Saturday, 7 December 2019

Exploring the lost Bentley Canal

Bentley Canal in Wednesfield
December 2019

Well, I have finally got cracking on the next series of Canal Hunter, starting off with the elusive upper half of the Bentley Canal and the Neachells Branch.


Bentley top lock

This section has been heavily built over, but thankfully there are lots of photos to fill in the gaps. 

Here is an easy link to the video:

Canal Hunter series three - Bentley Canal (part one)

Click subscribe on the YouTube channel to catch future episodes.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

CRT Jottings - Elected Boaters meeting 26th Nov 2019

CRT Jottings - Elected Boaters Meeting 
26 Nov 2019

A meeting between CRT and the Elected Boater Representatives took place last week in Aqua House, Birmingham and the following issues were discussed:

Strong Stream warning system
This on line service is not currently available due to a technical issue which is being addressed. 
The issues with the service are not limited to the current technical problems and it probably true to say that it is more accurately described as a water level indicator, as most measures don't include flow rates. The wording describing the warnings needs to be changed to better reflect what it does and where the data comes from. These feeds include SCADA, Manual input, EA measures plus inconsistent measures from the Kennet and Avon and other non CRT waters such at the Warwickshire Avon.

A single, consistent nationwide system is needed.

There is also inconsistency between the on line measures and the bankside boards where canals meet rivers.

The priority is to resolve the on line offering which can be done quickly and at minimal cost. Changes to the "in the field" hardware have budget implications and will will be considered alongside other asset requirements.

Election Update (CRT National Council)

The invitation for National Council nominees has resulted in a larger number or candidates than four years ago.

There are:
5 nominees for the two Business Boating seats
34 nominees for the four Private Boating seats.

The election process is detailed on CRT's website.

After election an integration programme will be deployed to bring the new representatives up to speed as quickly as possible.

There was concern that the nominees may not all appreciate what is expected of them beyond the 2 annual National Council meetings. It was suggested that in future an explanation paper should be issues to all individuals submitting an application, giving a detailed insight into what role is and entails before the closing date for withdrawal is reached - helping candidates make informed decisions.

Boater Survey update

The main annual boaters survey issued in Feb / March to 1/3 of license holders is now being supplemented by bi weekly surveys issued to 2500 licence holders triggered by boat sightings. These requests deliver approx 300 results every 2 weeks, and this supplementary research work generates near real time insights month by month. Because it is based on boat movements recorded it delivers opinions of travelling boats rather than those of moorers.

The overall satisfaction levels in the main annual survey had dropped to 62% (from 71%) but the additional feedback showed this score rising from 64% in April to a rolling average of 67% in September.

The key issues raised are facilities, non compliant boats, dredging and overhanging towpath vegetation.

I small Hire Boaters survey has been undertaken and the results will be circulated in the near future.

Overall the North, Wales and East Midlands are rated the highest.

Most respondees had visited CRT's website and 65% found it easy to use.

Key take away was that movers were more satisfied than those that don't move much. Also the levels of satisfaction were improving over the summer.

Wide-beam issues

There have been seven unbooked wide-beam passages through Blisworth Tunnel this summer. This is in contravention to license T&C's and represents a very significant H&S risk. There is also concern that some craft with excessive air draft may damage tunnels and bridges. The plan is to feed such passages into the license renewal approval process.

There was discussion about adding movable width restrictors at the ends of the tunnel, but given the levels of non compliant passages a retrospective warning system is preferred.

Wide- beam mooring can also be an issue and inconsiderate mooring on some bends,  and a suitable approach to apply penalties is being considered.

Three Words positioning application

This application is becoming more widely used to pinpoint individuals locations. CRT's call centre staff have this system available and a comms is being developed to raise awareness.

Water Point compliance

The need for various adaptations to public CRT water points was raised including insulation and non return valves. More stringent anti back syphon rules apply to taps near Elsan / pump out points.

CRT will take this potential away and consider what action may need to be built into their facilities programme.

Emissions issue

Feedback has been sought re the level of impact the proposed changes will have. So far CRT have 400 responses and these will be collated and submitted to the Government in Jan 2020.

Next Meeting is in February 2020.

Canal Hunter Series Three starts

Canal Hunter - Series Three Introduction and the Slough Arm
November 2019

For those of you that don't already subscribe to my YouTube channel "Life at 2.3 Miles per Hour", I have started a new series hunting for the lost sections of is Birmingham Canal Navigations. 

