Victor: It means less maintenance

Published: Sunday, 03 December 2017

I well remember my first sight of a pair of lock gate being replaced—one of the 'doubles' on Heartbreak Hill on the Trent & Mersey, many, many years ago.

This was well before the event of so much 'elf and safety, and speaking to the people doing the work they boasted it would take 'a couple of days'.

Believable too, as all they had was pull-lifts on a gantry, but more importantly as far as time was concerned, just a simple fence around the work area, that could be erected—and taken down—easily in a hour or so. In addition to the workboat there was just a toilet.

Derwent Lock fencing2But now? Examining the work on Derwent Mouth, that originally was for replacing a bit of coping and repairing a lock wall, there are rows and rows of fencing, metal flooring, walkways and steps down into the lock, even with handrails, oh yes, of course the obligatory cabin. And three work-boats. One it seems solely to transport the safety fencing. one with a crane and one with a cabin.

It has already been there three weeks to my knowledge, but with a gate foundation found to be broken, there is no sign of being finished.

But do you get my point? A simple couple of days job is nowadays a couple of weeks job with all the paraphernalia of 'elf and safety and corresponding working practices.

Remember the wooden strips of the bottom gates on the Leicester Section taking from 9am Monday morning to 4.30 Friday afternoon?  A £1 million spend on maintenance 20 odd years ago would now obviously need many, many millions for the same work.  But alas the maintenance spend is not keeping up with the extra cost, it is in fact being reduced, so can we really wonder at the endless stoppages and waterway closures? 

It can only get worse.

Better the devil you know

If Cart does managed to grab the Environmental Agency waterways, the boaters using them are in for the hell of a shock if they really expect the quoted 'improved maintenance'. 

And the IWA is pushing it for all it is worth, with its River Great Ouse branch going out of its way to get its members to support 'such a good idea'—if only they knew!

A joy to use

Carrying on from my comment agreeing with another contributor, who discovered how easy it was to work the manual broad locks on the Thames, they 'being correctly designed and balanced', I forgot to report that we have cruised the Thames three times now and so have experience of those locks.

Jan pull with poleOn the first attempt we were thwarted from reaching Lechlade and then cruising the whole non-tidal section as we were held up by a broken lock on the Oxford, so upon eventually reaching Oxford had no alternative but to head straight down to Brentford.

Later we managed it, reaching Lechlade then cruising down to Brentford.  The locks above Oxford were unmanned, and I have to agree with Iain Jones that they are a joy to use, all properly balanced with none swinging open. A number of the locks below Oxford were also unmanned, but they too gave no problems.

The above picture shows She Who Must, etc, etc easily pulling the far lock closed with a long pole, there for that purpose. For you acquainted with the poorly balanced six broad locks from Derwent Mouth, a method that is impossible with those six.

My advice to those thinking of cruising the Thames, then do it soon, before the special Cart brand of maintenance takes over.

8 ducks at playYou are right Sid

Sid Haworth sums up the latest scheme of Cart for boaters to leave 16ft at each end of their boats for anglers as 'another of its dumb schemes', and he is so right.

Following on from notices for ducks, separate space painted on towpaths for ducks to keep out of the way of mad cyclists, (and doing very little about them) 'poetry' on lock gates, endless notices welcoming you here there and everywhere, all are good money wasting schemes.

Just what is next to spend the every increasing licence money on I wonder.  Nothing would surprise me,

resposibility1How will it work?

So with the festive season approaching and men getting somewhat the worse for wear at pubs and clubs, patrols are to be mounted by the Medway to prevent the inebriated from falling in the river and drowning, but I don't see how it will work, unless these patrols are to accompany the men and get between them and the river.

And now I hear that such patrols are being considered for the Avon at Bath, that has claimed 12 lives in the past nine years from Bath to Bristol.

But as I may have mentioned before, a person's safety is his/her own responsibility.  Here's my favourite notice!

Victor Swift