David: The Harecastle rules

Published: Monday, 26 October 2020

THE new rules for Harecastle are on the face of it indeed alarming.

I am very surprised that after the Health and Safety panic of a few years ago, when a man died while traversing the tunnel, that CaRT can contemplate handing its management over to volunteers who will have nothing like the experience or training that the professionals have, not to mention that they are intrinsically less reliable than those paid to do the job.

harecastle rscue boatWill the volunteers also be in charge of the rescue boat, which stands ready at the north end to go in and deal with an emergency? If not, how long will it take to summon a crew for the boat?

I am not clear whether the new restrictions on entry, requiring booking and several days on which there is no operation, are just for the present emergency, just for the winter or permanent. If the last, then this is completely unacceptable, as it will make planning any sort of schedule, especially for hire boats, virtually impossible and the prospect of having to wait, perhaps for days, for a passage is not an attractive one, given the nature of the environments at either end of the tunnel.

It is a shame that the tunnel no longer has its towpath as I am sure that if it were accessible to walkers and cyclists CaRT would be far less restrictive.

This year's cruising

We've managed about ten weeks cruising this year, mainly in the Napton to Birmingham and around areas and we have been lucky enough not to encounter any significant problems, apart from three or four locks with a paddle out of order, always a worry in case the other one fails.

The offside vegetation is a lot shaggier in many places, but as this job is often farmed out to volunteers these days and they have only been able to work under distancing rules this is understandable. If stoppage notices are anything to go by there have been an awful lot of fallen trees, which do seem to have been cleared fairly promptly.

Cill notices

I liked the suggestion that the words 'when descending' should be added to the cill warning notices, but find it difficult to see what else CaRT can do, short of putting up much larger notices giving full details of the risk, perhaps with a QR code leading to a little video of what happens if you get it wrong. We have enough notices on the system already, without yet more.

SnarestoneTunnelTalking of notices we were coming through Snarestone Tunnel on the Ashby and I saw that the notices at either end say that it is 'one way working'.  This information is in small letters on a notice carrying a lot of other information, like how long the tunnel is and how long it takes to get through and I suspect few people actually register it, especially as the northern notice is obscured by vegetation.

The tunnel looks wide enough for two boats and I believe that the canal was actually built to broad dimensions so if it really is one-way then I feel there should be rather more warning of this fact.

Pearson's Canal Companions

Michael Pearson has been working hard this year to produce updated versions of several of his excellent guides.  The latest one is for the Cheshire Ring and the South Pennine Ring, though I fear that the number of stoppages on the latter route this year would make completing it a bit of a lottery.

He has taken the opportunity to make a few changes: the South Stratford now appears in the South Midlands volume as well as the new Severn and Avon and the forthcoming K&A/Thames guide will include the Upper Thames, which at present only appears in the Oxford and Grand Union.

He has also changed the binding from simple staples to a 'proper' book type binding with the pages sewn in which should make the books more robust.

David Hymers