This season I will be looking for the remains off the Wyrley and Essington Canal, and my plan is to publish and episode each Saturday till we reach the bottom of Ogley Locks near Lichfield.

That should keep me busy for most of the winter!

Click here for Series Three, Episode One - Introduction and The Slough Arm.

Happy watching!

Saturday, 23 November 2019

CRT's National Council Elections

CRT's National Council Elections
November 2019

CRT will soon be holding elections for seats on their National Council.



The names of those standing will be published on 25th November and voting will take place on line between 20th Jan and 14th Feb 2020.

All 12 month license holders on CRT's books as at 19th Sept will be eligible to cast a vote.

I have represented Business Boating for the last four years I can confirm that I will be standing for re-election. However, because the 500 Roving Traders have now been included in the Private Boating constituency, I will this time be seeking votes from the wider combined Private Boating and Roving Trader community.

The election pages limit me to a manifesto of just 200 words so, to supplement this, I have produced a short YouTube video explaining the role of the National Council and why I am standing for re-election for a further four years.

Click on this link to take you straight to my video.

I would be grateful if you would 1. share this around the various on line forums to spread the word and 2. vote for me when the time comes.

Many thanks.


Friday, 22 November 2019

Exploring the Aylsham Navgation

Canoe trip down the Aylsham Navigation
November 2019


I spent much of my adolescence messing about on the River Bure near my home village of Coltishall in Norfolk. If I wasn't swimming in it I was fishing, sailing or canoeing. 

One way or another I always seemed to find myself somewhere near the river, and often on the reaches above Coltishall Lock which comprised the Aylsham Navigation, before it was washed out in a huge flood in 1912.

I have always fancied making a canoe trip along the old navigation and a few weeks ago I have the opportunity to do just that, accompanied by my son Dan.

We sent a day travelling from Aylsham to Coltishall in a canoe rented from The Canoe Man, taking advantage in a small window of opportunity when the river level subsided enough to make the passage possible.

I took my trusty GoPro with me and made thee videos of the trip into which I have woven an account of its history, along with my recollections of life on the river in the 1970's.

For those of you without a YouTube account her are three links to the videos:






Wednesday, 20 November 2019

An apology!

What happened to all the comments?
November 2019

I had been coming to the conclusion that blogging isn't what it used to be.

The number of visitors to the Capt Ahab site have kept climbing over the years, but I was more than a little mystified why the comments had stopped. I was increasingly of the opinion that I was writing into a vacuum - because no one ever said anything in reply.

But then this morning, at 4.30am when I couldn't sleep, I was idly adding something to the blog when I started clicking on the buttons relating to unmoderated comments. Imagine my shock when there were literally hundreds of unpublished comments.....

I used to rely on a notification e-mail from Blogger that a comment was awaiting moderation, but somehow this function was turned off about 18 months ago. So, I offer a heartfelt apology to all of you have left a comment and been puzzled why I had never replied.

The system is working now and I will regularly check the unmoderated comments button in future. Please don't think I was being rude - I love to get comments, especially those that add historical snippets to my posts.

If you ask me "did you switch the e-mail notification system off?" my reply will have to be "no comment"!

Monday, 18 November 2019

To Venice by train

Birmingham to Venice by train
November 2019

On Nov 4th, the 250th anniversary of the completion of the Birmingham Canal, we set off on a European train journey which ended in Venice, Europe's second canal city.




I made a Canal Hunter video of the trip which will appeal to those that like canals, Venice and rail travel.

For those without a YouTube account - here is a link to a bit of light relief in the midst of all the electioneering.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Opposite the Avery Loop

Opposite the Avery Loop
November 2019


I have never been entirely sure what to call the last lost loop just before Smethwick Junction. For the sake of a better name I have always referred to it as the Avery Loop, a loop of canal created by the construction of the New Mainline Canal which looped round the old Avery Works, a contemporary of Matthew Bolton's Soho Manufactory.






Immediately opposite, near Rabone Lane there is another blocked up canal arch which is framed by yet another rise and fall in the towpath and backed by modern factory building on Steelbright Road.


1974 View from near Rabone Lane towards the Avery Arm


Among Hugh Potter's photos of the area taken in the early 1970's, there is one image taken from behind the wall and looking across the canal towards the site if the Avery Works and the site of the Soho Foundary, with the distinctive chimney and stepped wall still visible.


