Sunday, 23 January 2011

Nostalgic for British Waterways?

How long till we look back with fondness on "the BW years"
January 2011

Its funny how time changes things.

For all the 40 years I have been associated with the canals BW have played the part of the villain, disliked, resented and vilified. Not many boaters chose to paint their historic craft in BW colours. 

But now that is all set to change. BW is making way for the new charitable body and they are casting around for a new name. This change will take effect from 2012 and by a strange stroke of coincidence it was created by in 1962, and British Waterways therefore existed for exactly half a century. How long before a book is written called " The BW Years - a nostalgic retrospective".

50 years is a long time by any standard - representing about 20% of the total span of time since thecanals were first dug. I wonder how BW will be remembered? Hero or villain? To be fair to BW they have had guardianship of the  system during its most vulnerable period, entering at is lowest ebb when commercial carrying was on its knees and leisure boating was hardly out of its nappies. 

What a difference five decades make. In 1962 is was all about the decline of carrying and now its all about leisure and amenity, both on the canal and along its fringes. The idea of closures is met with an emphatic "over my dead body" response, and talk is now of wider stakeholders, including walkers, cyclists and fishermen. Sure they have made mistakes and could have done more, but at least they are leaving the system in better heart then when they first acquired it.

Do you know what? - I am missing them already!

So they want a new name for the next fifty years. My money is on The Waterways Trust, who  had better brace themselves for a torrent of vitriol which will migrate from one governing body to another as surely as night follows day.


Jim said...

I sense a parallel with the German Democratic Republic, which existed for slightly less time than BW, was even more reviled but which now attracts a certain degree of nostalgia from its former residents.

Eddie said...

I don't think your suggestion for a new name would work. The waterways trust might protest.

Andy Tidy said...

Thats interesting because the Waterways Trust is one of the six options BW have published for public comment!