Complaining in vain

Published: Monday, 30 May 2022

I HAVE only just found your site and was delighted to read peoples' views openly expressed and included, writes Joseph Knight.

Let me explain: I have been complaining both to Canal & River Trust, Environment Agency and to the various publications about the state of the infrastructure of the canals and rivers (in the case of the EA) for some time, yet have had very little joy.

A standard reply

CaRT gives a standard reply to emails, phone calls and even letters, and that is it. EA tells it is passing to the relevant department, then nothing.

As to the various publications, anything I write untoward either does not get a reply or told 'it is out of our jurisdiction', etc, etc. or else edit it to cut out what they tell me is 'unsuitable' or something similar so I tell them to 'forget it' as it looses its message.

But what I believe is much worse is that printed publications first send what I write to the relevant authorities for a reply to be printed with my letter, making a good job of putting me in the wrong.

'Telling it like it is'

I have spent the last couple of days going right back through your site and nowhere is this done, people are obviously given their say and that is it.  And clearly, from the contents of the letters and articles it is obvious that you do not edit them in any way as, to quote your goodselves they are 'telling it like it is'.

Most sorry about going on so much but Jeff Hardcastle writing about Bagnall Lock and your own Victor Swift writing about the disgusting state of locks has prompted this epistle, that I trust sees the light of day.

My partner and I moor our narrowboat at Chapel Farm Marina above Derwent Mouth at present on the Trent & Mersey Canal so have to use those dreaded broad locks to get onto the system otherwise it is the rivers, that 'she' does not like.

Though we did use the rivers a little way to take our dogs a run on the footpaths at Red Hill, so using Derwent Mouth Lock but  the boat yard there now takes up all the visitor moorings with its junk and have not been able to get the boat in for the past three times so have given it up as a bad job.

Broad locks give problems

Whichever way you take those broad locks they give problems.  Going up, the cills leak so much they overcome the leakage from the bottom gates so are invariably full of water, which means you have two set of invariably difficult paddles to operate.  Going down you open the nearside gate to get the boat in and the offside gate swings open on all but Shardlow Lock.  This means the steerer bringing the stern into the side and getting off to shut the gate whilst the one on the lower paddles winds one up to make sure it stop closed, nipping back on the boat before it swings away from the bank!

Of course there are those men who would not dream of doing this, leaving it (usually) to the woman to climb across the bottom gates to go round and shut the open gate, then climbing back over.  I do not belong to this selfish brigade, believing share and share alike.

Aston Lock that once had a long steel beam on the top gates was once a joy to operate, but became so bad when they were converted to much shorted wooden beams, it had to eventually have major repairs.

Not balanced correctly

LockCoveredThe dreaded contractors were employed which means the gates, though a mite easier to move still are not balanced correctly so need a bit of strength, but even then better than that dreaded Western Lock that your contributor so complained about.  Its gates are hard to move and the paddles extremely stiff, though hopefully they may lessen with usage, thought from all accounts those gates don't get over much! 

Swarkestone Lock suffers the same problems, though to a lesser degree, but at least with six paddles fill rather quicker meaning you don't have such a rest from the work!  But its gates, like most of the others is used for vegetation, perhaps for the insects and butterflies!

Stenson Lock

But Stenson Lock is a venture off its own, and you must not be in any hurry and fairly tough as well.  It had four top gates paddles at one time, but two gate paddles were removed, I don't know whether because they had broken and it was too much of a bother to repair or the wimp boaters had complained about the inrush of water.

(The two narrowboatworld images were taken this month, with one showing the usual vegetation and the one below showing the 'trickle' from the wide open paddle at a Stenson top gate.)

StensonBlockedBut there is no inrush now, in fact though the largest of all the broad locks it is the slowest to fill, as the remaining two gate paddles have very small inlets, the original aperture now covered with mesh of a sort that of course is jammed with debris, so it's a waiting game, though the paddles are easy to wind. But not so the bottom gate paddles, as once again need strength to wind.

Will not fully open

Another long-lasting problem with Stenson is that the bottom gate will not fully open, and though they have been 'seen to' still needs both open to allow a narrowboat either in or out. Those with a bit of sense open one and just hold the other a short distance to allow entry or exit instead of letting it fall right back, then finding it is so unbalance it take an effort to get it closed again.

This is the lock that is supposed to have volunteers, but like your goodselves, I have found there have been none there whenever we pass through.  Obviously have sense enough not to volunteer for hard work!

Mass exodus

So you can see why the mass exodus, as you called it, from Sawley Marina to Mercia Marina at the top of these locks when it first opened, and from all accounts still happening.  But of course that may also by because Mercia has a lot more going for it as far as boaters are concerned as Sawley.

So there it is!  All a matter of 'will it get binned' as the others, or see the light of day?

[It sees the light of day, and I can ascertain that narrowboatworld is open to anyone writing of sensible matters concerning boating, that will not be edited—Editor.]