paul robert watson

featured author of the season - spring 2024

paul robert watson

How it all came about is a little hazy. At some point, I must have agreed to the idea of a narrow boat holiday. Certainly, I was not the prime motivator and red wine was probably involved.

So it was that I found myself in a darkened room watching an instruction video on the basics of boat handling, how to negotiate a lock, mooring a vessel and the like.

That was Easter fourteen years ago at Market Harborough, then the base for hire company Canal Times, With me were my wife, Sue, and daughter, Rosie, her friend, Hannah, and her mum and dad, Linda and Dean.

Although we didn't know it at the time, we were about to embark on a journey that would lead us to travel, if not the length and breadth of the waterway network, then large sections in the north west and Midlands.

We emerged blinking into the daylight, were shown a model of a lock, then ushered aboard Hartley's Best, carrying our gear for a four-night trip. Briefly we were informed of the boat's operation. Push the throttle lever forward to go forward, back to go back; steer left to go right and visa versa. Oh, and reversing is tricky, but you'll get the hang of it. Honestly, to this day, I never really have.

Our instructor rather hastily stepped off at the entrance to the marina and we were left to our own devices.

The secret of happy cruising, at least in the early stages, is that you have to be prepared to leave your dignity on the quayside. Forget about looking nonchalantly professional like a seasoned boater and embrace the laughter you will inevitably hear from the gongoozling crowds, just like I did.

Yes, I was the first to get wet, left clinging to a top rail while my feet dangled in the water. Why did the girls draw the blind as my face appeared outside the kitchen window? All I could hear was the sound of embarrassed chortles.

A swing bridge? All right, we can manage that. But who's getting off to operate it? The sequence, so blindingly simple, had to be worked out for our first effort.

Turning for the first time was also a challenge and the bottom of Foxton Locks is hardly the ideal place to learn. After a display of cringeworthy ineptitude, we managed to moor.

Paul Watson - Foxton LocksEven for experienced boaters, Foxton can be the cause for some head-scratching. Long, steep, with staircase locks, your readers will be all too familiar with the scenario. We read the instructions and, with the aid of the lock-keepers on duty, we made it to the top. It felt as though we had scaled Everest, such was the sense of achievement.

On we cruised. With no locks, this was easy. Through Husbands Bosworth tunnel, then a stride across the fields to the White Hart, all the while becoming more enamoured with this boating life.

A better executed turn and an excursion to Welford on the way home provided the crew with greater confidence and Foxton was negotiated without incident. After good food and drink at the Black Horse, we returned to Harborough.

The trip, as they say, had seemed like a good idea at the time. And it really was.

Within six months we had become shareholders in Sometimes, an Ownerships vessel. You'll be familiar with that particular sorry tale but the syndicate survived without incurring too many losses, unlike some less fortunate.

I had become a committed boater rather than an accidental one.

So why not employ some of the experiences, sights sounds and scenes in a story that I had long hoped to write?

And that's how Cut to the Chase became a reality.

the book

cut to the chase by Paul RobertsCut to the Chase, some of which is set on the canal network, is available as an e-book from the Kindle store.

It is an adventure story, in which the main character, John Clubb, finds himself at the centre of a web of police corruption and drug-running.

Part of the story is based in and around Braunston and the tunnel, of which I have personal experience, having been a canal boat owner for the last 13 or so years.

The basic premise is that Clubb is on the run from a gang of drug smugglers and a corrupt policeman. He escapes their attention but is pursued from Scotland to the south east of England and thence to the Midlands.

An ex-policeman himself, he is aided by a former colleague, Brian Digbeth.

He escapes on his old narrow boat, Longfellow, aboard which he attempts - very slowly, naturally - to evade his pursuers. The plot eventually takes him to Scotland, where he is able to assist the police in tracking down the drug-runners and corrupt officers. And, of course, there is a twist in the tale.

The novel is published as an e-book on amazon under the name of Robert Watson and will cost £2.35, although it will be available free for a limited period. A paperback version is planned if reaction is favourable.

Paul Robert Watson

Paul Robert Watson considers himself to be a Derby lad, as it was there that he spent his school days. Throughout his adult life, he worked as a journalist, working mainly as a sports journalist and editor.

