then along the length of their little boat.
“Happy Christmas Mayfly,” they both said.

Jim and Amana Mayfly Books by Mike Nye

©2022 Michael Nye

water water everywhere and not a drop to drink

dawncraft chronicles

water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink

I’ve had one of those 'you read it here first' brainwaves, so cheap and effective that it's criminal that my little brain didn’t come up with this years ago. Drip strips!

Most boats I have come across all suffer the same problem - water building up in the window mechanisms, over whelming the drain holes and flooding inside. I have even watched people remove them and re-bed them only to find it made little or no difference. Indeed, if you look at old boat brochures from the 1970s the stark difference between a Dawncraft and say a Broom, is the finishing details. Basically, we don’t have any: just pretty well as two burly blokes yanked it unwilling out of its mould and glued the top to the bottom. Quick trip to local hardware store and the cheapest plastic quadrant moulding I could buy and a tube of 'stick anything you like to whatever you like' and we are away.

Ok I did go so far as removing any old paint before doing this and then set about gluing the quadrant in above the windows, which oddly produced a rather pleasing curve, the type found on more expensive boats – which had built in drip strips. The results, staggering! No water enters the window channels at all. Spurred on by this and not wishing to waste half a tube of glue I did down the deck sides where the water always builds up against the cabin side, the front window and the canopy roof. Now, rather than water pooling and collecting under windows, in windows, running down windows turning them milky, it actually flows off the back of the boat.

drip strips

I know it’s been the driest summer on record but I have been noticing more and more water in the bilge. So I extended the canopy to cover the out board opening in the transom. I thought of all types of clever glass fibre panels that could do this and then came up with the cheapest option – add 3 feet of PVC to the bottom. This wasn’t as easy as it seems – or even seams. Luckily in my sail training days I became a dab hand with a sail maker's palm and sail needles, as it was eventually hand sewn. Top tip is to pierce the needle holes first with a small nail. A handy awl stitcher should be a must on any boat. Bored and with nothing on the tv, I set about the biggest task: making a winter bonnet out of one single piece of PVC that covers the canopy roof. I wanted it in one piece because after a while stitching leaks. It's not the prettiest of jobs but it’s incredibly effective – it seems to stop the condensation as well. Again, all done by hand. Top tip 2 If ever you try this single handed, buy some cheap awning clamps; I can guarantee that even on the calmest of days a wind will spook from nowhere and dump it in the canal.

Chuffed to bits with my latest improvements I returned on a wet Monday evening to check how much water was in the bilge. It was full, fuller than I have ever known it. I threw buckets of water over the canopy convinced it must be entering via the outboard well. Nothing. And worse still, I could hear water dripping and trickling. Slight panic mode, I hit the bilge pump switch and cleared it. But even after it was cleared, water was still trickling in. Ok start engine. Last resort, ram it on the slip way - anything but sink. I’ve written this many times before – Do not clad the inside of your hull below the water line, Torch in, got time to sound ship, every locker turned out every nook and cranny from bow to stern looking for a screw hole anything that is leaking.

interior of Dawncraft

The trickling noise stopped, but would start again if I moved my weight to port. Ok pump the dinghy up Anchor DT in basin and check outside hull in case we had been rammed and I was missing something on port side. Nothing, the boat is now all over the cabin sole, pans, ropes, fenders everything out. Perplexed, it's time for a coffee and a think. NO WATER, yet the log (and I always keep one) stated that I filled up 50 litres Sunday afternoon. The tank had split on one of the pipe joins- the fact that it was actually installed upside down so it filled from the bottom didn’t help. It was just quirk of fate that I happened to be on board as it was happening, me moving to port emptied the last of it.

Oh well I had a new water tank which I always wanted to put in the bilge floor so it didn’t upset the balance when being filled up and the following weekend was spent installing it. I have to say it was a pleasure to work in the cockpit without a dripping canopy. Had I paid attention I would have realised that this had started to leak a week or so ago hence the water.

autumnal vibes on the Huddersfield Narrow canal

canal wanderer

autumnal vibes on the Huddersfield Narrow canal

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. I love walking on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and seeing the stunning autumn colours and foliage for which this stretch of the canal is renowned. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal is known as the “Everest” of the canal system, twenty miles in length and traverses through The Pennines with 74 locks. Its main attraction is the Standedge Tunnel, described by the superlatives being the longest, deepest, and highest in the country. I rode through the tunnel some years ago and the 2+ hour boat was certainly an interesting experience.