Another lost vista of an obscure corner of the BCN.


Monday, 11 November 2019

Sandwell Coal Chutes

Sandwell Coal Chutes
November 2019

There is a missing landmark on the Old Mainline in Smethwick, a bit like a missing tooth in a familiar smile.




The landmark I am talking about is the set of canal-side Coal Chutes which were built to transfer coal mines at the nearby Sandwell Park Colliery. This coal arrived by tramway and was dropped into BCN day boats (Joeys) waiting below.




These loading chutes towered over the Old Main Line, gradually decaying following the closure of the colliery at the far end of the tramway. Over the years the concrete towers crumbled and ended up in a dangerous condition before they were finally demolished and replaced with an interpretation board.

 An images has emerged from the Hugh Potter collection which provide a great insight into this landmark as it was in 1974, before the decay really set in - another little bit of the BCN's rich jigsaw.




Saturday, 9 November 2019

An un-regenerated Engine Arm, BCN

Engine Arm as it was
November 2019

The Engine Arm in Smethwick has been a backwater full of residential boats for decades, but back in 1974 it was all very different. 

Among the Hugh Potter collection of black and white images there are two which reveal this as the abandoned backwater as it used to be. This was back in the day when there was no winding hole at the far end and an expedition along this obscure arm resulted in an awkward and rather long reverse back out again.




If you are unfamiliar with the Engine Arm you may wonder why the BCN went to the bother of erecting such an impressive aqueduct to go....well, nowhere in particular. Truth be told the Engine Arm's has always out-punched its weight, not only serving the various canal side factories but it was also a key feeder for the Wolverhampton Level above Smethwick Locks.




Not only did it receive water from the Titford Pools Reservoir via the Tat Bank Branch, it was also home to a large pumping engine which lifted and recirculated water from the Birmingham Level below.




So that accounts for the need for an aqueduct over the New Main Line, but why so fancy? To be honest I don't really know. It was cast by the rapidly expanding Horsley Iron Works in nearby Tipton, and its my personal belief that the simple metal trough was embellished just to show what they were capable of.

Engine Arm Aqueduct in1974

As usual, if you know differently, leave a comment below.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Chance's lost basin

Chance's Basin 
November 2019


It's not every day that I come across an old photo of something completely new to me on the BCN.


Trawling through Hugh Potter's black and white images from the 1970's, I chanced (pun intended) upon two photos of a basin hidden behind an ancient guillotine gate, a basin I have never seen recorded elsewhere.


The narrative tells me it is a basin which went into Chance's glassworks in Smethwick and with a bit of help from Paul Balmer, this is its location:



Here are the two photos which capture the relic in March 1975:





The red arrow is the shed before the roof was removed and the green arrow is the entrance.

For a contemporary context, the entrance used to be on the Smethwick side of Stewards Aqueduct and looks like this:



My thanks to Paul for his assistance in accurately placing these archive photos.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Ryders Green Interchange Basins

Ryders Green Interchange Basins
November 2019

Those of you familiar with the BCN will be aware of the large number of railway interchange basins which are dotted around the local canal network.

By the time the railways arrived there was simply no spare space to fit railway tracks into the established canal based infrastructure, and a pragmatic approach was taken instead. Railways were brought in where possible and the loads were then transferred to canal boats for shipment to their final destination. This approach had the added benefit of temporary storage pending unloading.

One of the largest interchange basins exists at the foot of the Ryders Green Locks, but its all so overgrown that it's hard to imagine what it used to look like.

Well perhaps I can help there. Hugh Potter's photos from 1974 include a number of the interchange basins viewed from the bottom lock.





Sunday, 3 November 2019

Haines Branch photos from 1974

Haines Branch Canal
November 2019

For many the name Haines will make you think of the car owners manual, an essential workshop guide for all those unreliable cars of the 1970's.

But there is the other Haines, a lost branch canal which exited the Walsall Canal immediately below the Ryders Green locks in the Great Bridge area of the Black Country. 

This short canal runs southwest for nearly a mile to reach the site of various collieries and brickworks, industry which has left a legacy of flooded extraction pits now known as the Balancing Lake in the Sheepwash Urban Park.

There are very few photos of this obscure waterway, but a couple do exist from 1974, taken by Hugh Potter, highlighting the state of the navigation nearly 50 years ago.