He is a member of a syndicate which own NB Sometimes, currently moored at King’s Orchard marina, where she has undergone an extensive programme of renovation and repair.

He lives in Egginton, not far from Burton, with his wife Sue. They have a grown-up daughter, Rosie.

The novel is published as an e-book on amazon under the name of Robert Watson and will cost £2.35, although it will be available free for a limited period. A paperback version is planned if reaction is favourable.

Paul is happy for readers to contact him for more information.

Please call him on 01283 736383.

bob chase – barge fiodra

featured roving canal trader

bob chase - barge fiodra

Fiodra was carefully designed to be a flexible, floating, event platform and a place to live. We have been running a successful programme of our own events since 2018, as well as hosting a huge variety of events for hirers.

This project brought together my experience and several passions. I come from a maritime family, my father was a marine pilot and one of my brothers the skipper of a tug. I began living on my first boat in 1990. I have also had a career in community arts and in venue management. I have always found hosting shows, cinema and events to be great fun and rewarding.

I began designing Fiodra before I left my final full time job at the National Autistic Society in 2016. She was built in Poland, to my design, by the Viking Canal Boat Company. After delivery in 2017 we took her on a maiden voyage to Bristol and back. We launched our business in Spring 2018 with a residency in Paddington Basin. We hosted story telling with Kate Saffin, poetry from the Canal Laureate Nancy Campbell and classic canal films.

Since then we have travelled most of the waterways we have access to in a wide beam. We have made visits to Oxford, Guildford, Maidstone, Hertford and all points on the Grand Union. We used the opportunity to explore what worked and what didn't work onboard.

barge fiodra - mindfulness

Barge Fiodra - Art Gallery

By adding (removable) gallery panels and 12v gallery lighting we were able to create a beautiful gallery space for visual artists. Our first season in Little Venice was in partnership with the Guild of Waterway Artists. It was successful from the get go and we have since been able to host many exhibitions of paintings, illustrations and textile arts.

This Easter (2024) we will be hosting a textile art exhibition by Marissa Stoffer. Marissa stayed on Fiodra last summer on the River Lea where she collected the natural dyes she has used to create this work. Check out our website for details.

We also managed to install a micro-cinema in the boat using a digital projector and high quality sound system. Everyone loves the experience and we have been able to show several indie films including the launch of the film TIDES. However we quickly discovered that mainstream films were uneconomic for us to show in a cinema with only 24 seats.

We have also tried our hand as a Cafe and Jam Shop. Fiodra is designed with extra features that enabled us to register as a food business, with a 5 star hygiene rating. Selling home made cakes, coffee and tea on the back deck worked really well. My partner Moira also sold her gourmet jams. She usually delivers locally by bicycle under the banner of the Jam Pedlar.

barge fiodra - cinema barge

Our latest project, the Floating Camera Obscura, was inspired by another partner, Ben Nathan from Pinhole London. Photography is another string to my bow, having a diploma in photography and having worked, as a photographer, in London for several years.

Ben and I have now run several pinhole photography workshops onboard with young people. We convert the saloon into a darkroom where photographs can be developed. We also teach the history of photography and have installed three camera obscura onboard. Everyone is
amazed to see this fascinating technology on a boat!

Besides our own projects we have grown the hire side of the business. It took a knock during Covid but we now have to turn people away. Our partnership with Tag Venue has been very productive especially when they made us a SuperVenue because of our positive reviews.

It’s impossible to list all the events on the boat but they have included: Argentinian wine tasting, the launch of a music CD, meditation workshops, environmental talks, poetry evenings, pinhole photography, yoga, and of course lots of family parties.

barge fiodra - café barge

barge fiodra

What's next?

Well I'm the sort of person who loves a new idea and enjoys making it happen. I just don't have the stickability to carry on forever. So now I feel ready to let go of this project and look for a new challenge. Travelling all the canals, we have not been able to see, in a narrowboat, is one distinct possibility.

What would be lovely is to find someone who wants to build on what we have achieved or to take things in another direction altogether. It’s a fantastic opportunity for someone. Just by doing a few hires a year it is possible to cover the main costs of boating and live afloat for free.

