Monday, 28 July 2014

Canal Cuttings (37)

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 Advertiser
Saturday 15 March 1930
INLAND VOYAGES

CHILDREN OF THE CANALS THE BARGEE'S HOME 

From a Special Correspondent. London, February 6. 1930. A threepenny bus ride from Charring Cross, a short walk down a muddy alleyway, and you are in contact with a world of which the average Londoner is wholly ignorant, which has no counterpart in Australia, and which has so far survived the revolutions in transport which has changed the face of England. Here is Paddington Basin. and here, on the still, black waters of the canal, there float the barges which ply on England's inland waterways, carrying queer cargoes on long, leisurely voyages between the precipitous walls of factory buildings, through dark tunnels under the cities, and across the level, green countryside. They are not only bearers of cargo, these humble galleons of the shallow waters: they are the floating homes of the bargees and their families, and have been for generations, some of them. Children are born on them, and learn from their parents and in the hard school of experience the trade of canal navigation, until in the fullness of time the control of the tiller and the towrope may be handed down to them. 
For a hundred and fifty years the canals have played their part in the commerce of the nation; only the roads, in the scheme of transportation, are older than they. In that long period the ancient supremacy of the highways has been challenged by the locomotive, and, with the coming of the motor, has been reasserted, but the barges still plod up and down the narrow channels, drawn by the patient horses on the towpath—though, indeed, the motor driven barge (ominous portent!) has appeared in recent years on the larger waterways. The Unlettered Water Folk The coming of the petrol engine Is not the only threat to the mode of life and the peace of mind of the bargee and the bargee's highly competent wife. The shadow of the schoolmaster has fallen athwart the barge. To the infinite scandal of various right-minded people, it has been shown that not only is the average bargee totally illiterate totally devoid of book-learning, that is to say, though he may be deeply versed in the ways of life and skilled in the ancient lore of his calling but his children are not being taught to read and write. Here is a tiny stratum of the population, scattered from Birmingham to Brentford, denied the blessings of popular education; here are perhaps 2,000 children of school-going age who cannot even read the titles in a cinema film.
Humanitarian members of Parliament have lately set out to remedy this outrageous state of affairs, at no matter what cost to the family life of the bargee, who does not send his children to school simply be cause the barge which is his home and theirs is forever moving up and down the canals, nowhere lingering long enough for the youngsters to go ashore to school. It is true that there are voluntary school organisations at Brentford and Paddington, but they are not regularly attended, and in any case nothing less than the stamping of the barge-dwellers in the State mould will suit their self-appointed champions, who are asking Parliament to say that no child under 15 shall live on a canal boat. Limelight on the Barge This drastic proposal, with its threat to the home-life of the waterman, is being stoutly resisted by interested and disinterested persons, some of whom have an eye to the cheap labour which the system, of living in on barges provides, and others of whom tend to idealise the class whose cause they are espousing. Whatever the rights of the matter, the battle in Parliament as the press has brought the bargee into unaccustomed and possibly undesired prominence. Bis ways of life have been exposed to the public gaze; members of Parliament, including a real, live duchess, have visited his humble abode; one member even took a long voyage on the canals. But. curiously, no unanimity of opinion has resulted from all this investigation. Labour members have hinted darkly at child slavery on the canals, and have described "the horrible cargoes of garbage" which some of the barges bear: while it has even been alleged that bargees sell or lend their children, according to whether there is a surplus or a shortage of labour on the boats! 
On the other hand. Conservative speakers have pointed to the purity of the family life on the barges, to the healthy condition of the children, and to the cruelty of forcing the water woman to decide whether she shall live ashore with her children or afloat with her husband. Points of View I asked a stalwart and taciturn bargee on the wharfside at Paddington what he thought about it all He spat reflectively into the canal. "Why can't they leave us alone?" he said, with a, backward jerk of the thumb, doubtless intended for the direction of West minster. Book-learning's of no use on the towpath." Then, "What's wrong with them kids?" There was quite obviously nothing wrong with the three "kids" who were playing happily on the deck of the barge, where the family washing was hung out to dry. They compared, in fact, more than favourably with the white-faced, under-nourished children of the adjacent Paddington slums. Their play ground was small, but it was probably less dangerous than the streets. Their "home." glimpsed through the hatch, was extraordinarily tiny, but it was also extraordinarily clean. Neither they nor their parents seemed to be conscious of the misery in which they were supposed to live, nor of the lack of shore-going culture to which the conditions of their life condemned them. They were ignorant of all except that which pertained to the life of the canals, but they were not unhappy. The absence of education, it was said, forced the children to follow their father's calling: but are there not in twentieth century England worse callings than that of a bargee? "Why can't they leave us alone?' The waterman's simple question raised a whole train of reactionary reflections on the subject of compulsory education.
The Underused Canals
You can't learn the language in a bowler hat wrote a contributor to The Times.Referring to the visits of Parliamentarians to the waterside. Neither can you learn all about the people of the canals from departmental literature. At H.M. Stationer Office I invested ninepence in the purchase of the "Report of the Departmental Committee on Living on Canal Boats," which was chiefly remarkable for its confession of the inability of the members to discover the number of boats in use as dwellings. statistics bearing on the health of the water-people, and so on. The bargee has eluded the census-collector as well as the board of education. But the committee was able to show that "so far as health, cleanliness, morality feeding and clothing are concerned, the canal dwellers are fully equal, if not superior, to town dwellers of a similar class." Most of those employed on canal boats "have been accustomed to the life from early youth, if not from birth, and they have been brought up in traditions handed down to them by generations of canal boat people, with the result that their contentions are different from those of shore dwellers. Life on board their boats appears to be of an almost patriarchal character, and the presence of the wife and mother on board hers to preserve a high standard of morality among the men and a kindly but efficient discipline among the children." The committee could find nothing wrong with the health or morals of the barge population, but it was forced to admit that the children were "scandalously under educated." If the children are removed ashore for the purpose of education, the mothers will mostly go with them, into the slums, and the "almost patriarchal" existence of the canal families will be broken up forever. It is a pretty problem for the House of Commons. The Chamberlain Committee, reporting nine years ago, left it largely unsolved. The casual observer of a picturesque phase of English life is disposed to wonder, the demands of progress notwithstanding, whether some things are not better left alone.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Investing for the future