I chose to explore my favourite stretch of the canal which is west of the tunnel starting at Greenfield – a good starting point which the village has a railway station and good bus connections. This stretch from Greenfield to Uppermill never disappoints me because of the treelined paths and it is easy to be embraced with its bright and beautiful autumn colours. I drew inspiration just walking this stretch and it gave me a creative scope for painting and photography.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Dawn Smallwood

I painted the above scene where this stretch of canal runs along the River Tame. I was artistically inspired to paint the trees and their autumn colours. I used gouache as the paint medium.

Uppermill, once known for its wool and cotton industry, is a Saddleworth Village which the canal travels through. The highlight was to see the fallen leaves on the ground and walking through them; it was like being in an autumn wonderland with all the captivating colours.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal by Dawn Smallwood

This painting is based at Lock 21W in Uppermill. An Autumn hotspot where the leaves carpet the towpath. It was a sight to capture and savour and gouache is the paint medium used.

A notable attraction is the Saddleworth Viaduct which carries trains from Leeds/Huddersfield to
Manchester and Vice Versa. Just after is The Limekiln Café where you can enjoy coffee and cake on their canalside terrace.

Saddleworth Viaduct on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal

Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal

I used the Snapseed App, a free downloadable App, where multiple exposures can be created as shown in the photos of the Saddleworth Viaduct and Standedge Tunnel. I particularly combined the viaduct and the tunnel and their autumn foliage and water reflections.

I began ascending the canal after Dobcross, a nearby village, towards Standedge Tunnel. Being out on the Moors and admiring the November scenery was an experience! I eventually reached Standedge Tunnel and spent some time at the canalside, people and ducks watching. Before I turned back and descended, I stopped at The Diggle Lock, housed in the Warth Mill (once used for the Woollen Cloth Making industry) for a cocktail. The Diggle Lock is a shop as well as a restaurant which produces and sells amazing sourdough bread!

A wonderful afternoon out where one is enchanted with the autumn colours, and cannot help but be drawn into it artistically.

By Dawn Smallwood
Facebook: @Dawn S Art
Instagram: @artwithdawns

iwa waterways for today 2

iwa waterways for today

environmental benefits

IWA’s new Waterways for Today report highlights Environmental benefits of the waterways

Welcome back to this blog series from the Inland Waterways Association (IWA). Last time, we looked at the economic and financial benefits of the waterways as outlined in the IWA’s recently launched report – Waterways for Today – which highlights 12 Major Benefits of Britain’s Inland Waterways network. In the second in this series of four articles, we are looking at the key ENVIRONMENTAL benefits of the waterways.

These benefits are for both the natural and the built environment, highlighting how waterways reconnect disparate habitats and provide opportunities for biodiversity net gain. Heritage forms a large part of the environmental benefits of the waterways. With historic buildings and structures linked to their industrial past, waterways form a vast open-air heritage network, accessible to everyone and helping to bring history to life both now and in the future. The waterways can also play a vital role in sustainability through flood and drought mitigation and water transfer amongst other possible solutions to the impact of climate change.

Why are these blue-green corridors so vital for the environment?

Our waterways accommodate many protected species including water voles, otters, native crayfish and rare aquatic plants. The offside banks of canals and rivers offer largely undisturbed homes for wildlife to flourish. There are currently many different strategies being developed across the country to enhance and restore habitats located on and near waterways, these will vastly improve ecological connectivity between them.

Waterways heritage is holistic; it is not only the buildings and structures but also the landscape, traditions and culture that make the waterways such an important record of our industrial past. This built environment needs protecting. Most of the structures were built in the 18th and 19th centuries and without sufficient funding and sensitive restoration, they run the risk of falling into disrepair and disappearing forever.

River Lee Navigation by Chris Brooke

Opportunities for funding and improvement

With the Environment Act 2021 now requiring most development schemes in England to deliver a biodiversity net gain of at least 10% and maintain it for at least 30 years, there is an opportunity for the waterways to become the recipients of offsite biodiversity credits where a developer cannot achieve the targets on their own site. For this to come about, local authorities and developers need to be made aware of just how important the waterways are to the improvement of the local environment. This is a key focus of activity for the IWA’s local branches.