If anyone wants to find out more about Fiodra they should go to

I’m really happy to discuss plans and ideas with any potential buyer.

Bob Chase 6/3/24

Bob Chase - Barge Fiodra

I've been around boats since a boy. My (late) father was a marine pilot, in the Wash, and from a local fishing family. My brother Bill was skipper of a tugboat. We built boats for ourselves large and small over the years and my family owned a few canal boats. I've lived on two narrow boats on the southern English canals. Fiodra is the newest and biggest vessel.

After careers in photography, arts management and technology, I am now a freelance mindfulness teacher and web-consultant. Oh! and I run Fiodra.

You can find out what is happening, where and when by visiting Fiodra's Website

lead barnerds

lead barnerds

On New Years Eve 2023-24 in a pub called The Bull, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a lovely couple, Gerry and Lin, who incidentally publish this magazine. Gerry was to perform the cabaret act later that evening, and he and My Creator clicked instantly as they propped up the bar supping beer and exchanging stories.

Then the subject of art cropped up. My Creator, as I call him, who goes by the pseudo name of Barn and whom I can only describe as a scruffy arty sort, reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the silver tin that he keeps little lead sculptures of me in. He opened it and placed seven copies of me on the bar top in front of Gerry.

group of seven lead barnerds

“They’re called BARNERDS for want of a name, a nerd you met in a bar, thats me!” Then Barn asked, “So which one talks to you ?”

Gerry’s eyes narrowed as he studied the group, then he picked one up between forefinger and thumb, “It’s heavy for such a small sculpture,” he said.
“That’s 'cos it’s made of lead. I cast a thousand of them, I’ve only got about a hundred left.”
“Umm lead eh,” Gerry pondered, “Where did you get the lead from?”

Now I’ve noticed a lot of people ask that question when given a copy of me, and My Creator always tells them the same story about when he was a kid, and his grandfather gave him seven old lead musket balls.
“He said they were from The English Civil War, objects designed purely to kill and maim, whereas I remould the lead into pieces of art.”
“How did you make a thousand of these out of just seven musket balls?” Gerry asked, doing the maths.
“Ah I made the rest of the mix up with lead that I nicked off a church roof, ha ha !" He laughed at his own joke.

Barn went on to explain that for the past quarter century he had been distributing these little lead sculptures all around the planet.
"North, South, East and West. I leave them in interesting places, some to be found, others not, to reside there for eternity! But mainly I just give them to nice people I meet on my travels, often folk I get chatting to whilst sitting at the bar in pubs or cafes, or I give them to waiting staff and street buskers as tips. Mind you, I always ask them if they want to except a BARNERD first, I don’t want to force my art on people, and if I get the chance I bless them and ask that they wish for World Peace and Global Stability.” Barn elaborated on his wish, “World Peace as in to stop the wars we humans inflict on each other and Global Stability as in super volcanos, earth quakes, asteroid strike, etc. This beautiful planet that we all live on is very fragile, we need to respect and look after it," he added.

With that Gerry ordered two whisky’s; they chinked glasses, shook hands and toasted the wish.

barnerds are tiny

“How do you make these Barnerd’s?” Gerry went on to ask.
“Oh easy! I melt the lead in a ladle over hot embers then pour it into clay moulds in batches of seven. Seven's my lucky number. Then, when the casts are cool enough, I knock them out of their moulds and then I hold each copy of The BARNERD aloft, I bless the universe and make my wish.”
“And what's this strange pose The BARNERD’s supposed to be in?" Gerry inquired as he studied me more closely.
“It’s got one arm wrapped over the head and the other wrapped under the chin; it’s giving itself a cuddle of sorts.”

My Creator demonstrated and Gerry immediately imitated the pose. Anyone watching the two ageing gentlemen sitting at the bar in this peculiar position could be forgiven for thinking that they’d had one too many...

