Friday, 25 July 2014

Canal Cuttings (36)

This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been researching from old newspapers and magazines. Covering the last 200 years or so of life on the inland waterways. With particular interest in the major issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 



The Canberra Times
Sunday 25th July 1993

Turn Gongoozalar on Britain's Relaxing Canals.

Robin Mead discovered a 200-year-old secret world
of peace and solitude on England's inland waterways.

AWAY from the rush and bustle of Britain's towns and motorways there is another, secret, world of peace and solitude where nothing moves faster than 4 mph and where the inhabitants speak a 200-year-old language of their own. Stay there for more than a few days and there is a serious danger that you will turn into a gongoozalar. You may find this strange, almost fairytale, world by diving through a hole in a hedge. On the other side, Mabel and Forget-Me-Not are waiting. Mabel and Forget-Me-Not are traditional English canal barges which have been converted into a floating hotel and spend each summer touring the 2000 miles of inland waterways that are part of Britain's industrial heritage.

This year the canals are celebrating their 200th birthday. Nowadays it is almost impossible to imagine the work that must have gone into planning and creating the waterways net work. In the eighteenth century the only way to dig the canals was by hand and rivers had to be diverted to fill them. But, at a time when roads were often impassable mud tracks and rail ways were no more than a gleam in the inventors' eyes, the canals provided the lifeblood of Britain's burgeoning industries. It is only recently that this vast, half hidden, holiday playground has been rediscovered. Visitors can hire a self drive boat on the canals if they wish but it is more fun, and certainly less strenuous, to holiday on a hotel boat.

But it must be stressed that canal hotel boats are like no other hotel boats. For a start, England's canals are less than 14ft wide: and in order that two boats can pass one another, canal "narrowboats" are indeed narrow. They are a maximum of 6ft 6in wide, but may be up to 70ft long. So, just as you may join your boat by way of a hole in the hedge rather than meeting it on a smart jetty, the cabins are small, en suite facilities are rare, the bar non-existent (although the boats do tie up beside a friendly pub most lunchtimes and every evening) and the atmosphere homely.

You will not need your tiara for this trip. In fact you won't need formal clothes at all the accent is on casual, comfortable, weatherproof gear around the clock. What you will need is a willingness to join in the fun, and perhaps the ability to learn how to be a gongoozalar. For just as the canals have their own historic architecture including barrel shaped little cottages for the lock keepers, and strange curly bridges that somehow enabled the horses which once drew the boats to cross the canal without getting tangled up in the tow rope so they have their own word for things. The canal itself is the "cut", and the stretch of water between two locks is the "pound". And anyone who spends long periods of time gazing fixedly at nothing in particular is a "gongoozalar".

There are a lot of gongoozalars on the canals because, although they can sometimes be a trifle unkempt in towns, they mostly drift through some of England's most attractive and least spoiled countryside. The ride is extremely relaxing. If you want to tour Shakespeare country, try taking the slow lane. The once-derelict Stratford-on-Avon canal, which has been restored and reopened by the National Trust, wanders through the Forest of Arden, near Warwick, on its way to the bard's birthplace and is much-loved by canal enthusiasts. The long flight of locks near the village of Lapworth can be an adventure: some of the lock walls are bowed with age and nobody is ever quite sure which is widest the lock or the boats.

Canal hotel boats, which are a lot more comfortable to live on than they look, travel in pairs because they have only one engine between them. The motorised boat tows its less agile companion the "butty". Each vessel contains half-a-dozen single or double cabins, there is a roomy saloon in the motorised boat, and the butty includes a kitchen and dining-room. Enthusiastic youngsters make up the crew: a husband-and wife team plus a couple of waitresses cum-chambermaids who also look after such nautical duties as steering the boats and opening and shutting lock gates. Volunteers who want to help with the latter tasks are welcomed, but of course there is no pressure on people who are, after all, paying customers. Hotel boats are particularly popular with visitors to Britain, but : those with their "sea legs" might prefer to hire their own narrowboat, or rent a cabin cruiser on one of the major rivers, like the Thames or on a man-made cruising ground like the Norfolk Broads, in East Anglia, where miles of ancient peat diggings have flooded and become a very popular and safe network of interlocking lakes.