IWA is also campaigning for the improvement of water quality across the inland waterways network. It is all very well encouraging biodiversity, but in order for it to be maintained, there needs to be a significant improvement in water quality, especially in urban areas and those areas where there are high levels of run off from cultivated fields.

Canals mitigating some of the impact of climate change

Waterways have the potential to address many impacts of climate change through mitigating flooding and droughts, transferring drinking water supplies and generating hydropower. They can also provide active travel and low-carbon transport routes. Sustainable fuel, increased numbers of electric charging points and other associated infrastructure will also help keep emissions from boats down. Moving goods by water is intrinsically more energy efficient than road or rail but more investment and incentives are required if this is ever going to become a viable option.

IWA is campaigning for the use of open waterways for water transfer as opposed to costly pipeline schemes. Using the open channels will help preserve heritage, improve biodiversity, attract wildlife and boost social and amenity values through recreational use.

gone fishing on the Chesterfield Canal

Some statistics in the report include:

  • 80% of people think local heritage makes their area a better place to live
  • Hundreds of Conservation Areas include canals, which are then afforded greater protection from insensitive development
  • Navigable inland waterways are home to over 100 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
  • More than 1000 waterway-based county wildlife sites are an integral part of the UK’s Nature Recovery Network
  • The waterways network has a huge capacity to carry freight. One 500-tonne capacity barge can replace 25 lorries, which has a significant impact on keeping CO2 emissions down
  • Research by the University of Manchester for the Canal & River Trust shows the presence of canal water in urban areas can cool Britain’s overheating cities by up to 1.6°C

To read the full IWA Waterways for Today report or to read the case studies related to the Environmental benefits of the waterways please visit:  https://waterways.org.uk/waterwaysfortoday

Join us next time to look at the benefits that the waterways provide for LOCAL COMMUNITIES.

iwa waterways for today

iwa waterways for today

economic benefits

IWA has recently launched a new report – Waterways for Today - looking at the 12 Major Benefits of Britain’s Inland Waterways Network.  

In this article – the first of four – we are looking at the three key FINANCIAL benefits of the waterways.  

These economic benefits include  waterways contributing to the economic recovery of the countrywith waterways projects regenerating both rural and urban areas and improving the lives of the  millions of people who live close to them or visit them regularly.  

Auchinstarry Marina

Waterways also bring  increased spend to local communities. Boat-based tourism and leisure activities contribute £2.5bn to the economy each year, with people on day trips, boating holidays  and those taking part in water-based activities spending even more in local pubs, cafés, restaurants and shops.  

The third economic benefit of the waterways is the  savings to the NHS and social care budgets. Waterways are well placed to improve the health, wellbeing and longevity of the many people living  near them, through increased physical activity and social prescribing.  

Sir David and Lady Sheila Suchet are quoted in the report saying that they have seen “first-hand how  waterway regeneration can act as a catalyst for the wider transformation of the whole community”.  

canoes on the Montgomery Canal

The economic benefits are extremely wide ranging, from macro-scale benefits such as helping national government to deliver post-Brexit and Covid-19 recovery programmes to smaller scale  benefits within individual local authority areas.  

Some statistics in the report include:  

  • The leisure marine industry supports 133,000 FTE (full time equivalent) jobs across the inland waterways  
  • Of the 124 local authorities designated as Category 1 for the 2022 Levelling Up Fund, 87  (70%) are on the inland waterways  
  • The Falkirk Wheel has become one of Scotland’s most visited tourist attractions, has created  60 jobs and sees an economic impact valued at over £3 million a year  
  • Every £1 spent on creating a navigable route under the M4 for the Wilts & Berks Canal will produce £1.79 in economic benefit to the local communities in Swindon and Royal Wootton Bassett  
  • Ten years after the reopening of the Rochdale Canal in 2002, a study found that between 3.5 and 4 million visitors were spending around £18m a year  
  • The Huddersfield Narrow Canal reopened in 2001 and has been receiving between 2 and 2.5 million visitors each year, spending over £10m annually  
  • For every £1 invested in the canal towpath network, there is a return of £7 in health benefits

Our waterways are free to visit and easily accessible for all. By their very nature, they are often located right in the heart of urban areas, offering a small haven of peace and tranquillity to the many  millions of people who live close the them. They are a huge draw for tourism, not only attracting people from the UK to visit, but also international visitors.