“I’ll keep my BARNERD safely in my wallet until I find a nice place to put it on my canalboat,” Gerry promised.
“Wow you live on a canalboat!” Barn exclaimed, “I’ve scattered a few copies along towpaths over the years, maybe some of your readers have found one”.
“Who knows,” said Gerry. “ I’d be interested to hear from anyone that has."
“You probably will,” I mused to myself.

the benefits of an engineering apprenticeship

the benefits of an engineering apprenticeship

with the rothen group

Seventeen-year-old Apprentice Engineer, Lewis Douglas, has explained how he has progressed within his role at The Rothen Group during the first year of his career on the waterways. With boats, college, and growing as part of a team, Lewis has discussed just how the business is helping him achieve success.

Lewis Douglas, Rothen Group

In 2022, I was in a similar position to many students leaving high school after completing my GCSEs.

I had secured my Maths, English and Dual Science qualifications and needed to figure out what to do next.

During this time, I was presented with multiple options for my future: attend sixth form to complete A-levels, join a college and receive a BTEC, or enter an apprenticeship and earn while I study.

practical learning

I knew sixth form wouldn’t work for me as I didn’t thrive in the classroom. In my mind, I wanted a course that allowed me to learn through action instead of behind a desk. It was during this period that I heard about the engineering apprenticeship with Rothen Group working on the canal network. The concept of it intrigued me, so I decided to apply.

Now in my second year at college, it’s safe to say I definitely made the right decision. My education is split into three-week blocks where I’m either attending classes at Rease Heath College or working with Rothen Group team putting the theory I’ve studied into practice.

In the past year I’ve taken engineering theory into the field with my colleagues, who have in turn shown me how to apply it to our work. It has been amazing to learn about river/canal management in the classroom and then do it alongside an industry professional the following week.

working with canals

One aspect of the job that I’ve come to love is just how different every day is. When I’m out on site with my colleagues, I could be fixing a canal lock gate, dredging a river, or working on heavy machinery such as workboats and diggers. Two days are simply never the same. When I joined the team, I was surprised to learn how exactly the canals work, and how much time and effort goes into waterway maintenance.

Rothen Group

Rothen Group

Few people know that canals require preservation work, such as relaying the base to prevent leaks. Many that we see today were built in the 1700s and 1800s and you simply can’t expect them to remain perfect over such a long period of time. We work in an incredibly niche industry with very few businesses conducting our kind of work, meaning there are only a small number of trained individuals who can ensure preservation work is correctly carried out. It’s amazing to think that in two years’ time, once I’ve completed my apprenticeship, that I’ll be one of them.

future prospects

As it stands, I don’t believe my education will stop once I’ve finished college. I’m already in discussions with the senior team at Rothen Group to undertake further qualifications at a university level in engineering, with a role ready for me once I graduate. This is something that I never even considered applying for ahead of working with the team. I may only be a year into my career but the support I’ve received to help me achieve a bright future has been astounding.

By applying for the engineering apprenticeship, I have been able to learn about such an exciting and versatile industry while being able to wake up each morning looking forward to work. That’s all anyone can ask for when they’re starting their career. If you know that a desk job isn’t for you and you want to work in an everchanging, enriching environment, I recommend applying for an apprenticeship with Rothen Group.

For more information about The Rothen Group, please visit their website

boat licence fees for 2024-25

boat licence fees for 2024 to 2025

The Canal & River Trust is today confirming an increase of 6% in Boat Licence Fees from 1 April 2024 for both private boat owners and boating businesses. The rise is based on the latest Bank of England forecasts that inflation will remain at around 4.5% through until April 2024.

The surcharges for boats without a home mooring and wide beam boats, and changes to the prompt and online payment discounts, announced on 4 October, will be applied in addition to this rise.

Boaters can use a new online calculator on the Trust’s website to calculate what the licence fee will be for their boats:

Richard Parry, chief executive at Canal & River Trust, said: “The recent years have been a challenge for organisations and individuals alike. We know that the cost-of-living crisis will have affected many boaters and we have thought long and hard about the licence fee rises we are introducing. There is support available for boaters, and we urge people who are struggling to get in touch with our team.

