The reason for the litter

Published: Thursday, 19 January 2017

THE rubbish that we are seeing more and more both in the canals and around the towpaths is without any doubt the result of a decision by the then British Waterways, writes James Henry.

And that was to get rid of the lengthsmen that patrolled the canals and amongst other things kept the canal and the towpath tidy, getting rid of all that litter that we see so much of these days.

Was it really worth it?

I wonder if the decision was really worth it, for there have been instances of breaches—take the one at Dutton (pictured) near the western end of the Trent & Mersey Canal as an example. No one saw it coming, but worse, when it was eventually repaired no one saw that it was still leaking, this being the result of a poor job by the contractors, who obviously did not know what they were doing. For the join of the repaired section with the old was not done properly and so, as no one saw the water escaping, no one noticed until there was another breach and the canal closed once again.

Time and time again culverts have been blocked with water pouring into and over the banks of canals and causing stoppages. And the many leaks—now I understand in their hundreds, would have been seen and attended to straight away instead of being left until again, a stoppage was necessary.


I won't get started on stiff and broken paddles, that in my early days all worked perfectly.

In the old days when I started boating the lengthsmen would most likely have prevented all these problems using their knowledge to allowing them to do something about them themselves or quickly alert the authorities to prevent them getting worse.

Nowadays of course the only people you see patrolling the towpath are those checking boat licences, alas, their only interest and also alas, only where boats are moored, so with no one now regularly patrolling the canals, problems are missed, and so get worse.