On other pages

Thursday, January 31, 2013

K&A Waterways Partnership Chair stands down

Fleur de Rhe-Philipe:
Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©

Fleur de Rhe-Philipe who became the first Chair of the Kennet & Avon Waterways Partnership when it was created after the Canal & River Trust was formed in July last year has stood down.

Fleur de Rhe-Philipe says that she is giving up the role because of other commitments. She said: "I am a cabinet member on Wiltshire Council and you just cannot do both jobs. 

“I am very proud of the work the Partnership has done, not least helping the Canal & River Trust in its transition to the third sector. I know my colleagues on the Partnership have the passion and commitment to drive it forwards and establish a strong vision for how the local waterways will develop.

Roger Hanbury, head of governance services at the Canal & River Trust, said: “We are hugely grateful to Fleur for the work she has done to date, which has been crucial to the work of the Partnership while the Trust has gone through a period of major transition."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Waterways Charity admits its cruising rules are not legal

The Canal & River Trust (CRT) which manages waterways in England and Wales has admitted that the rules that it has required a sector of its boating customers to obey actually have no legal standing.

Canal & River Trust Head of 
Boating, Sally Ash
Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
Continuous Cruisers (boaters with no home mooring) asked for clarification of the British Waterways (now CRT) rules being enforced — saying: “Why can’t you make it simpler and just tell us how far it is necessary to move? ” In a background paper for a meeting in Milton Keynes in November 2012, the CRT Head of Boating, Sally Ash said: “We would if we could but it’d be wrong and we’d be going beyond our powers. ‘Place’ can only be defined within a local context. That’s why we’re trying to develop local mooring plans in true cooperation with all sections of the boating community”.

In admitting that it cannot lawfully specify a minimum distance that boaters without home moorings must travel in order to comply with Section 17 3 c ii of the 1995 British Waterways Act, CRT are now returning to a definition that was given by the then Kennet & Avon Canal Waterway Manager, Ian Jarvis at a meeting in Bath in January 2005 attended by Bath MP Don Foster, representatives of Bath & North East Somerset Council, the West Kennet Boating Community and National Association of Boat Owners. The minutes of that meeting state: “regarding the Guidelines for Continuous Cruising it was confirmed that the guidance note suggested that a progressive journey was necessary. The boaters asked what was the realistic expectation for a progressive journey and Ian Jarvis confirmed that the requirement would be to move from one neighbourhood to another — and one definition of this would be to move from one parish to another.” The boater representatives at that meeting said that they were happy with the continuous cruiser guidance that had been reviewed by user groups — that it was good guidance — although it needed clarification.
In the background notes for the Milton Keynes meeting in November the CRT also said that it has dropped the enforcement target of putting all boats that travel less than 30km during their contract period into the enforcement process — stating that the target was unrealistic.

Panda Rainbow of the K&A Boating Community said: “There isn't much evidence of true co-operation with “all sections” of the boating community here on the K&A in the light of Sally Ash’s rubbishing of the views of the liveaboard boaters on the Local Mooring Strategy Steering Group and her unilateral termination of the steering group in late 2011 just as it was reaching a consensus.”

In the the briefing paper Sally Ash also conceded that the judgement in BW v Davies is not legally binding saying: “In making a judgement in the Davies case in 2010, a Bristol county court judge said that moving to and fro along a 10 mile stretch of the Kennet & Avon Canal did not amount to bona fide navigation. This is a steer but not legally binding for other areas”.  

Panda said: “Judgements made in a county court are not binding, even on another county court and this is a significant U-turn from Ms Ash’s original statement in a press release on 1 April 2011.  That press release said: ‘The decision of the Learned Judge in the case of British Waterways v Davies will be binding on lower courts (and District Judges) and persuasive on Circuit Judges throughout England and Wales.’ This vastly over-stated BW’s legal position; apart from anything else, there are no lower courts with jurisdiction to hear Section 8 cases.” she concluded.

At the meeting it was also admitted that overstaying on visitor moorings was not a problem caused by itinerant ‘liveaboard’ boaters — and that boaters with moorings were just as likely to disregard visitor mooring time limits.

