Other users are important

Published: Wednesday, 21 June 2017

In responding to the comments by Paul Robinson and given a further outing on Sunday by Victor, Andrew Bailes has listed all of CaRT's formal Objectives, writes Mike Todd.

At the top it puts navigation first and it would be unimaginable if the Trust did not have this at the top. Yet it is clear that other people are important as well as boaters, especially those who use the canals for recreational purposes. The future of the network may well depend on them as much as anyone.

Chesterfield Canal

For the past few days we have been exploring the Chesterfield Canal, perhaps one of the most beautifully situated on the network but also amongst the least used. The weather has been kinder than when we came here first, five years ago but it is evident that improvement as well as maintenance is on-going.

As a largely restored canal, it is never going to be easy. In that five years, several new visitor moorings have been created and the amount of reed intrusions at the edges is significantly reduced. Water supply from the top was good and the main long flight up to the top was running over the by-washes at each lock.

Limit completely irrelevant

Of course, the close relationship between the top and the bottom of the canal is never going to allow a great speed and the limit of 4 mph is completely irrelevant (but then no-one has a sufficiently warped sense of humour to post such a sign!)

I refer to this experience because in all the seven days we have rarely seen more than a single boat on the move three was the maximum, sometimes none at all. On the moorings (which are sufficiently sparse that one has to plan each day around where to be come night time) we were mostly on our own.

Number of families

Yet the number of people using the canal for walking, running, jogging, cycling (no-one here seems to be in a race), having picnics, or just taking in the fresh air, was unsubstantial. On a pleasant summer evening on the edge of Worksop, it was pleasing to see the number of families out just for a stroll or some gentle exercise. Everyone we met had a cheery wave and often a simple chat about how the canal works.

Okay, so we did not take a scientific measurement but what I can tell you is that their number far exceeded the number of boaters, even if you include those tied up on permanent moorings. For those who believe that CaRT do not know what the state of its assets is, I can report that a full survey was being carried out by boat: two engineers assisted by two volunteers from the Chesterfield Canal Trust were making their way along the whole length. From the depth of the water, to the width of the locks, to the state of all the hidden culverts and overflows, everything was being measured and logged.

Full community use

If the Chesterfield Canal were being treated as a commercial business, what chance does anyone think that this wonderful navigation would have, if all that mattered was the ability to boat along it? Without the full community use there would be no support for the considerable costs I have alluded to above.

It is right that all those who seek to represent the interests of boating, whether elected, in the media or on social networks, should hold CaRT's feet to the fire on its performance in keeping the canals open for business. However, it will benefit all of us, boaters especially, if the widest possible use of the facilities is encouraged, so long as they are not incompatible with navigation, in order that we can continue to enjoy our unique asset.