The Haines Branch in 1974

Friday, 1 November 2019

One Million page views and I missed it!

One Million Page Views
November 2019

I have been keeping a vague eye on the blog page counter in recent weeks, knowing the number has been steadily creeping up to the magic one million mark.

I reminds me of a friend who took his girlfriend out in his ancient Morris Minor back in the 1970's for a "special secret reason'. The girl in question was fully expecting a proposal of marriage and was left feeling somewhat let down when he slowed he car and stopped at the roadside, pointing to the odometer which ever so slowly clicked over from 99,999 miles to 100,000. That was back in the day when 100,000 miles was a major achievement for any car. Oddly, I remember the story but I can't for the like of me remember if they did ever get married.....

It turns out that the blog has been getting a lot of attention in the USA just recently (I have no idea why) and as a result the viewing numbers accelerated suddenly and we appear to have passed through the one million threshold last weekend.


I know its only a number, but there is a little part of me that would have liked to been on line  when the milestone was reached.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Union Arm, BCN

Union Arm, BCN
October 2019

The Union Arm is an elusive little canal, a twisting arm which came off the original Birmingham Canal near what became Pudding Green Junction. 

Its course was complicated when the New Main Line was built in the 1840's, cutting across its line with both its start and terminus on the eastern side but the meat of the waterway on the west.

The little network of canals and basins are long gone, but I recently found a photograph in the Hugh Potter collection taken in the early 1970's which shows the entrance the the end basin, and the factory backdrop still exists providing an accurate location.

If I find any more images of the Union Arm I will add them to the post.






Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Hednesford photos on the Cannock Extension Canal

Hednesford Basin, Cannock Extension Canal
October 2019

Exploring the northern extremities of the BCN represents something of a challenge.

The problem is the Cannock coalfields they were built to serve. The most northerly tendril of the BCN empire was the Cannock Extension Canal, a thin ribbon of water which extended north from Pelsall Common and ended at a basin in Hednesford, near Cannock.

Today just over a mile of the Cannock Extension exists, terminating abruptly at the A5 trunk road. With a bit of perseverance it's possible to track its course for another mile or so north to the site of Conduit Colliery, but there the trail goes cold. 

When traditional coal mining was over the NCB decided to open cast the area, which essentially means scraping off all the surface layers and exposing the remaining coal measures to the open air, and the onslaught of bulldozers. All very efficient but a nightmare for the canals. They were already subsiding into the underground mines, but now they were swept away in their entirety. When Humpty Dumpy was put back together again the re-profiling was nothing like it was previously, and not only are the lines of the canals gone, the land is now markedly lower.

Fortunately, Hugh Potter, a keen canal enthusiast, spent time in the area in the early 1970s and took some cracking photos just before the remaining structures were lost forever.

The following are some images of the Hednesford end of the canal.

BCN cottages at Hednesford Basin, Cannock Extension Canal

Last Bridge on the Cannock Extension Canal at Hednesford

Stable block at Hednesford, BCN


The original blog post for this section is linked here.


Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Images of the Halford Branch Canal, BCN

The Halford Branch Canal, BCN
October 2019

OK BCN enthusiasts, you are in for a bit of a treat.

Hugh Potter has very kindly given me access to his extensive collection of black and white photos taken around the BCN in the early 1970s.

It has been an absolute delight to work through them, adding dates and places to the scanned images plus sorting them into my slightly idiosyncratic sub divisions of the BCN.

Among the wealth of images which show the BCN as I first encountered it, there are some absolute gems which show built remains on some of the "other 60 miles' and represent the very first photos if have found of these lost miles.

The first corner I want to bring to life is the Halford Branch, itself a branch off the disconnected Ridgacre Branch, near West Bromwich.



 I am not sure exactly where this photo was taken, but I suspect it was on the section to the north of Church Lane.... unless you know differently (leave a comment!)



This is the bridge over Church Lane with the foreground now sunken hard standing.  Its location is apparent from the hump in the road.



The following link takes you to my original posts in my search for the Halford Branch.




Friday, 27 September 2019

CRT Jottings - Elected Boaters Meeting 25.9.19

Elected Boaters Meeting
25.9.19

You know what they say about busses....none for ages and then three at once.

Well thats how it feels with CRT meetings - little action for months and suddenly, three in a week.

