Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A man and his length

Once upon a time, there was a lengthsman whose job it was to tour the length and breadth of the local parish. Carrying out essential up-keep to walls, fences, hedgerows, embankments, footpaths, drains and ditches, which were often also used as boundary markers. It was a medieval solution to a medieval  problem. These early skills were put to great use and some of those skill persist today in the form of hedge laying and drystone walling.

Nottinghamshire County Council has decided to reintroduce the ancient role of the lengthsman. Other parishes dotted around in counties including Worcestershire, Lancashire Surrey and Dorset are also reviving the role.

It is hoped the role will help save money for the council by spotting and fixing problems early. Martin Suthers, deputy leader of  Nottinghamshire County Council , said: “There is considerable benefit to local communities. It will ensure local concerns are quickly acted on, nipping minor problems in the bud before they become significant and costly. It will also provide local employment and help communities take pride in their areas. It’s not a new idea but more about trying to adapt it to modern circumstances.”

The term lengthsman was also applied to those employed to maintain a stretch of canal and sometimes live in a lengthsman’s cottage close to a lock, weir or sluice. When the role of lengthsmen began to disappear, with them went their close and personal knowledge of their area. Its only by walking the length and observing changes that problems can be tackled before they transform into a much more expensive repair. Removing a small self set Willow that will grow in time to cause expensive repair. Setting small pockets of reeds as natural revetments to reduce erosion. 

This is the difference between being proactive and reactive with maintenance. Letting the wrong people make the decisions on what they don't understand. Such as accountants saving short term pennies in manpower and loosing long term pounds in repairs. Unfortunately, I don't see the return of the lengthsmans role coming to a canal near you within the foreseeable future.

Making the correct choice of when and where to spend the maintenance budget is important. If you own a car, and the paint gets scratched. Do you spend money or repairing the scratch or leave it and spend pounds later on a new wing.

Now British Waterways have a limited maintenance budget. Their take is to leave it until a major repair is needed. However, on British Waterways method of planned maintenance. Replacing the wing requires selling the wheels off the car to pay for it!


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please put your name to your comment. Comments without a name may automatically be treated as spam and might not be included.

If you do not wish your comment to be published say so in your comment. If you have a tip or sensitive information you’d prefer to share anonymously, you may do so. I will delete the comment after reading.