“The Trust has been heavily impacted by the adverse economic environment. Over the past few years, we’ve faced significant increases in a range of our costs, notably the prices of energy, fuel, materials, and other construction demands. Meanwhile our government grant is reducing in real terms and is due to be cut sharply after 2027, unless our Keep Canals Alive campaign and the multi-organisation Fund Britain’s Waterways campaign persuade Government to revisit its decision. We must act now to plug the funding gap, or we risk seeing canals decline and, ultimately, the risk of closures.

“We’ll continue to secure as much income as we can through our commercial and charitable activities and focus our resources on those priority works which are required to support navigation, and on controlling our costs where possible. The 2,000 miles of waterways that we care for comprise 10,000 assets and structures, many of which are up to 250-years-old, and they are vulnerable to the extreme weather events that are becoming more common. We are continuing to invest in an extensive ongoing programme of works that will safeguard the future of boating on the inland waterways.”

The cost of the licence, which accounts for around 11% of the Trust’s income, has largely kept pace with inflation since the charity was formed. Whilst this is a valuable component of the Trust’s income stream, boaters will not be expected to bear the full brunt of the funding shortfall but will have to make some contribution. The Trust is also working to generate more income from its property and non-property endowment, and from other commercial sources such as hosting utilities and water transfer. A step-change in income generation from towpath users and other supporters is targeted, with fundraising income projected to grow by 10% each year – whilst other commercial waterways income, including from anglers, paddle sports and moorings, is also set to increase.

The Gold Licence charges, agreed with the Environment Agency, will increase by 10% from 1 January 2024. This reflects the higher increases applied to fees in 2023. The surcharge for boats without a home mooring will be applied to Gold Licences from 1 January 2025. The additional wide beam surcharge is not applied to the Gold Licence as it already factors in a charge for wider boats.

The Trust will continue to support boaters who may be struggling to pay their licence fees on a case-by-case basis. This may include arranging flexible payment plans and signposting to relevant services, for example the Waterways Chaplaincy, local authorities and Citizens Advice. For more information visit:

More information on boat licences is available here:

gill shaw

featured author of the season - winter 2023

gill shaw

Gill Shaw has been a professional and highly successful photographer of people for more than 25 years. She is an Associate of the Master Photographers Association and Royal Photographic Association, and she has photographed people from all walks of life from the royal family to islanders on a remote island in Africa.

Now Gill has outstepped her comfort zone, and published a book which looks into the lives of some of the people who live or work on a canal boat. 'Canal Boat Lives' is primarily a book of photographs, and is presented in  conjunction with a National Touring Exhibition. The book follows on from the success of another book of photographs and individual comments entitled 'The hero inside'.

canal boat lives

the hero inside

gill shaw - slightly offstage

Canal Boat Lives

Gill's book, Canal Boat Lives, is in landscape format - in keeping with the Pearson Canal Guides, and with a cover in keeping with the traditional green and red of canal boats.

The book is primarily a collection of photographs, and the text inside consists very largely of the words of the boaters who are photographed. Most of these boaters seem to be based in the South East, more specifically in and around London. But in fairness to the author, there was never any intention to spread the coverage nationwide.

In the volume, there are gathered several musicians, a graphic designer, a writer, a psychotherapist, a foreign correspondent, a pair of DJs, an archaeologist, boat builders, a theatre company and a delightful young boy with autism. The boats photographed include a variety of steel narrowboats including one which has been turned into Del Boy's Robin Reliant. There are also a couple of widebeams - unashamably being described (and indeed shown) as floating luxury apartments.

The photographs are, of course, quite stunning, and those photographs which reveal the inside of boats show that each boat has its own individual style and personality, reflecting the boaters who dwell in them. It is good to see those who not only live aboard, but work aboard to keep themselves afloat.

It would have been easy for Gill Shaw to present a rather romanticised view of life on canal boats, but she does not shirk away from those who mention toilets, the cold and the mud, although these seem to be rather incidental to this wonderful way of life. She doesn't dwell on boaters who struggle to keep going; who cannot afford moorings, and cannot maintain their boats satisfactorily. But she does give us some insight into the lives of people who work hard to keep themselves afloat - such as the young man who repairs, and apparently lives and breathes bicycles which he has rescued from the canal.