Falkirk Wheel

In the report, IWA highlights the importance of investing in the inland waterways and the need for  ongoing public funding. Not only do the existing navigable waterways need investment, but the  derelict waterways that could be restored in the future need protecting from inappropriate development. If we could restore 500 miles of derelict waterways, it would provide a greatly  enhanced national waterways network offering unlimited opportunities for leisure, living and business to millions more people.  

To read the full IWA Waterways for Today report or to read the case studies related to the Economic benefits of the waterways, visit  Waterways for Today - Inland Waterways.  

Join us next time to look at the ENVIRONMENTAL benefits of the waterways.  

rcr and rising callout figures

rcr and rising callout figures

and top ten replacement parts

River Canal Rescue says its number of general callouts for electrical, fuel and engine issues, flat batteries, over-heating and gear box failures, is likely to reach an all-time high by the end of the year. Figures up to 30 September are already 3318, ahead of 3235, logged for 2021, and 2850 in 2020.  

RCR says the rise is due to the high number of people unable to visit and maintain their boats during lockdown, resulting in minor niggles now becoming larger problems.  

RCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, comments: “Figures are currently an unseasonable high and we still have a couple of months to go. It’s worth noting that only 14% of callouts were attended by contractors this year, partially due to their availability, but also in response to customer feedback that they prefer an RCR engineer to attend their boats. 

“Considering how busy we have been, it’s likely 2022 will be one of the highest callout attendances on record. The good weather, new fuel issues, specifically ‘sticky fuel’, and the need for boaters to get out and about have all lead to lots of boats on the network.” 

RCR’s Canal Contracting service has also arranged 455 visits this year, to undertake a variety of work, including: plumbing and electrical installations, gearbox replacements, inverter, solar installations and general engine maintenance as well as 90 rescue jobs.   

So what are the top 10 parts that have broken down so far this year, why do they fail and how much do they cost to replace? 

Water pumps - 43 replacements due to seal failures, wear & tear, impeller break up and sheared components; morse controllers - 41 replacements due to wear& tear; engine mounts - 30 replacements due to hitting underwater obstacles, wear & tear, age, rubber degrading, misalignment and bolts shearing, came just outside the top 10.  

Stephanie concludes: “This list demonstrates why our Replacement Parts Cover is important as it covers the most common parts that need replacing. RPC also has an excess of £50 so covers items that have a higher value.” 

To find out more about River Canal Rescue visit www.rivercanalrescue.co.uk

death on the water

tales of the old cut

death on the water

“ ’Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes.”
The Cobbler of Preston, by Christopher Bullock

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has just allowed the world to witness the pageantry of a monarch’s funeral in all its traditional splendour, and naturally it got me thinking.

Despite its inevitability, the civilised world of today finds death traumatising and disturbing and uses the technology of modern life to keep its mortality out of thought and mind. This is, really, a completely new phenomenon that our ancestors would not have understood in the slightest.

At the time when the canals began, the majority of people didn’t move much beyond the district they were born in and if they did, they could be hoiked back to their village of origin by the settlement act if they had the audacity to be so poor as to need parish relief. The vast majority of people were also unquestioningly religious in one form or another, with a fairly iron-clad belief of life after death.

Death itself generally took place at home in the company of family, who had usually also been acting as the medical team prior to the event and the cause was usually an illness that gave them and their family time to acclimatise to the approaching decease. Sudden, accidental deaths were not commonplace and, then as now, caused more distress to the people around them; the parish registers would often be annotated by a shocked curate with the event.

To this background, the roving bands of navigators arrived on the scene.

They were tough men. Skilled and well paid, they arrived at quiet villages and caused chaos simply by doing their job. When death came to that community, it was usually brutal and it hit the men hard. At Standedge, a delayed blast instantly killed a man and wounded 3 others; near Sheffield a man was buried alive when a cutting collapsed; at Crick a man was killed falling down a tunnel shaft when a rope snapped.