All self-drive narrowboats and cruiser hire companies give an hour or so's tuition when you pick up your boat, and provide charts and maps as well as a "starter pack" of basic foodstuffs. Hire boats can cost, as little as $42 per person for a week.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

CaRT comes 3rd out of 150,000

Public trust and confidence in charities: analysis of findings - See more at: http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/about-the-commission/our-research/research-reports/public-trust-and-confidence-in-charities-2008-analysis/#sthash.LxjyuytX.dpuf
Public trust and confidence in charities: analysis of findings - See more at: http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/about-the-commission/our-research/research-reports/public-trust-and-confidence-in-charities-2008-analysis/#sthash.LxjyuytX.dpuf
Public trust and confidence in charities: analysis of findings - See more at: http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/about-the-commission/our-research/research-reports/public-trust-and-confidence-in-charities-2008-analysis/#sthash.LxjyuytX.dpuf
The Canal and River Trust is a relatively new Charity. Rightly or wrongly it comes up for some criticism for many different reasons. Now criticism in itself is not a bad thing - as long as the criticism is constructive and appropriate. I think when you take on the mantle of charity - that has to be recognised as a real change from being a quango. The problem has been that the change to the third sector was achieved without also recognising the need to accept a new set of public perceptions. The transitional team were still in the previous mindset when it came to dealing with the public and had no experience of the mindset needed to perform in the third sector. 

I attended the 'gloss and glitz' which made up the CaRT public meeting in Birmingham. As I expected there was little in the way of change - other than CaRT has seemingly had a change of mind and seems now to be on something of a lightweight charm offensive.  It appears that the answer to all problems is to get more people on the towpath as either visitors or volunteers. When the meeting was thrown open to the floor a question was followed with a petition containing five and a half thousand names being presented. Tony Hales noted it was very nicely bound. The most radical proposal from the floor was to allow constant cruisers to overstay on moorings if they were doing voluntary work. Otherwise there was little else to comment upon.

The trust has a poor record of the management of its public profile. By way of an example, CaRT has not let the grass grow under its feet. Because according to the Charity Commission. The Trust is already the third most complained about charity in the country. Leaving around 150,000 other charities, trailing in their wake! I hope the unwelcome league position has also proved to be something of a wake-up call. 

The subject of the petition that was submitted was a exemplar of CaRT's ability to garner a million pounds worth of bad publicity, by evicting vulnerable boaters onto the towpath. It was stated that a welfare officer would be in place to render a level of support when evicting vulnerable boaters onto the towpath.

A further exemplar demonstrates what a wonderful place the inland waterways are. Sustrans says that cars make the roads too dangerous for cyclists, Whilst cyclist in turn make the pavement too dangerous for pedestrians. Not wanting to be left out of this two wheeled arms race, the Cycling and River Trust are now making the towpath too dangerous for walkers, boaters, joggers and fishermen.

Now, its the 48 hour mooring fiasco. First Richard Parry assures NABO that there will be no more changes made without consultations. Then thick and fast come in the reports that 14 day moorings are being changed to 48 hour moorings almost everywhere. A man and his word is as good as .... as.... bugger all apparently. 





Public trust and confidence in charities: analysis of findings

Mori's report has provided us with rich data, which provides an opportunity for further analysis and reflection. The Charity Commission is keen to ensure that there is wide dialogue on the findings, and how they might be used to further improve public trust and confidence in charities. To that end, we intend to hold a seminar to discuss the findings in more detail later this year.
- See more at: http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/about-the-commission/our-research/research-reports/public-trust-and-confidence-in-charities-2008-analysis/#sthash.LxjyuytX.dpu

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Induction Day

Most people know that I enjoy poking fun at CaRT, if I did not poke fun, then I would only end up crying into my beer.  So in the spirit of being a bit more upbeat, I decided to do some fractured motivational posters.  As a kid I had a few motorcycle posters on my bedroom wall. So I decided to hang a few inland waterways posters on my blog wall.

