BWML sells its marinas

Published: Monday, 24 December 2018

THE Canal & River Trust has finally managed to sell its marinas.

But not to a marina operator but to an investment company—Lloyds Development Capital, that CaRT tells will be 'supporting the existing management team'.

An investment

Known as British Waterways Marinas Ltd, the organisation purchased marinas as they came up for sale, eventually owning 20 throughout the country, with the stated intention of it being an investment to make money for the upkeep of the waterways.

As to whether this actually happened is not known, only that in its early days £500,000 was given to British Waterways, but then taken back to purchase other marinas. All in all it was regarded as something of a white elephant, with money being lavished on the marinas themselves, with such as big expansions when there was not the need. At the last 'count', BWML stated that its marinas were on average two thirds full.

empty jettiesBuilt extra jetties

One such expansion was at Sawley Marina when after the boom years it was decided to build many extra piers to accommodate the expected increase in boating that did not materialise, with the result that the marina never reached its capacity and now is something like just two thirds full. 

Another silly idea was to construct special 'platinum' moorings, were boats would be cleaned, serviced and even have groceries delivered but at twice the normal mooring rate. No boater was silly enough to take up the offer.  At the moment it is less than half full even though the scheme was dumped.

canaltime jan 2009Canaltime

During that time Canaltime brought in around 50 boats to the marina with another silly idea of having pump-out facilities along the whole pier so that the boats could be pumped out at their own jetties. But whoever thought up the scheme failed to realise that pump-out is achieved by suction, and with dozens of outlets and scores of joints, the suction simply did not materialise, and it failed to work. 

It was after this time that the broad locks out of the marina up the Trent & Mersey Canal were 'maintained' making them difficult to operate causing many complaints by the Canaltime hirers, so eventually the company moved out.

Over 20 years

We have moored at Sawley Marina for over 20 years, it first being operated by an insurance company and was in a sorry state, but was then taken over by British Waterways who upgraded it somewhat, then it was the turn of BWML, that at least did spend money on it and recently 'tarted it up' ready for sale with more reliable LED lighting on the piers.

flood cottNow it has gone full circle with an investment company taking over, and the feeling that money will no longer be spent and perhaps lose the few facilities that it has.  And should the floods come again? It was in 2000 a great deal of flood water was released from Ladybower Dam and flooded the marina, the water being around four feet above the jetties, but the many (at that time) British Waterways people made sure all the boat were safe. The photograph shows Sawley Lock completely covered.


The neighbouring Derby Boat Club was not so lucky with many sinking.  Even the marina above Derwent Mouth Lock suffered four sinkings.  So what if that was to happen again? With so few actual people now available, none from an investment company and no lock keepers, it would be a disaster.

The hope however is that the investment company does not see its marinas as a milk-cow and bump-up the mooring rates, that would undoubtedly prove to be a somewhat less of an investment...