This week it was the Elected Boaters meeting, a gathering which takes place about three times a year and it there to serve as a forum to discuss nitty gritty boating issues, often things which are quite localised or specific and therefore wouldn't get bandwidth in CRT National Council. Truth be told its this sort of meeting where everyday issues are identified and flagged to CRT. It also operates the other way round where CRT float issues and ideas past us before they are generally released on an unsuspecting world.

This meeting was largely filled with issues raised by the Boating Reps present which included: Stella Ridgeway, Andrew Phasey, Phil Prettyman, Nigel Hamilon and myself.

Zero Emissions
This topic absorbed nearly half the two hour meeting and was in response to a recent government pledge to make the maritime sector (including inland waterways) zero emission by 2050. The inclusion of Inland Waterways took everyone by surprise containing an expectation that a plan will be in place from 2025 leading to full implementation by 2050.

Although this subject is a bit dry and the deadline a long way off, the implications are very significant because the expectation appears to have shifted from "Inland Waterways craft and few in number and low impact so moving in the right (greener) direction within is OK" to "Inland Waterways craft will comply fully with the wider emissions plan and must arrive at Zero on the stated date". 

This will impact both heating (stoves) and propulsion. Most worrying, the expectation seems to be that there will be a complete shift away from diesel propulsion and instead craft will be powered by electricity, or hydrogen /ammonia cells.The electric route would call for a massive charging infrastructure investment and the fuel cell approach is either prohibitively expensive or experimental / unproven.

CRT is actively engaging in a call for evidence and boaters can expect to receive feedback requests which will be used to provide statistically valid data to the Government. Boaters are asked to respond.

It was observed that new boats have a 50 to 60 year life span so new boats will be operating long after 2050 and it will be very difficult to retro convert them as and when new requirements are announced. The paper suggests a net zero position so there may be scope to follow an off-setting route by selective planting of CRT land.

It is believed that a vast majority of live aboards use a stove to heat their craft and a question on heating will be included within the feedback form.

CRT will feed back to Government by the end of the year.


Customer Service Faciities

These are the subject of an ongoing review. There are 254 service sites on the network (the services offered very) which collectively cost £2m pa or £7874 per unit.
Pump out machines are a particular problem with CRT effectively subsidising each pump out by £30 (true cost is circa £45). One option is to make greater use of nearby third party facilities and the other is to design an inlet to facilitate self pump outs.

This situation needs to be made more sustainable with a lot of money being spent repairing vandalised buildings.

Over and under provision of facilities will be assessed and minimum standards identified. The provision of fault prone showers are a likely focus of attention.

To reduce building repair costs a modular open air design is being considered, more use of third party facilities will be considered and a seasonally weighted cleaning programme will be considered.

The need for temporary alternative elsan facilities when a site is out of action for a prolonged period was raised. 

I specifically cited the one on the  GU south of Leamington Spa and the one at Rugby. The first is being reopened soon and Rugby is being reviewed.

CRT will take this issue away and see how things can be enhanced.

Elections

The existing Boater reps are considering if they wish to stand for re-election. There are mixed responses at this stage with some planning to stand and others deciding not to for a variety of reasons.

Nominations open 21 Oct and close on 18th November.
Result of nominations announced on 25 Nov.

For the record I do plan to stand, but this time it will be in the Private Boating constituency as the Roving Traders have been moved over.

Customer Service Contacts.

The increasing difficulty of contacting CRT triggered  lively discussion and problems were cited from all members present.
It was apparent that there are difficulties reaching CRT via the website and the absence of feedback meant that there was little confidence that the messages were getting through.
This issue was partly attributed to the loss of bankside staff and also a lack of ownership of issues when raised.
All reps indicated that it is becoming more and more difficult to defend the lack of CRT feedback.

Speaking personally, I was unsure if my recent email message about a significant leak in Market Drayton embankment had been registered.

London situation
The volume of extra boats is about 400 up this year, although the high density has spread out a bit.
It is believed that London boats turn over about every 3 years, which means that the experience levels can be low.

Fradley Lock Landing
I raised concern about the inadequacy of the single lock landing above Fradley Junction, one of the busiest lock flights on the system. I had recently observed boat rage from moorers leading to distress among moving boats and unauthorised landing on the offside bank. I suggested that an extra two or three lock landing spaces be created and a corresponding reduction in the number of permanent moorings between the lock and the pub. This is being considered.