As we all know, volunteers are coming in droves to rescue the canals and rivers. There are so many volunteers that the truss is now having to be selective by testing the volunteers ability to deal with traversing the towpath. Here is the first battalion of canal litter pickers and mud puddlers on induction day.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Canal Cuttings (35)


This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been researching from old newspapers and magazines. Covering the last 200 years or so of life on the inland waterways. With particular interest in the major issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 
Examiner Launceston, Tasmania
7th March 1927

TRADE WITH U.K.
Claims of Hull
MAJOR COLE IN LAUNCESTON 
Advocating increased distribution of Australian products through Hull, and other ports on the East Coast of England. Controlled by the London and North Eastern Railway Company, Major H. Shenton Cole is at present in Launceston. Major Cole represents the L.N.E.R. In Australia, and in conversation with an "Examiner" representative at the Brisbane Hotel last night gave interesting particulars of his mission. "Everything, happily, is tending towards a closer relationship between the people of the world claiming the citizenship of the British Empire, and that between Australia and England in particular is becoming more intimate year by year," said Major Cole. "Aided by the activities of the Empire Marketing Board, the interchange of commerce is on a far greater scale than was the case a few years ago and this, of course, reacts upon Individual travel as reflected in the number of visitors from Australia to England in the course of a twelve-month. 

DOCK OWNING RAILWAY. 
"With these considerations in mind, the London and North-Eastern Railway Company, one of the four new rail groups formed since the war, and serving the whole of the east of Great Britain between London and the north of Scotland, in addition to extensive central and western areas, have sent me out to Australia as their representative to aid in this movement of traffic and tourists, to the best of my power. The company owns and operates 16,000 miles of track, and its traffic comprises annually nearly 400,000,000 passengers (exclusive of periodical ticket holders). 130,000,000 tons of freight traffic, and 9,500,000 head of live stock. The capital of this huge concern exceeds £350,000,000, and it employs number over 200,000 persons. In addition the L.N.E.R. is the largest dock owning railway in the world. owning 30 docks with a total water area of 800 acres, and 35 miles of quays. The company's chief ports are Hull, Immingham, Middlesbrough, the Hartlepool, and Newcastle-on-Tyne. Over 50 per cent of the home-grown and imported foodstuffs consumed in Great Britain pass through the docks or over the rails of the L.N.E.R railway, and the company without doubt forms a principal factor in the handling and distribution of foodstuffs for the people of England and Scotland. A large proportion of the imports at the company's docks come from foreign countries, but my company realises the importance of encouraging the development of Imperial resources with the object of ensuring a self-supporting Empire as regards food supplies, and raw materials for essential industries, and it is hoped that in the future Empire products will be more in evidence in the markets of Great Britain. The area served by the L.N.E.R. contains a very large and growing population, which can only be reached economically through the ports of Hull, Newcastle, and others, and we look to increased business with Australia resulting through these ports in the future. 