The aim of the book is to give us a glimpse of the variety of life on our inland waterways, and the author does a stunning job in presenting the lives behind the colourful boats in Little Venice, Regent's Park and other collection points in and around London. The impact of the book would not be so great if the viewpoint looked at the less colourful boats on the system.

What Gill Shaw does show is that, contrary to the beliefs of many, all boaters are not wasters on benefits or little more than water gypsies. In fact there is as much of a cross section of people as you would find on land. But on boats, well it seems, people do have something a bit special.

This book is a must for anyone interested in boating life. You can view it from many different angles. From the coal merchant who lives in a tiny cabin, to the floating palacial rooms of the wide beam. From those who live in a house, but holiday on their boat, to those who have no home mooring but drift around the countryside from one place to the next. Then those that move sweetly from one marina to the next, living nowhere in particular, but always having the benefits of water and electric - and showers.

Life on a boat is the same as life on land. You live within your means, and in keeping with your dreams. And the ultimate success of Gill's book must lie in the fact that the nature of humans is to be ever curious, and to enjoy glimpses, however brief, into the lives of others. You cannot help browse through the pages, read little snippets, put the book down, and pick it up immediately to read a little more...

You can buy a copy of Gill Shaw's book 'Canal Boat Lives' from Amberley Publishing,
The Hill, Merrywalks, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL5 4EP.

Copies of Gill Shaw's books are also available on Amazon.

permission to come aboard part two

the boating bard

permission to come aboard, part II

If you come to visit me
Make sure you've had a wee
And bring some semi skimmed milk
If you want a cup of tea

I usually have some sugar
And drinking vessels for one each
Though they may be tannin stained
Because I don't use any bleach

I prefer if you take your boots off
And leave your hound at the door
I don't want muddy pawprints
All over my laminate floor

You will take me as you find me
It's a little busy in here
But I'll clear a walkway through
And I'm sure we'll uncover a chair


wet and muddy boots

Please don't outstay your welcome
I find conversation trying
It's hard to wax lyrical
Where my underwear is drying

stone lock cottage

stone lock cottage

The owners of Stone Lock Cottage, which is part of Beeston Stone Lock (a Grade II listed structure) on the Shropshire Union Canal, have applied for planning permission to demolish this historic lock keeper's cottage and replace it with a modern dwelling and separate garage.

stone lock cottage

stone lock cottage

Stone Lock Cottage is situated at the side of the Shropshire Canal at Beeston Stone Lock. The lock and the cottage are in a Conservation Area, and whilst the lock is already Grade II listed, the cottage itself is of historic interest, and has also been put forward as a building which should be listed. (see page 80 of Cheshire West and Chester Council's document published in 2018)

The cottage, formerly owned by British Waterways, was originally sold in 1992. The current owners put in a planning application to Cheshire West and Chester Council in February 2023. In October of this year, they submitted a changed proposal, requesting permission to demolish Stone Lock Cottage and replace it with a new dwelling and a detached garage.

Canal River Trust became involved because the deeds show incorrect boundary lines, attributing land to the owners on the offside of the canal which is in fact owned by CRT. It sounds as though CRT have previously notified the Cheshire Council of this, but are still waiting for the deeds to be altered.

The second reason for CRT's involvement is that the charity is there to "protect the heritage of the canals". Indeed, in their letter to Cheshire Council they state:

"Given the nearby canal heritage, including the Grade II listed No 12 Beeston Stone Lock, Linkman's Hut and Chester Canal Conservation Area, the impact of the Heritage Impact Assesment (HIA) is welcomed. The HIA outlines thorough research into the history of the site, particularly the relationship of lock cottages with the canal, and there is significant evidence provided of the historic and archaeological merits of the site. However, the HIA provides minimal assessment with regard to how the proposed design and form of the replacement dwelling would mitigate potential harm to the immediate designated heritage assets. We would ask the Council to satisfy itself that the application is sufficiently evidenced in this regard..."

In their letter, CRT go on to discuss various facets of the new design, and point out that in accordance with the initial sale in 1992, everything has to be passed through the Trust.

