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W


riting at the start of December for the January edition brings to mind the


weather last year and its impact winter has on those that live on the canal. The majority of boaters head for marinas or for designated moorings. For those who choose to continue to cruise in a


particular area, perhaps for their work, life gets really tough. Walking along the towpath last winter I found it both beautiful and amusing. The snow and ice often gave everything a white sparkling coat; the ducks dealing with the frozen surface were really funny. Boats were quickly frozen in where they were


moored. Old wooden boats were very vulnerable. I know of three boats in this part of the Grand Union that were sunk. Surface ice can slice through an old hull with


little difficulty if the boat is forced to move, or worse if another boat crashes through, to reach service points. When domestic water on board gets low (if it


not frozen) it needs to be topped up at a water filling point. If the canal is frozen then water containers need to be carried to the nearest water point (notice the number of wheelbarrows on boats?) The same applies to loos. Canal boats have one


of two systems of loos (not the right place to describe here) but they have one thing in common, they have to be emptied. If a boat can‘t move—I‘ll leave the rest to imagination. These are real problems for boaters but for


those that are vulnerable it can be really difficult. Over the winter the waterways chaplaincy will be watching for boaters requiring support. This is not easy to spot when the hatches are closed to keep out the cold. Passersby perhaps think if they‘ve seen the smoke coming from chimneys of the wood/coal burners the boats so owner must be okay. Regrettably this is not necessarily the case. One of my hopes for the New Year is that when


the River and Canal Trust (the new charity that will take over the British Waterways role in April 2012) takes over the canals then longstanding people matters may be tackled. One difficulty is that probably the majority of


permanent moorings do not have a postcode. Think of the number of occasions when to confirm your identity you are asked for your post code. No postcode and access to support services


70


becomes ―difficult‖. For gongoozlers (the boater term for people


who watch boats from the towpath, especially at locks) the new charity will provide opportunities to express an interest and contribute to the ongoing running and development of the canal and its community. Since the years of neglect after World War Two


many canals have slowly being restored, much of this work has been by volunteers. There are modern plans being put forward for


new a canal to be built. First granted Parliamentary authority in 1811 the Milton Keynes to Bedford canal may actually be constructed in the future. There will be many much less ambitious


projects in the year ahead There will be plenty of canal challenges for Andy Taylor


2012. Happy New Year.


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