Next meeting Wed 26th Feb 2020.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

CRT National Council meeting notes 19.9.19

CRT National Council Meeting Notes
19 September 2019

Not content with attending CRT's Annual Public Meeting, I also attended what could be my last National Council meeting in the afternoon.

The meeting was held with the morning's Annual Public Meeting in the background (see my last post for details).

As ever, these are my take away points which I felt were particularly interesting, but should not be taken as minutes.

Questions and Answers
The meeting started with a Q & A session and the following issues were raised from the floor:

  • Health and Safety plans are becoming more visitor focussed
  • The funding impacts of Toddbrook were explored
  • General overtopping issues were discussed
  • The balance between leaving scrubland and adopting a more manicured approach to vegetation management were considered
  • Cycling incidents - data to be analysed to see if incidents reported have increased
Appointments (Dame Jenny Abramski)
Various structural changes were explained, proposed and voted through including:
  • Reappointment of Allan Leighton as Chair for a third and final consecutive term
  • Reappointment of various Trustees for a second term (Jenny Abramski, Nigel Annet, Janet Hayben and Tim Reeve)
  • Increasing max consecutive terms of office for Trustees from two to three
  • Various nominated Council Members have stood down and replacements identified
  • CBOA to become a nominating body to replace co-opted Peter Hugman's resignation
  • MIND to become a nominating body for an additional wellbeing perspective
  • Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs (AWCC) to become a nominating body to add an additional Boating representative
  • Angling / fisheries nominee to become an elected member
  • 5 nominated members reaching the end of their 2 x 4 year periods and new nominees sought
  • 3 nominated members reaching the end of their 1st term and confirmation that they will continue for a second to be sought
  • A new nominee is needed from the Wildlife Trust
  • Cycling Uk has nominated Sophie Gordon to replace Matt Mallinder
  • Roving Trader population to be included within Private Boating for forthcoming elections
  • Volunteers representatives to increase from one to two
  • The number of sponsors needed for elections to be reduced to one
The timing of the next elections to be run by Electoral Reform Society (ERS) are as follows:
  • 21st October E mails and letters issued to all eligible voters to seek nominations for membership of National Council 
  • 18th November - nomination of potential candidates closes 
  • 25th November - lists of nominees published
  • 20th Jan to 14th Feb - voting period
  • 17th Feb - results announced in time for the March National Council meeting
The Waterways Ombudsman
  • A user representative to be appointed to observe the Ombudsman for a year - to be selected after the forthcoming elections.
Auditors 
  • BDO reappointed
Youth Engagement
  • At the request of National Council, a period of time was allocated to explore the issue of youth engagement, as this is seen as crucial to the future of the waterways.
  • A creative session ensued led by Louis Howell, Co-Opted Council Member for Youth
  • Various case studies were considered designed to gain a greater appreciation of what would motivate various ages and types of young people
  • The discussions then moved to consider what CRT could do to take advantage and harness the various scenarios
  • The outcomes and ideas will be worked back into the ongoing Youth Engagement strategy
  • This session proved to be both enlightening and refreshing.
Meeting closed at 3.45pm

Friday, 20 September 2019

CRT Annual Public Meeting 2019

CRT Annual Public Meeting 
19 Sept 2019

Introduction
Every September CRT hold their Annual Public Meeting which in recent years has been at Austin Court, Birmingham, and this year was streamed live to reach as wide an audience as possible.

The following are my take aways, but should not be read as formal minutes. 

This was the seventh APM and the event was introduced by the Chair of Trustees, Allan Leighton who observed that Income, Investment and volunteer hours were continuing to rise as the Trust seeks to promote and repurpose our historic inland waterways. The work of the trust is to make them more relevant and more visited.

The recent events at Toddbrook Reservoir featured significantly during the morning and highlighted the significant infrastructure issues facing the organisation. Two interesting throw away facts were 1. That 1bn litres of water was pumped out of Toddbrook and 2. That £3.8bn of well being benefit had been delivered by CRT (not sure how this is quantified).

Finance
The Trust has a very diverse range if income streams but is unusual in the amount that is generated from commercial investment activity. 

Stuart Mills (Chief Finance Officer) reported that of the capital funds raised recently, £80m had been invested in new assets in Cannock, Sale, Leeds, Birmingham and Staines and a further £20m is already committed to other acquisitions. The returns from these investments is significantly more than the financing costs and will therefore feed into additional funds available for charitable activities.