ECONOMICAL MARKETING. 
"Tile question of economical market. Ing is of the greatest importance to the Australian producer, who has to compete in the English market with countries which are much nearer to England, and with countries which employ cheap coloured labour, and It is therefore a matter of importance to 'him to adopt the most efficient and economical means for the distribution of ihis produce 'in England. Therefore, it should be the aim of Australian producers to continue to develop a judicious use of the out ports of Great Britain which will enable economies to be effected in the distribution and transportation of Australian I produce, and so place it in a better position to compete with other countries producing similar commodities. Over centralisation in marketing causes higher prices for the consumer, and lower prices for the producer. If the Hull or Newcastle merchant has to go to London to buy butter he cannot give such a good price for it as he could in Hull or Newcastle because of the cost of transshipment from London. The port of Hull is an ideal centre for an increasing distribution of Australian produce. It stands at the threshold of the greatest coalfields in England, and serves economically the important manufacturing districts of the North of England, Yorkshire, and the Midlands, with a population of over 12,000,000. Hull is the third largest and the cheapest port in Great Britain, and its trade exceeds £100,000,000 per annum in value. Already the imports of wool through the port of Hull exceed that of any other port in the United Kingdom, and in addition to being in, close proximity to a large population of consumers in 'the North of England, Hull, owing to its geographical position, is the natural port of entry for the distribution by transshipment of overseas produce to the northern Continental ports. Steamers leave nearly every day, of the week for Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, and Scan dinar2-n and other ports, and having regard to the growing demand both for Australian and New Zealand produce In these countries, the position Hull occupies merits the attention of Australian shippers. Dock and rail charges at Hull are on a lower basis, and an illustration of the advantages Hull holds out to the Australian exporter may be found in the following comparative rates: Butter, to Sheffield, rail and dock charges per ton: From Hull, 67/5 from London, 94/5 Australian beef, mutton and lamb, to Leeds rail and dock charges per ton, from Hull, 29/11 from London 66/5 Wool to Bradford, rail and dock charges per ton, from Hull 27/0 from London 35/8 These examples can be multiplied many times. 

ATTRACTIONS FOR TOURISTS. 
"I am also concerned in stimulating the interest of Australian tourists to England in the beauty spots and centres of historic and artistic attraction served by the railway I represent. As already indicated, matters of commerce obviously govern the movements of individuals, but apart from purely business considerations, the prospect of a visit to the Mother country is in itself fascinating. The London and North-Eastern Railway Company in this connection can carry the tourists, after London itself has been explored, to many scenes of beauty, historic interest and holiday character. Along the whole length of Eastern Britain, the coast is dotted with an infinite variety of seaside resorts popular and quiet. Scarborough has justly earned the title of the queen of watering places. Staithes and the nearby more popular resort of Whitby are of especial interest on account of their association with Captain Cook. East Anglia is fortunate in possessing a series of extensive lakes linked together by about 200 miles of navigable waterways known the world over as the Norfolk Broads, a favourite resort of enthusiastic yachtsmen. Then there are the Inland resorts and spas, chief among which is Harrogate, far in front of most Continental spas in the number and varieties of its baths and social attractions. As for the great cathedrals, castles, abbeys and other historic places, nowhere in all the world can be found such a glorious array as within the territory of the London and North-Eastern Railway. Scotland's coast, lochs, mountains and moors are worth going a long way to see, and readily reached from London by the "Flying Scotsman," one of the world's most famous trains, while Edinburgh carries one back to the earliest days of the history of this romantic country. 

Mention must also be made of the important passenger and continental services maintained by the L.N.E.R. The services between Harwich and the Hook of Holland or Antwerp, while in the summer months a thrice-weekly service operates between Harwich and Zeebrugge. From Grimsby and lull, too, my company runs regular passenger services to Hamburg, Rotterdam and to Belgian ports. These L.N.E.R. steamship services form connecting links between England and all parts of Continental Europe.' Major Cole went on to explain the excellent market Hull and contiguous districts offered for Australian fruit, and chilled meat. The strike last year was a staggering blow to England, and had a very serious effect on the fruit shipments. Tills year, the understood, the export of apples from Tasmania would be reduced because of the probability of an increased market existing in Australia. Therefore, the prospects of marketing fruit oversees were much brighter. Hull was the second largest fruit importing centre in the United Kingdom. Continental buyers operated to a great extent there. He understood that there was a tendency to ship larger quantities of fruit to Hamburg this season, but he considered that exporters would be safer if they shipped to English markets. Major Cole will meet Mr. Nell Campbell. M.H.A., while In Launceston, and discuss with him various aspects of the apple-export Industry. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Tank Tops and Custard Creams.