You can read the CRT briefing document in full at:  

The meeting in November took place between continuous cruisers; CRT Trustee John Dodwell; the CRT boating team and CRT enforcement staff. It was initiated by continuous cruiser Peter Macdonald following discussions with Mr Dodwell in which Mr Macdonald raised his concerns about the CRT Council briefing on Non-Compliant Continuous Cruising published in October 2012.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

K&A Canal ice skating... continued

The recent archive picture we ran of ice skating on the K&A in Devizes prompted a response from Dave Cleaver. His comments referred to a story we ran last winter — of a lone skater on the same pound.  Dave said: "I'm not sure if we are talking about the same year but sometime in the mid or late 1970s BWB had an excavator on that pound to break the ice to prevent the skaters enjoying themselves".

The picture was taken by me after I moved to the South West in 1980 after working in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire — where we used to have 'real' snow. So the picture would have been taken in the early 1980s. 

Dick Van Klavren skating on the K&A Canal in Devizes in the 1980s: Picture by Bob Naylor©

Dutchman, Dick Van Klavren, who ran the Pygmy Pinetum nursery in Devizes at the time  had been skating on the canal for a couple of days when I took this picture which was published in a number of papers. It must have attracted the attention of British Waterways bosses because they brought in Devizes Cranes to smash up the ice.  

The boss of the company, Howard Hewitt, was at the controls when shortly after he had started smashing the ice the machine slid down the bank and into the canal and Howard had to jump to safety — getting a soaking in the process. The crane lay on its side in the water for some time before it was safe to recover it.

The machine had done enough damage to the ice to prevent anyone skating on that pound — but that wasn't going to stop Dick from practicing his speed skating.  Tony Adamson, who was the landlord of the Bridge Inn at Horton, said: "After BW smashed up his rink in Devizes, Dick was not thwarted and he would skate out on the canal from Devizes to the Bridge Inn at Horton where he would have a chat and glass of lemonade — and then skate back to town."

BWB had not always taken such a dramatic approach to people going onto the ice. Dave Cleaver who had worked for BWB said: "When I worked on the cut during a big freeze our ganger encouraged us to walk on the snow-covered ice rather than on the rough towpath (they were all rough then!) but we had to get off before any bridges because the ice was thinner there — and  we had to brush the ice and snow off the hedges before we could cut them. And for that we were paid only about £10 a week!”

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Snow on the Caen Hill Flight on the K&A Canal

The Caen Hill Flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal in yesterday's snow storm
Picture by Bob Naylor©

Picture by Bob Naylor©

Ice skating on the K&A Canal

This picture from the archives was taken on the Kennet & Avon Canal on the Devizes Flight — below Prison Bridge, above Caen Hill... can anyone put a date to it? Below is a picture taken from the same spot during yesterday's snow storm.

Devizes Flight on the K&A Canal  above Caen Hill: Picture by Bob Naylor©

Friday, January 11, 2013

English champion of French waterways dies

Former President of Les Amis du Canal du Nivernais, Jo Parfitt died yesterday (10th January 2013) after a battle with cancer.
A lock on the Sardy Flight on the Canal du Nivernais — and
Jo Parfitt: Picture by Bob Naylor©
Jo was the first English President of Les Amis du Canal du Nivernais (ACN) and he had run businesses on the Burgundy canals for several decades. There can be few boaters who have explored the inland waterways of France who will not know of Jo Parfitt, even if they have not benefited from his engineering skills or learned more of the Burgundy canals from his encyclopaedic knowledge of those waterways.
Jo came from a farming background but caught the bug of canal enthusiasm as an apprentice toolmaker in Enfield in the late 1960s.
He formed a canal society at the East Herts College of Further Education and by the 1970s he was spending his weekends excavating the locks on the Widcome Flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bath, enjoying the local ale and — as he put it: “doing our bit to stop the local ladies becoming bored on a Saturday night”.
By 1977 Jo was running a company in Worcester building boats — including 15 for a hire base in France.
When the people who were to run the hire boats in France backed out, Jo and a French-speaking colleague stepped in and he moved to France to help run the fleet.
In 1980 Jo bought a Dutch barge (complete with a 100-Hp crane on the deck) to live, work and travel the canals and he started repairing passing boats when the hire boats were out.

Jo spent 18 months in Corbigny and 10 years in Mailly La Ville before moving to Migennes. 

After selling his business at Migennes and ‘retiring’ in 2010, Jo continued to carry out boat surveys, was establishing his general engineering business based near Clamecy and he also moved into technical journalism, writing a monthly column for the French waterways magazine, Fluvial.

