... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Friday 2 September 2011

Rush to judgement

A rather worrying report has come from a HNBOC member that BW have embarked on a programme of planting reeds, and are even recruiting volunteers for the task. A lock keeper has apparently said that this is part of a policy to discourage 'casual mooring' and shepherd boats onto official visitor mooring sites. This would be bad enough if it was just a case of not being able to tie up in any safe, quiet spot you liked... part of the greatly valued freedom of life (whether full or part time) on the canal.

But more worrying is the fact that reeds and rushes are very tenacious, invasive plants. You only have to look at the Northampton Arm, and indeed parts of the Chesterfield canal, to see this. And these are just the ones I've seen for myself - the canal reduced to a single boat width by eight foot deep banks of reeds either side.

Not only does it hinder navigation in the immediate term, the fact that reed beds become established as official wildlife habitats means that it is difficult, if not impossible, to clear them once established, and thier existence could also hampre other maintenance activities such as dredging.

Of course, big chumks do break off - or are hacked off by fishermen - to form floating islands to get wrapped round your prop or wedged behind lock gates.

There is also a concent that so much vegetable matter, rotting in a relatively shallow canal, will upset the ecological balance, using up oxygen to the detriment of fish and other marine life. Reeds growing naturally can of course be a delightful sight, and a valuable wildlife habitat, and I'm all for leaving well alone provided they don't repsent a hazard or a hindrance to navigation - which does include being able to stop for the night. But they need to be monitored and controlled, and deliberately planting them, other than in areas where there is a good specific reason, seems to be a scheme of dubious wisdom, undertaken - if that lock keeper is to be believed - for the worst of reasons. HNBOC are going to take the matter up with BW, so lets hope a sensible outcome results. Sometimes I wonder whether HNBOC, which nominally represents the owners of historic boats, is actually the most clued up and pro-active organisation when it comes to defending the waterways as a navigation - the purpose for which they were built, and also for which they were restored.

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  1. Absolutely. I wrote about reed encroachment recently. Anyway, I thought the idea of a towpath was that it was accessible to boats who may need to pull in for any number of reasons. All this will do is drive continuous moorers onto visitor moorings. I shall write to BW.

  2. Also particularly ironic on the Chesterfield which never had commercial motor boats, but had horse boats until the sixties. I can't see how you couold tow a horseboat up here now.