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.

The future of the inland waterways has been secured by the advent of the 'new epiphany' that is the new inland waterway truss. With an unlimited amount of cash being raised by chuggers or Charity Muggers. With a zero backlog of repairs being achieved by ignoring anything less than dire.



Saturday, 26 July 2014

NABO Need Your Help.


CaRT it seems are ignoring Richard Parry's pledge on no more mooring changes across the system

 


Mark Tizard of the National Association of Boat Owners Said:


Help us collate the changes.

At the end of March the boating associations held a meeting with CRT to discuss mooring strategy. It was agreed that there was a need for evidence based data gathering before further changes were made to Visitor Moorings. Richard Parry agreed and instructed Sally Ash that no more changes should be made to visitor moorings this year. The idea was that demand should be reviewed over the summer and data gathered on ease of mooring on existing VM's, pinch points, how long is the period of high demand and suggestions for new VMs etc. This could then be shared so that informed decisions could be made by CRT with broad support.

Since then however CRT have continued as if this meeting didn't happen making changes.
Please could you post on here any changes that you are aware so that we can collate this information.

To get us going :
Visitor Moorings at Beeston Nottingham, changed from 14 days to 48 hrs.
Visitor Moorings on the Lancaster canal all changed to 48 hours
Visitor Moorings in London (some changed from 14 to 7 days)

I should add that NABO are not against change but believe that Visitor Moorings should be able to cater for a range of visitors cruising the network and thus should have a range of stay times.

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 acknowledged  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.