Nature versus narrowboats

Published: Wednesday, 27 November 2019

THE Canal & River Trust has a difficult job trying to balance the interests of nature against the main purpose of canals, which is a means of navigation, writes Dave Hargreaves.

This is especially true at the present time as CaRT has hung its hat on the 'better by water' initiative. This has some logic as at some stage it will have to renegotiate with the government to try to secure a further injection of money.

Being paid for by boaters

If CaRT went along to the government and said that it needed the money to merely keep maintaining the canals and subsidising boaters, quite a few of whom don’t even pay for an up to date licence, then they are likely to be rebuffed and the cost of the waterways would end up being paid by boaters.

Personally I don’t want to pay more than our current £1,000.  At least with a strategy of making the waterways an asset that is open to other users such as walkers, runners , cyclists , canoeists and the rest, then CaRT may be able to persuade the government to part with some more money.  However in its pursuit of a picturesque environment that is attractive to all these other users has the policy gone too far and will end up costing us all a lot of money?

Rebranding costs a lot of money

Obviously the rebranding and promotion of a wellbeing environment costs a lot of money in itself.  But there are other direct issues such as the issue of vegetation—okay, bushes and trees look nice but if ash/hazel trees are allowed to spread then they will damage piling and even coping stones.  The repair of the infrastructure will be very costly, perhaps not today but in the future.

Mole Hills400Recently I have noticed the proliferation of moles alongside the canal and particularly at locksI attach a picture. In the past I have asked a regional manager about this but the answer was that CaRT had no plans to address this problem.  This could again prove very costly in the future with voids being created behind the stonework letting in water and possible future collapse of the lock wall.

To do nothing is short sighted

I'm not suggesting Hurleston bottom lock is a mole problem but it illustrates the very costly nature of such problems.  Were the recent breaches in Cheshire partially due to animal burrowing?  I don’t know the answer to that but a policy of do nothing is short sighted and may be very costly in the long term.  Nature is an important part of the waterways but not to the detriment of the infrastructure itself.