Given the bad publicity that CRT have occasionally been subjected to - for instance, with regard to the sale of the historic Crick Wharf to new developers - it is important to recognise that in this instance, they are doing their utmost to ensure that any new dwelling on the site of Stone Lock Cottage will not impact on the canal and its users in any way.

However, an additional point of interest is that despite Stone Lock Cottage being within three metres of Beeston Stone Lock, which as we know is a Grade II Listed Structure, Historic Buildings England were not made aware of this planning application - especially as Stone Lock Cottage, built for the Lock Keeper, could arguably be deemed to be an intrinsic part of the Grade II listed lock.

If you are interested in the preservation of the heritage of our canals and its stuctures and buildings, or have a particular affinity with the Shropshire Union canal, then it might be worth your while writing to the Cheshire West and Chester Council, Council Offices, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE.

The planning application can be viewed on Cheshire West & Chester Council's planning portal, reference 22/04592/FUL.

domestic water tank maintenance

domestic water tank maintenance

With more cruising downtime, this is the perfect time of year to undertake maintenance tasks. One area requiring attention is the domestic water tank, so here, River Canal Rescue advises on the different types of tanks and how to purify them.

Typically constructed of three types of material; plastic, stainless steel or mild steel, each water tank has differing maintenance requirements and associated risks.

The highest risk material is mild steel - it reacts with oxygen to produce rust which drastically depreciates the water, creating an environment for bacteria to develop. While the bacteria is not known to be dangerous, if a bacterial infection takes hold, it can give the water a foul smell and taste. When inspecting the tank, the bacterial infection will look like slime attached to the sides.

Plastic tanks offer greater protection from bacterial infection however, dependent on material and age, they will start to release toxins into the water when they begin to break down so it’s important to replace plastic tanks in accordance with their shelf life.

They’re also more likely to absorb or hold any chemicals added to purify the water. For example, the chemical in purifying tablets used to flush the system may remain in the water for a year or so and while these toxins are not dangerous, a chemical smell and taste will persist.
The lowest risk material is stainless steel – this offers protection from rusting and bacterial infection and as it doesn’t retain toxins, it avoids persistent foul smells and tastes.

domestic water tank

domestic water tanks - steel

Domestic water tank maintenance differs by material.

Stainless steel tanks require a purification cycle of at least once a year. To do this, add a purifying tablet to a FULL water tank and leave to activate for the advised time period. Once purification has occurred, turn all the taps on and drain the system as much as possible. This will ensure purification flows through the system. Next, refill and flush the tank twice more to evacuate any residual chemical within the system (with the taps on and a running hose pipe in the tank).

Mild steel tanks require the same purification cycle as a stainless-steel tank but they also need deep cleaning every three to five years. This entails removing the inspection cover and power washing the inside. Do not sand down or rub the rust off - rust is not dangerous and the power washer will remove any loose rust and debris build up. Do not paint the inside of the tank (unless specialist paint is used) as this will leach toxins into the water.

Plastic tanks also require a yearly purification cycle, but instead of using chemicals, they should be cleaned out manually using hot water. If the tank is inaccessible a hot water flush will suffice. If a chemical is the only method available, regularly flush the system with fresh water. Furthermore, do not allow water to stand in the tank for long periods of time as this increases the build-up of toxins in the water.

Finally, filtration is advisable for any domestic water tank. A filter will remove any debris or sediment, drastically improving the water quality and consistency, and there are also filters that can remove toxins. Filtration however, does not replace the need for tank maintenance and if this is neglected, water will be foul smelling/tasting water even if filters are installed.
RCR has more boat maintenance tips on its website.

royal exchange kinver

the royal exchange


Although the Royal Exchange in Kinver can't really be classed as a canal side pub, you will find it's well worth the walk from the visitor moorings. There are different routes, including a well trodden path from Hyde Lock, and a steady uphill climb from the moorings at Whittington Horse Bridge. Walking from Kinver Lock through the village takes about 15 minutes but it's also a good excuse for taking in what else the village has to offer. Whichever way you go, you are bound to receive a warm welcome at the Royal Exchange.

