IT HAS been noticeable, whilst passing along the Regent's Canal at around the time of the CART launch, of the amount of interest generated at the locks by seeing a boat actually using them.
Those running the new Trust may have their reasons for airbrushing boats out of the publicity but there is little doubt that from the public's point of view it is the boats which provide the focal point of interest on the waterways. We seemed to be running a continuous question and answer session every time we stopped, except during pouring rain of course.
The poor weather during the last couple of months has done nothing to encourage boats on to the system. I was surprised to find the Thames so quiet as we came down this a couple of weeks ago although the heavy rain has caused the Environment Agency to post red boards on all the sections behind us as we cruised down.
The passenger boats such as Salter's Steamers must really be feeling the pinch with virtually no passengers on their regular services. One of the locks advertised a total of 1400 boats locked through in the whole of June, not many compared to the numbers handled at Shropshire Union Canal Society Lockwinds in a single weekend.
Seems we only just made it down the Thames which was virtually closed again. One riverside chandlery and diesel retailer told me that he couldn't remember such a bad season, and was seriously thinking of selling up and retiring. Early afternoon and I was his first customer of the day.
Take your pick
THE Thames locks are currently displaying banners, one promoting water saving because of the drought and one telling you how to find out if you are at risk of flooding. No doubt trying to cope with the wettest drought on record.
WITHOUT wishing to resurrect the open/shut gates controversy I have just followed two of the Olympic trip boats down the Regent's Canal and they left the bottom gates and paddles open at every lock even though they knew we were following. It made for very hard work but talking to the lockie at Commercial Lane Lock he said it is normal practice on this stretch of canal to leave the gates open except where newly placed notices ask for top gates to be shut because of leaks.
Seems there is normally much more traffic when there are no Olympic Games to contend with and they find it speeds up the flow of boats.
Ralph Freeman rightly points out the dangerous state of the steps which boaters are expected to negotiate at some locks. A few days ago on the Thames we saw the lock steps being pressure washed. An unpopular job for the lockies but one which they told me was done regularly for Health & Safety reasons. Perhaps CART should take notice.