Since the trust was formed the value if its assets have grown 77% against 12% inflation and the volume of its investment income has grown by 66%.

Richard Parry (CEO) update

  • Boating remains at the heart of all CRT does. Boater feedback has been switched to a rolling monthly programme, offering effectively real time updates.
  • The trust takes 120k calls and e-mails each year and new supplier is being deployed to handle this activity.
  • The amount spent on assets has increased from £48M to £66m in 7 years
  • Asset graded ABC (satisfactory or better) are steady at 87% (was 83%) and the law of diminishing returns applies to achieve further improvement.
  • Towpath condition ABC has increased from 75% to 81%
  • Breach risk has declined from 2.5% to 1.0% (low is good).
  • The benefit of operating as a Trust is the ability to lake a long term view and plan expenditure accordingly.
  • The number of high risk assets has been managed down from 200 to 3.
  • £8 to £10m of external funds have been applied to towpath improvements

Julie Sharman (COO)

  • Health and Safety measures deteriorated last winter prompting a back to basics training programme.
  • Of the 317 reported incidents 34 were CRT asset related
  • 46% of the 317 were slips, trips or falls
  • 2 fatalities in Manchester  triggered a review with ROSPA, and resulted in the deployment of railings at Tibb Lock and rescue equipment being installed
  • A fatality on the Pont aqueduct has triggered a consultation on how to reduce the width of the gaps in the railings given its listed monument status
  • The safety of staff and volunteers is of paramount importance.
Toddbrook Reservoir review
  • We were walked through the response to the incident
  • The last time the emergency spillway was used was in 2007
  • The spillway was built in 1970
  • The response was a multi agency effort
  • 11 pumps remain on site
  • Water level being held 12m down from normal level
  • Remaining water will be removed when temperatures permit a fish rescue
  • Focus was to get inlet water switched into the bypass channel
  • An independent review has commenced to identify the root cause of the failure
  • Key question is how best to fix Toddbrook
  • Elsewhere CRT has 72 reservoirs of which 68 are rated high risk
  • The average age of CRT's reservoirs is 200 years vs 160 years for others.
  • Reservoir management is covered by detailed legistation
  • All are independently inspected at least evert 10 years by 30 inspectors
  • Lighter touch internal annual reviews are undertaken
  • Supervisory visits are are undertaken by CRT staff every one or two weeks
  • CRT have appointed a Reservoir Asset Manager for added focus
  • More frequent review are being deployed alongside telemetry equipment.
Heather Clark (Wellbeing agenda)
  • Wellbeing is being aimed at a younger audience
  • Gardeners World and Chelsea displays projecting CRT beyond normal audience
  • Beauty on doorstep - linked to Green Flag awards and plastics challenge
  • Natural Health Service - includes GP prescribed canal side activity
  • Local community - 60 % increase in towpath used where they have been improved
  • Nature on doorstep - Green action 2019
  • Connection activity underway
    • Working with other organisations
    • Establishment of a Youth Panel
    • Development of the Desmond Family Canoe Trail
    • Working with canal side Park Run movement
    • Development of Lets Fish initiative
    • Development of Arts and Culture activity
    • CRT asset Open Days continued
    • Development of Volunteering initiative
    • 250 Canal Adoptions in place
Adnan Saif (Regional Director Midlands)


Showcased Midlands activity / potential including:

  • 900k of canals in region
  • 5.7million people within short walk of canal - 1.75m in urban corridors.
  • Currently 54% awareness - aim to drive that to 80%
  • 1400 volunteers in region of which 850 are very active (almost none BAME)
  • Deploying a local area led strategy
  • BCN 250 activity in 2019
  • Coventry City of Culture in 2021
  • Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022
Question and Answer session

Questions came thick and fast and the questions I noted down included:
  • Shortcomings in follow up for hurt volunteers
  • Dangerous cycling increasing even in country
  • Hedgerow encroachment
  • Growth of weed in canals
  • Less focus on boaters and offside vegetation growth issues
  • Future plans for disabled boater discussion group
  • Structural Governance issues not addressed
  • Ongoing loss of canal side built heritage
  • Concern about average age in room (too old)
  • Concerns about water management (too much or too little)
  • Problems with stiff paddle gear
  • Communication issues with CRT
  • Limited canal side recycling opportunities for boaters
  • Timing of APM questioned - is it optimal for those in work
Meeting closed at 12.30