The cortege that accompanied a man to his grave would surprise the locals, who viewed these strangers with accents from far off counties and with odd names like “Clainhim” with suspicion and the expectation that they were little more than unpredictable animals.

800 men fixed a blue ribbon to their hats and followed 35 year old Joseph Woodhouse in 1815. The latter group each put a half crown into a pot for the wake and then gave his widow the rest, the financial equivalent of about a year’s wages.

Joseph Woodhouse burial - newspaper clipping

Joseph Woodhouse - newspaper clipping

Joseph Woodhouse burial

Joseph Woodhouse - registered burial

300 men with a white ribbon around their arm walked in silence behind the coffin of 22 year old Samuel Marshall on the 8th of March 1826.

Samuel Marshall burial

Samuel Marshall burial

For a time, fear of death itself really came secondary to a fear of being body-snatched. Until the Anatomy Act was passed in 1832, there was good money to be made in half-hitching a fresh burial and selling it to the medical schools, and there was a distinct increase in the risk the lower down the social scale you went.

On the 15th December, 1830, 32 year old James Wheeler was fetching a barrow-load of stone from Cowley quarry when he slipped and fell to the bottom. His horrified workmates rushed him to the local infirmary, where he finally died two days later. The newspaper describes how the men now raised the princely sum of £5 for a decent funeral by dint of 100 of them putting a shilling in the pot.

A large gang of them went to collect James on the day of the funeral and were aghast at finding the coffin already nailed shut; not trusting the doctors not to have ‘interfered’ with the body – this being before the 1832 Anatomy Act - they demanded the lid came off so they could check and, faced with a large gang of powerful, irate men, the hospital eventually complied (the navigators fears were unfounded and James’ remains were perfectly fine.)

James Wheeler burial

Death of James Wheeler

The funeral procession is what now gained the attention of the local newspapers. 6 men bore the coffin, while 6 women attended to the pall. Six foremen were the chief mourners behind the coffin and then 100 men walked behind, 2 abreast. More navigators and their wives were already at the church.

No one wore mourning clothes but everyone was scrubbed clean and smartly dressed.

When it came to the actual interment, they weren’t taking any chances that someone might body-snatch James and they insisted on filling in the grave themselves, allegedly having brought stones from the quarry itself to make sure he stayed buried.

The funeral practice of the first boaters was, at times, just a vaguely reverential rubbish disposal; in 1791 a boatman drowned legging through Preston Brook tunnel. His body was dropped off at the wharf and it appears the boat carried on her journey having quickly hired a replacement man. No one had any idea who the dead man was and it was the height of summer, forcing the Daresbury vicar to bury him quickly in an unmarked grave and to simply note in the registers “Boatman drowned in the tunnel of Preston [Brook], interred 26th day [of July]”

When death came to a boater, he was usually in his cabin. If the boat wasn’t already laid up, she would carry on her journey to the nearest place that could supply a coffin. The family would usually be the ones to attend the body, but in some places had a “woman that does” who would take this role.

Boaters, just like the navigators, wanted a “decent funeral.” The coffin would be as ornate as could be afforded, and often there would be a quick whip-around of the boats in the vicinity to make sure there was money. Some boaters were part of burial clubs, and in a few cases the company they worked for would foot a funeral bill.

Canal funeral flyboating 1904

Funeral fly-boating 1904

While they would strive to get the body back to the place the deceased most associated as home - Braunston being a famous example - generally, a boater would be taken to the closest canal-side church and interred with little circumstance. The funeral party really depended on where the boat had managed to get to; a quiet village might only have one or two other boats tied up there, while a busy wharf could have dozens. If the person had died by accident, the funeral could be delayed by the attention of the coroner’s inquest which would also affect what other mourners might be able to be present.

When a boat was able to take her dead home, this would entail loading the coffin onto the boat, usually behind the mast, and running ‘on the fly’ with it. This was a practical consideration of multiple fronts- not only was a boat not earning if she was on a ‘dead run’; embalming was not as long-acting as it is today, if it was even done at all. A boat with such a cargo would often be loosed through by other boats at locks, and the infamous ‘towpath telegraph’ would have been at work keeping other boats abreast of who’d died and where they were. This kind of funeral invariably had more mourners at the burial, having given them time to get their own boats to the place.

