Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Can´t see the wood for the trees, and then there´s the reeds

Journalist Mode:
 
Beautiful as it is, and believe it or not, there’s a canal amongst these photos somewhere. When we turn left out of the marina, this lot is less than 5 minutes away from the entrance:
 
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Left it till the last second to take this, DIVE Heth and – QUICK…
 
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Coming out the other side, there’s a huge weeping willow on the right – just ready and waiting to fall in…
 
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Avoidance tactics:
 
If you’re careful, there’s enough room at the sides not to scratch the paintwork. But there’s no escaping the lower, thicker, branches that slide along the roof, and then “flick” themselves at your face in an effort to take your eyes out. So it’s down periscope, and sometimes they still drag across the top of your head…
 
Don’t get me wrong I’m not moaning for the sake of it, we love this stretch of canal and will continue to use it, I’m just really hoping something will get done about this problem. Some of us have even wondered if a widebeam, or indeed any size of boat will be able to get past this lot next year. Without serious injury to life or limb or boat…
 
With ref to this particular obstacle course, here’s an excerpt from what I wrote in my email to British Waterways North West branch:
 
“There is one point I'd like to make clear. This is from a boater's perspective who regularly trundles up and down the canal, and knows it well. NOT from an inspector's point of view sent out to look at something. Who knows best? We do.
The worst and most dangerous section has to be the overhanging trees at the back of Rufford Old Hall, is there a dispute about who's responsibility it is to chop them back? Doesn't the local council bear some responsibility? It's such a huge job now, the canal would have to be closed while the work is done I'm sure.
But that wouldn't be a problem, we want it done, more than that we NEED it done. We all have to duck right down below the roof of the boat now in order not to get BASHED by branches large and small. Unfortunately it still happens, there's no avoiding them all, so only being inside the boat is totally safe. Health and Safety is such a big issue for BW / Contract workers - what about us boaters?!”
 
[And just to add to the complex mix of responsibility Rufford Old Hall is a National Trust property, so why should they care?]

This is the reply email I received yesterday, they’d spelt my name wrong and I’m guessing that most of this is standard blurb…
 
“Thank you for your e-mail of 21 September regarding the Rufford Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. We are aware that there are many works required across the North West, including the concerns raised in your e-mail.
Sadly, as you have outlined in your correspondence, resources are extremely finite and we expect that the financial constraints we face will only become tighter over the coming months.  As such, it is essential that we prioritise the works we undertake. 
Issues relating to health and safety will always be considered our paramount priority and we endeavour to address these issues in a timely fashion. 
However, we simply do not have the resources to undertake all the works that we would like as and when issues are identified. I will pass a copy of your e-mail to the local team so that they are aware of the points that you have raised.”
 
A totally predictable grovelling answer, and that’s twice my email’s been “passed on.” I’ve emphasised the biggest problem (I mean the fact that it’s almost impassable behind Rufford Old Hall) deliberately. In an effort for them to work out who’s job it is to sort out and get on with it.
 
Surely there’s enough funds for something to be done? Perhaps a joint project both physically and financially perhaps? Or am I just swinging in the breeze along with the trees?
 
When I eventually get a reply from the “correct” admin office I’m going to send a link to this post in an effort to make a difference. I don’t give up easy as you probably know!
 
Moving on – and they do, there’s the floating islands, clumps of weeds that break off and bob along like they’ve got their own built in guidance system. There always seems to be a massive one stuck under the second swing bridge.
 
And there he is, sitting proof that some are up to 5 feet wide…!
 
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And here’s another…
 
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And here’s the hybrid variety…
 
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And here’s an island with a hybrid…
 
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I’m no expert but I gather the only way to get shut of these is to dredge the canal. Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen either.
 
I must sound like I’m being really critical about our favourite patch. But in reality, it’s a vain attempt to get something done. As for the wayward trees, if it means highlighting and informing BW of the dangers to passing boaters then so be it…

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