Canal & River Trust lock beam design in use on the Oxford

Published: Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Ray Watkins would like to share a rant with us regarding his recent cruise from Braunston to Enslow Wharf on the Southern Oxford:

Neglected state

We have been boating now for 23 years, and I have never seen a canal in such a neglected state.

A few of our observations are: Bakers lock, N/s bottom paddle u/s and bottom gate very heavy, Northbrook lock, bottom gate very heavy, Dashwood Lock, bottom balance beam snapped off and replaced by lengths of decking, Allen's Lock, vegetation below the lock makes a clean exit in a longer boat impossible.


I notice that locks are invariably worked by the ladies, this must cause them a hell of a lot of difficulty.

OxOldI appreciate that the Dashwood repair is obviously temporary and will be fixed properly in due course, but, a 12 inch timber beam does not rot and snap overnight, this has been rotting away for months, probably years. Preventive maintenance, i.e. an inspection now and again would have stopped this failure before it happened.

97% of boats licened

We are told that 97% of boats are now licensed, NONSENSE! on the way back we counted 262 boats showing no or out of date licences, some going back to 2014, and 171 boats with licences. We did not count moving boats, or hire boats. Call me a sad bugger if you like but I get very annoyed that we paid over £1,000 for our licence this year, yet these dossers pay nothing.

More generous disposition

My wife (of a far more generous disposition than me) says maybe they don't have printers, or an address CaRT can send a licence to, well, how did they manage to get the out of date one in the past?

OxTempI notice that the new licences are of a different format, with the date in much smaller type, obviously to make it difficult for people like me to complain. What is the next step, no more paper licences, like they did with road tax discs a few years back? That would at least cover up the inadequacies of the system.

The real reason for so many unlicenced boats is simple, there is no enforcement. CaRT staff cannot be expected to confront the owners of these boats as they (the boat owners) are, very often, not the sort of people you would want to spend time with. Think back to the terrible incident on the Aylesbury Arm a couple of years back where a CaRT official lost his life.

Subsidising freeloaders

My wife says that lots of boaters don't display their licence because it spoils the look of the boat, rubbish, I bet they displayed their road tax disc back in the day because the police made sure they did. I do not know the answer to the problem, but that is the job of CaRT to find one. In the meantime we are subsidising these freeloaders. If all the unlicenced boats I saw in a 45 mile trip paid an average £900 that would have been another £235,800 to pay for maintenance which is so sorely needed.

Richard Parry appears to be a very pleasant and caring person, but is he up to the job? Come on Richard flex your muscles, show us what you are made of and start doing the job you are well paid for.

Photographs by Ray Watkins.