Jo was a founder member of Les Amis du Canal du Nivernais (ACN) when it was set up in 1989 to promote the canal and to make it more accessible to as many people as possible without damaging its beauty and the tranquility of the countryside through which it passes.
Jo, prompted by the then ACN President Philippe Benard, looked for a canal in England to twin with. It was clear to him that the very canal that he had volunteered on as a young man, the K&A, was the most suitable.
The two canals have similar geographic and geological features — they both have 16-lock flights (at Sardy and Devizes), they both link two major rivers,  they both have tunnels and similar geological problems. Jo met with the K&A Canal Trust’s Hon Engineer Mike Lee and as a consequence of that meeting the first twinning trip took place in 1991 when Jo brought a party of 20 to the K&A.
Jo was passionate about the potential benefits of twinning. “it gives us a card to play that catches the eye of politicians and local authorities. We can show people here in France what’s being achieved abroad. In my opinion it will take European involvement to save the small central canals in France and for this we need our twinning links. There is also much more that can be achieved on the cultural front, with exchanges and projects between communities and schools.”  
Jo believed that ACN and KACT were the first canal associations to twin.  Since then others have followed. Jo’s influence prompted other French waterways to twin, including the canal D’Orleans, which is twinned with the Basingstoke (instigated by information on how to go about it from ACN), the Nantes à Brest is twinned with the Wilts & Berks and the Canal du Berry (ARICAB) has twinned with The Cotswolds Canals.
Since twinning with the K&A, Jo championed linking the Nivernais with other European waterways, including the Royal Canal in Ireland through their Amenity Group, and with the Dutch Barge Association.
Jo became President of ACN in 2008, four decades after he first caught the canal bug on the K&A Canal in England and he always remained passionate about the potential of inland waterways for recreation and employment.
Whilst he was President, ACN joined with six other French canals to form l’Entente des Canaux du Centre-France (Canal du Berry, Canal de Bourgogne, Canal de Briare, Canal lateral a la Loire, Canal d’Orleans, Canal du Centre et Canal du Nivernais) to encourage tourism and strengthen their voice in negotiations.
Jo said “United we stand, divided we fall!  It is good to have the support of the other groups and it is helpful that we can share the cost of exhibiting at the major waterways events such as Paque Boat in St Jean de Losne. And it gives us greater access to local & national politicians.”
 In 2009, his last year as President of Les Amis, Jo nominated K&A Canal Trust Hon Engineer Mike Lee to be invested as a Chevalier into the ancient French wine-makers’ society Le Confrérie des Chevaliers des Trois Ceps at the end of the two-day Fête Nautique in Vincelles to honour his involvement  in the twinning association, saying: “it needs to be now, you never know what the future may bring”. How prophetic those words were and how typical of Jo that he ensured that public recognition was given where deserved.
"No canal, no tourists — no tourists, no canal" 
Jo’s presidency of Les Amis ended in 2010, but his passion for promoting the Canal du Nivernais continued. He said: “The Nivernais, like any other canal, is an amenity for walkers, cyclists and anyone visiting the area interested in history, architecture, wildlife, botany and fishing. The canal makes a linear park that anyone passing can step into for a picnic if nothing else — and sit and watch boats go by.
“The canal supports employment in many forms, it is an artery bringing essential tourists to an area with only agriculture and forestry and a small amount of industry. Tourism is absolutely vital to the Nivernais. “No canal, no tourists!” says Jo, “but equally important, no tourists, no canal”.

Jo has left a legacy on the canals in central France that is being continued by his friends and colleague at ACN.

MERCI, très grand MERCI pour ce splendide article et surtout d'avoir fait le voyage à Auxerre... Di & Bob, nous sommes fiers d'avoir d'aussi bons amis...toute l'équipe de l'ACN vous embrasse et souhaite vous revoir bientôt. 

The French inland waterways magazine, Fluvial, marks Jo's passing...

English Translation: 
Jo Parfitt embarked on the morning of 10 January 2013 for a very long trip and we, on the dock, are left sad and shivering. It seems that he took his toolbox in one hand and, with a turn, he gave us a wink. Noah's Ark was in need a serious check-up ... But, his family, Doret, and his friends are now alone.

As soon as Jo received his ten fingers, he dismantled anything that's operation he wanted to understand.  Later, as a qualified mechanic, he set his sights on the boats, as so often have the poets and free men. In France, he created the shipyard Migennes and designed, fitted out, repaired countless boats. He was also a co-founder and one of the presidents of Les Amis du Canal du Nivernais, with the goal of saving the canal he loved.

He loved to share his knowledge and his dreams and launched, two years ago and with the blessing of Fluvial magazine, a technical column, now an orphan.

Many today feel alongside his two sons Matthew and Sam.

Sad times ...