Boaters' funerals tended to attract little attention from the newspapers due to the sheer speed in which they happened, but in 1923 the boatmen went on strike and around 55 boats came to a halt at Braunston for 3 months, and it gives us a glimpse into their lives.

Three deaths attended the boaters: 62 year old Joseph Green off the boat “Flint,” 12 year old Edward Walker of an unidentified boat and Albert Kendall, a 67 year old retired boatman.

Joseph Green burial

Joseph Green Burial (photo from Steamers Historical)

The funeral procession of Joseph Green was photographed showing the impressive cortege, and young Edward’s coffin was photographed being wheeled into the church by his young bearers. A newspaper describes for him “An extremely impressive site was presented as the cortege, numbering probably 100, proceeded from the Castle Inn, where the body had been resting, to the church… Many of the followers carried touching bouquets of wild flowers to place on the coffin.”

Edward Walker burial

12 year old Edward Walker's burial (photo from Steamers Historical)

Albert, who appears to have been living in a cottage in the village, was noted as getting an equally impressive send-off “..there was a cortege of 135 of the boatmen and women who are at present held up at Braunston...”

When you look at the waterways funerals of the past and compare them to the Queen's funeral just days ago, there’s very little fundamental difference in what’s actually happening. A monarch being flanked by her loyal forces or a navigator being escorted by his comrades, it’s still simply a goodbye.

grief – the price we pay for love


the price we pay for love

Dying in the midst of the covid pandemic, it was only last month that we said a final farewell to my 96yr old mum, celebrating her life with a service of thanksgiving.

Mother of Mary HainesEchoes of what was said about her resonate with the comments being made about Queen Elizabeth II in the wake of her recent death – duty, service to others, family commitment, love, constancy, humour.

Mum had been a constant in my life for nearly 60 years and so although unsurprised by her death and after a life well lived, I grieved for all that she meant to me and the big hole she would leave behind in the lives of all who loved her.

Grief is the price we pay for love, as the Queen herself once remarked, so unless we decide to live in a vacuum, surrounding ourselves with invisible barriers that let no-one in, we are all likely at some time, to experience the deep deep sorrow of grief. We have no choice but to live in this world without the physical presence of that loved one in our daily life, for it is as likely to be our faithful pet as another human being that we long for.

Grief is something we have to embrace, to walk with, as we make sense of our new reality and come to accept the changes forced upon us by the finality of death. Mourning is part of that process and it is interesting to see how collective mourning, the like of which we are experiencing at this moment with the passing of the Queen, draws people together and creates a sense of unity and intimacy. Our neighbours become our friends as we bond in our sadness. Of course there will be some who do not share in this sentiment and wonder what all the fuss is about but for those who do, perhaps in the face of such a public death, emotions rise to the surface of our own private sorrows of loved ones who have died and the grief, buried deep, is sometimes still to be found raw and active.

I was once told working through grief is hard work as it forces us to focus on painful and heart wrenching emotions. It is of little surprise then that for many it is preferable to bury the emotions deeply within and to escape the grief by constant activity, or stimulants such as alcohol, anything that relieves the need to face up to a death that has torn us apart inside.

To run away from death may be a necessary coping mechanism but in the long run it can prevent us finding happiness in a new relationship because of the fear that they may die and leave us too. Somehow we need to find a way through that allows us to live again with joy, but also recognising that part of us will always be sad and that’s OK. I heard a story of a widow whose children were still very young so she felt the responsibility of not putting her grief on them. Once a day she allowed herself 10 minutes of time to go to the bathroom, lock the door and scream. That may not work for everyone but for her it gave her time to acknowledge her inner grief and then show a happy face to her children.

A listening ear, small acts of kindness and time are perhaps the most effective ways we can help or be helped when grieving. Being there for one another can bring comfort and joy. In our relatively short time on the waterways we have received so much kindness and witnessed it around us in the interactions of other boaters. It is a wonderful community to be a part of and as the winter bites, the cost of living soars and the state of the world depresses, helping each other out is more important than ever. In the Bible, God says his greatest commandment is that we love him and the second greatest commandment is that we love our neighbour as ourselves. A timely reminder of how true this is and how each of us has the ability to do just that.