Local villagers would say that, in the last year or so, the Royal Exchange has changed almost beyond recognition. This has to be entirely due to the enthusiasm, experience and sheer hard work of the current landlady, Debbie Burns and her partner Ben Hardcastle. So much so, that in July this year, Debbie received the coveted first prize in the pub chains The Sports Incentive Scheme, beating all other Marstons pubs nationwide, earning herself the grand prize of £500. Debbie and Ben also came second in the Best Kept Frontage in Kinver.

royal exchange

royal exchange - beerfest


Debbie and Ben both hale from the North, and both are well experienced in the pub trade. Debbie is a fully qualified and experienced beautician, and Ben is a stone mason by trade, although he seems to be able to turn his hand to anything. And Debbie is always brim-full of projects for him to undertake!

One of the highlights in Debbie's career was when she ran both pub and beautician's practice in Cornwall. Plus she has run a bar out in Spain. At one time she travelled widely in France and Spain and when she returned, she decided to re-enter the pub trade, asking the breweries for a hotel. She got her hotel almost immediately, and with it, she found herself overseeing a total of 26 pubs.

A major turning point in Debbie's career followed. A serious accident resulted in her breaking her back in three places. A long convalescence resulted, during which Debbie had to learn to walk all over again. She had to abandon the high powered position she had held, and spent a few good months in hospital and then recuperating abroad.

Since getting together, Debbie and Ben have had pubs in various parts of the country including Bishop Auckland and Stourbridge. They managed to enjoy a few months touring in Europe and then eventually took over the Royal Exchange in July 2022.

Debbie - a landlady who likes to pull her own pints

ben, landlord at the royal exchange, Kinver

the pub

The pub interior is cosy but quite spacious. The main bar area has an alcove for darts, and there is a snug room which is almost, but not quite separate from the main bar. There are log fires in the winter, and there is a covered smoking / seating area outside which is very popular all year round, especially as it has three hanging heaters and curtains to keep everyone cosy.

As you would expect with a Marston's pub, there is a good selection of lagers, ciders and a whole selection of real ales for the connoisseur. The top shelves seem to be very well stocked, and Debbie, with her knowledge of good wines, will be sure to serve you the best.

There are no dining facilities at the pub, but on quiz nights and other special occasions, Debbie and her staff will put on a jolly amount of sandwiches or other delicious buffet foods.

the snug

royal exchange, Kinver

the garden

The gardens, both front and back, are Debbie and Ben's greatest achievement. Debbie of course has the ideas, and Ben carries out her instructions. It is Ben who built all the raised beds to the front and rear.

The covered outdoor area is the most popular area of the pub, in both summer and winter. It is not far from the bar, has a good view of the stage and the garden, and for colder days there is very ample heating.

The couple have built a stage area, which doubles up as a cosy seating area when no one is performing. Full of hanging baskets, it is an extension of the garden.

They have also built a BBQ area, with an outdoor oven and a raised fire pit.

They have thought of everything, so when events are on, the uncovered part of the garden has a giant canopy. The show will always go on!

royal exchange, Kinver

sheltered outdoor area

what's on

The pub is never without live entertainment for very long. With individual artists and groups, plus special events like the 'Rock and Royal' festival, or the Cheese and Wine party.

They also have a quiz night, a real ale night and a cocktails evening. Plus they have loads of ideas for future events, so well worth keeping a watchful eye out. For those sports lovers out there, there is plenty of 'Live Sport' to watch on large TVs with your mates.

Debbie and Ben are always prepared to take part in events themselves - hence the beer fest outfits sported in some of the accompanying photos. Debbie has the reputation for being unable to sit still for more than two minutes. They are a very welcoming couple who have spread their friendliness through their customers, so that any boater, whether holiday maker, part time cruiser or well seasoned live aboard, will find him or herself welcomed by staff and punters alike.

royal exchange, Kinver - garden

the royal exchange, Kinver

Ben Hardcastle and Debbie Burns

This has to be a pub that has to be well worth visiting. Ben and Debbie are fun loving and welcoming, but have a pub that is well run in every particular. We have always felt accepted and have been amazed at how friendly the regular customers have been toward us. And with all of their ideas for the future, definitely a pub to watch!

You can follow Debbie and Ben on Facebook