The grass is greener?

Published: Monday, 23 August 2010

I've been living aboard my boat  in Cambridge for the last three years, and would like to add some comments on David Hymer's recent article, writes  Michael Prior-Jones. There's a certain amount of 'grass is greener' when comparing the behaviour of navigation authorities!

David notes that the locks on the Fens waterway were in good working order—and well they should be, as they are much newer than those on the canal system, having been built from 1930 onwards when the rivers were restored. They also handle much less traffic than the canal locks.

He also notes the lack of silly warning notices about lock cills—but fails to mention the large signboard at every lock listing all the hazards, including 'deep water', 'unguarded drops' and 'high voltage electricity' that the EA feel the need to erect. There's a certain amount of 'grass is greener' when comparing the behaviour of navigation authorities!

Echo his point

I do, however, echo his point about the design of the navigation being intended for small cruisers—the lock landings and public moorings on the East Anglian system are often very short, and lock approaches can involve very awkward bends—but this goes back to the design of the locks and wiers by engineers looking to control the river's flooding, rather than to provide a leisure amenity! There's a certain amount of 'grass is greener' when comparing the behaviour of navigation authorities!

The mooring situation in Cambridge is a long and complex affair, which I won't bore you with. The city council, not the Cam Conservancy, provides mooring in Cambridge, and the area above Jesus Lock is one of the few places that widebeam residential boats can moor.

Residential boats

Local residents did complain about the presence of residential boats in this location, and longwinded negotiations are underway about what to do. Finger moorings for yet more boats are very unlikely to go down well! For the record, the visitor moorings in Cambridge are at Jubilee Gardens, between the Boathouse pub and the wier (except the area reserved for the trip boat Georgina and below Jesus Green lock, upstream of the water and pump-out point—outside the Fort St George pub on Midsummer Common.

All are free of charge. The pump-out is boater-operated and costs £3 in pound coins. Pump-out in Ely and Peterborough is free, however.

Other boater facilities, as David points out, are definitely few and far between, as are public moorings, especially on the Nene. The 48 hours mooring at Titchmarsh Lock, for example, is frequently occupied by an EA weedcutter boat!

Cruising the canals

I'm currently cruising the canals, and have met a lot of boaters who have been put off coming to East Anglia—please do come and explore. The Nene is a pretty river, very tranquil and the scenery is the equal of any in the country. The Middle Levels are mostly quite dull between the settlements, but Whittlesey, March, Upwell and Outwell are all very interesting when seen from the waterway. Don't be put off by the tidal crossing at Salter's Lode—it's not difficult and the lock-keepers will explain it!

Michael Prior-Jones, Nb Innocenti

PS One final note—risk assessments vary between organisations. BW and the EA insist that lock-keepers wear lifejackets, which seems prudent to me. However, yesterday's voyage on the Manchester Ship Canal (yes, on my own boat), revealed that the MSC Co staff do not, despite handling much larger locks!