Things are changing at the canal and river trust. It's been some time since I last felt so up-beat about the senior management profile. When David Evans decided to take to the corporate lifeboat and abandon ship. I felt for the first time in years, a positive change for the better. I understood how Fletcher felt, when he saw Bligh sail away.  Though, I still had some misgivings, because I thought Evans might have already anointed his successor from amongst his minions. It came as another pleasant surprise that a new chief evangelist would have a guiding hand on the helm of the foundling trust.

With the arrival of Richard Parry, I welcomed the possibility of a significant change away from the bland ex British Waterways mindset. But even then, I still had those niggling doubts. However, during the honeymoon period that most new senior managers get.  I think Parry would have done some fact finding in the interim while waiting to take office. He could not have failed to see the level of distrust that boaters felt. To his credit, and a good bit of PR. Richard has been down on the towpath engaging in conversation with whoever he happened to find there.

This was where I first met him. I have always been a keen observer of body language and I liked what I saw. He was relaxed and at ease, which is always a good sign. But he did not stop after walking round a few marinas, he continued to engage with people who cared enough to turn up to his open meetings. But most of all he seems to have listened and I hope that he has benefited from the many and varied opinions. I can't, even in my wildest dreams have imagined this level of engagement being done by the previous management incumbent.

Its not all rosy in the garden, there are still some serious issues still to be addressed. Issues such as the wrong kind of public profile.  The litigious mindset that has garnered continuing distrust and suspicion. Looking back over the last year or so. I have observed a few changes as people have moved on or retired. Now the trust has created a couple of new roles and appointments. With these appointments have come some very significant changes in the reporting structure.  

But there is still one one final and very significant change that needs to be made. The Chairman of the trustees needs to go. Tony Hales said he was going and then went back on his word. More than anything else, the trust needs a strong and committed chairperson. Not someone who does not know if he will stay or if he will go. I am usually reluctant to recommend someone for such a role. However, Lynne Berry is in place and is one trustee who would be the ideal candidate. She has all the background credentials to make a significant contribution to the role of chairwoman. If only to bring about a gender balance, it would be good to have a class act right at the top.

There is however, an ill wind blowing along the canal. Its down to the IWA team of representatives that like last moment political candidates, were almost parachuted into place. Along with a capitulation notice called a memorandum of understanding. Which to me was as worthwhile as the letter Chamberlain's waved from Hitler. I think the main reason that the 'election' failed, was by not having the correct calibre of candidates.  I remember thinking at the time, some of the people I thought would have made excellent candidates, were noticeable by their absence. Which actually proved to be quite an astute move in the 20-20 vision that comes with hindsight. After all, real winners know how not to be losers.

It would be no good someone like me being nominated, I'm far to old, crusty and grumpy for such a role. Anyway, I like my custard creams far to much. What's needed is some young fresh blood, you know, someone below pensionable age. The trust needs a new perspective if only to address the age demographic. It's no good electing someone's granddad when what is needed is someone that can appeal to the younger generation. No matter how the future of the trust is to be shaped, its not going to be achieved by anyone comfortable wearing a tank top! 

Maybe the representative roles should also be shared across the gender divide. At risk of sounding like an old misogynist. Maybe one or two ladies would like to consider leaving the kitchen sink and providing the cucumber sandwiches, for what I think would provide a much more rewarding role.   Like everyone else reading this, I love the inland waterway. I want the trust to be successful and one way would be to loose the image of a club for port drinking gentlemen of a certain age. 

Which gets me nicely on to my last topic of the day. Call me old and cynical if you must. But I thought that one of the key roles for the creation of the waterways partnerships was to act as a catalyst for raising funds for the trust. Looking across the range of partnerships, I find its quite a mixed bunch. Apart from seemingly being a cash sink for much needed lucre from CaRT's depleted coffers. Has any of them actually moved from the red and into the black yet. Or is the fund raising just a smoke and mirrors notional one, like those often conjured up for matched funding.

Answers please on the back of a friends £3 note..... No, now that I think about it, lets not go there....