Saturday, 31 January 2015

Plenty to nibble at the Buckingham Canal Society's AGM; CRT wants to manage EA waterways "soon"

At lunchtime we took the boat for a short cruise to the services block at Cosgrove to empty the Elsan. The wind was fairly strong and behind us. While there we topped up the water and had lunch while the tank filled. Even with my newly kink-free hose it took a long time - well, time enough for us to have lunch. The wind assisted us round above the lock, and we returned to the marina. To get back on our berth stern first I usually reverse in from the canal as our mooring is, conveniently, directly in line with the marina entrance. On this occasion, however, I went in nose first, overshooting the pontoon, then allowed the wind to catch the front and bring the boat round. I then let the wind blow us sideways until we were in line with the pontoon, then reversed in. At this stage, of course, the nose carried on moving in the direction of the wind, and so we ended up nudging the next-door boat a bit, but I was pleased to get back into position without too many problems.

On the trip we saw lots of geese (Canada?) They didn't fancy being in the water at the same time as us, and scarpered off up the piling and onto the field.

This evening we went to the AGM of the Buckingham Canal Society. We joined the BCS a year or so ago after I encountered a small work party doing some test digging on the line of the canal. One of the party, sensing my interest, handed me a joining form which he happened to have in his pocket. I was impressed then that the BCS was so well geared up to attracting new people; I was even more impressed this evening when that same person - a committee member (or "trustee" as they now seem to be called) - remembered me from that chance meeting.

The business of the meeting was concluded fairly swiftly, then it was half time when we were invited to partake of the refreshments laid out on tables at the back of the room. We half regretted having already eaten tea as there was a feast of vol-au-vents (vols-au-vent?), olives, spicy sausage slices, sandwiches, cheese etc. There was wine too, but I stuck to fruit juice as I was driving.

After being called back to our seats it was time for a talk by Richard Parry, the CEO of the Canal and River Trust. He took us rapidly through a series of slides full of facts and figures. I think he was trying to show how CRT is committed to canal restoration as well as maintenance, but I'm afraid the presentation went on too long and there were too many slides with not enough time to take everything in.

Perhaps the most useful part was the question-and-answer session at the end, where Mr Parry came across as a real human being, genuinely interested in people's questions and trying to answer honestly without corporate-speak. The chairman of the meeting wound up the session all too soon, but I managed to talk to the CRT boss afterwards. I asked him how negotiations regarding the Environment Agency were going; Richard Parry replied that things had come to rather a standstill at the moment, but it was CRT's intention to "take over" the management of EA's waterways without having to be responsible for the major structures such as weirs and flood controls. Mr Parry said that when the Canal and River Trust took over from British Waterways it was the intention that CRT would be looking after EA's waterways within six months. Now that timescale has slipped, apparently - according to Mr Parry - because there didn't seem to be any will for it within the ranks of the civil service. We cannot expect any progress on that front before the General Election, Mr Parry said, but CRT is very keen that it should happen.

Meanwhile I'm going to have to get a short-term EA licence if we're to attend the Northampton boat gathering this summer.

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