Thursday, 31 March 2011

Ditchcrawlers and boat gypsies

British Waterways, that rather sleepy quango that runs our canals and navigable rivers, is to be replaced by an independent charitable vehicle with safeguards built in to ensure adequate maintenance and public access. Good. The new body will have to find ways to do without the £70m a year public subsidy, and this prospect is causing ripples of concern amongst ditchcrawlers. pah.


Look, £70m a year is a pittance, a tiny drop of money, in relation to the asset value of the entire inland waterway network in England and Wales. And the whole lot can be found overnight without costing genuine ditchcrawlers a single penny more. BW estimate that 25% of boats at their primary mooring sites are being used as primary residences without planning consent. In many cases, they even receive mooring fees paid in Housing Benefit. Mooring fees on the 'line' of navigation are a pittance compared to housing costs, or to private residential marina costs, and an attractive alternative to boat gypsies. 


Developers are not blind to the attraction of living on a boat. Generally they buy land adjacent to the canal network, dig out a big basin, connect it to the canal and install pontoons, power, water and other facilities. And charge a commercial rate for residential mooring. Encouraging suitable additional private mooring sites and moving illegals off the line of navigation, together with a full commercial recovery for those few legitimate residential moorings on the canal network, would make up that £70m in no time at all. 


[NB for non boaters there are two types of boat on the inland waterways; first, the narrow boats and cruisers fitted with little engines and large kitchens that know they belong on the canals. Then there are proper sea boats fitted with radar, life rafts, distress flares, EPIRBS, sea anchors, W/T (VHF and SSB), RORC medical supplies and the like that say "we could go on proper tidal waters if we wanted" but never do, and spend their lives cruising at 5mph between Reading and Windsor.]
[NBB And for true tales of heroism and daring-do from a narrow boat that didn't accept that it should stick to inland waters, see The Tuesday Night Club - crossing the Thames Estuary in a loaf-tin is one of the great eccentricities of our time]

12 comments:

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Have no fear R, as when the EU fully implements TEN-T inland waterways will cost those that use it an arm and a leg! Promise!

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Everything you say is true, but why do I have the sinking feeling that the only real result will be that it will cost me a small fortune to go through the Crinan Canal?

Oh well, I prefer the Mull anyway.

As long as the wind's below 20 knots!

Anonymous said...

Never mind crossing the Thames estuary in a loaf tin. For those that have read "Narrow Dog to Carcassonne" by Terry Darlington, you will know that he crossed the English Channel in his narrow boat with his wife and his "narrow dog" - a whippet. I shall say no more in case you want to read it.

Coney Island

WitteringsfromWitney said...

WY: Having done the Crinan twice it felt more like both arms and both legs!

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Witters, you need a crew of teenagers to turn the cranks. Oddly enough I haven't actually done the canal since mine left home!

WitteringsfromWitney said...

WY: there were for of us fellas - two doing the gates and two dealing with mooring lines - I stayed with the boat (no flies on me!)

I did the Crinan in 2006 and 2008 on the way up to the Malt Cruise.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

WY: On second thoughts it may have been 2007 and 2009.......

Elby the Beserk said...

I crossed the Thames in Oxford - so it would have been either the Isis or the Cherwell at that point - in a bath.

I'll get my coat.

English Pensioner said...

The cruisers to which you refer spending their time between Reading and Windsor are on the Thames, not a canal! I assume this will still be run by the "Thames Conservancy". Most of them wouldn't be able to use a narrow canal, such as the Kennet & Avon from Reading, as they'd be too wide for the locks or too tall for the overbridges

Fantana said...

I believe that this barge was en route from Belgium to France:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kg_QweiLy0&feature=player_embedded#at=21 Three persons, 1 lifejacket, no VHS. I'm sticking with the Contessa 26!!!

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

There is no doubt that something needs to be done about BW, their abysmal management and the status of canal dwellers.

Rather than reinventing the wheel perhaps a look at how other places like Holland work it would be useful.

BW are yet another leaden bureaucratic quango - albeit one with an eye to turning the canal network into a rural Disneyland (bonuses + share options all round!) where one has to buy £5 tickets to cycle the towpath (they tried that on the K&A) BW have indulged in more than their fair share of property skulduggery themselves....

Cross the Atlantic in a narrow boat?

Anon Anon said...

While this is slightly o/t, I must observe that the Waterways are only following the flow of everthing else that was previously 'British.' N.B: Airways; Airports; not to mention utilities.

I truly cannot imagine how our so-called politicians (especially the 'conservatives') can live with themselves.