Sunday 25 August 2013

The seven blunders of the inland waterways.

Some sixty six years ago, the Seven Wonders of the Inland Waterways were listed by Robert Aickman in his book titled 'Know Your Waterways'

"The waterways are charged with magic, but nothing about them is more magical than the difference made by the few feet of water which separate the boat from the land. Those few feet instantly set the boatman in a world of his own, and his vision of the outer world through which he glides, becomes magically calmer and clearer. Again, this may sound whimsical and improbable. The degree to which it is true can be confirmed only by experience."

Aickman was highlighting the continuing deterioration of a national asset and treasure. Written in the hope of kindling change. Aickman chronicled his seven wonders, not of the ancient world - but as his choice of the seven wonders of the inland waterways. 
The first of the seven wonders are the 29 locks at Caen Hill near Devizes, opened for traffic in 1810 on the Kennet and Avon Canal. The derelict locks required years of dedicated restoration work and were reopened in 1990. Engineer John Rennie.
The second of the Seven wonders is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Opened for traffic in 1805. A cast iron trough carries the channel on top of the aqueduct. Engineer William Jessop and Thomas Telford
The third of the seven wonders is the Anderton Boat Lift Connecting the Trent and Mersey Canal with the River Weaver. Opened in 1875. Designed by Edwin Clark. In 1983 problems caused the lift to close. It reopened in 2002.
The fourth of the seven wonders is Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The 5,698 yard tunnel is both the longest and the highest canal tunnel in the UK. Started by engineer Benjamin Outram and completed under John Rooth opening in 1811. Closed to traffic in 1948 reopening in 2001.
The fifth of the seven wonders is Barton Swing Aqueduct. Designed by Edward Leader Williams and opened in 1893. The aqueduct swings open, full of water, to allow the passage of ships along the Manchester Ship Canal.

The sixth of the seven wonders is Bingley Five Rise Lock on the Leeds Liverpool Canal which were opened in 1774.
The seventh of the seven wonders is Burnley Embankment on the Leeds Liverpool Canal. Designed by Robert Whitworth and construction started in 1795. Later, the Falkirk Wheel was added to the list in some cases as a replacement for the Burnley embankment.  

Aickman walks the St Helens Canal
Robert Aickman as a man was an enigma. There are several biographies written about the author and canal historian himself. On the canals Aickman and Rolt were the founders of the first iteration of the IWA. Which in turn is now just a shadow of its former self. 

Will the inland waterways continue to be allowed to decline and fall once more. Tom Rolt wrote in his book Narrowboat "if the canals are left to the mercies of economists and scientific planners, before many years are past the last of them will become a weedy stagnant ditch, and the bright boats will rot at the wharves, to live on only in old men's memories. It is because I fear that this may happen that I have made this record of them."

There are many 'sevens' such as the seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, that has been used since early Christian times to educate Christians about fallen humanity's tendency to sin. In the currently recognized version, the sins are usually given as wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.

The Seven Social Sins, sometimes called the 'Seven Blunders of the World' is a list that Gandhi wrote. Later, he gave this same list to his grandson, written on a piece of paper. This was on their final day together, shortly before his assassination. The seven sins or blunders are - Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice and Politics without principle. 

Today, we think of blunder as a particularly bad but foreseeable and predictable mistake. The prophetic title of Aikman's book ''Know Your Waterways.'' and Gandhi's 'Seven Blunders of the World' started me thinking of recent achievements on the Inland Waterways. However, my thoughts were slanted towards the 'Seven Blunders of the Inland Waterways.'

My first choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways was retaining the old BW management team. As a group who have been at war over the lack of maintenance with the boating fraternity for years. The transition from state to the third estate was bound to fall at the first hurdle. After experiencing the first year I see no reason to change my mind.
My second choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways was flying in the face of the minister and other by not creating a paid membership of the new charity. Maybe its because the membership would ask awkward questions. There is a subtle difference between clarity and opacity.
My third choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways was dumping the 'British Waterways' name and logo. To be replaced by the angry swan of the Canal and River Trust. For a strapped for cash organisation this was a crazy move. Wasting many thousands of pound in replacing a well known and cherished household name, Logo and Brand. A bit of directors vanity in that one. To ensure that careful aim was taken before shooting foot!
My fourth choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways is the ill-fated venture between Scottish and Newcastle Pub Enterprises and British Waterways a project to jointly own 100 pubs across the country which then lost almost three million pounds. Quote in Design Week: "The pubs will not be a Mickey Mouse chain but will retain individuality,' according to a British Waterways spokeswoman. They will feature design-led work, such as informational pictograms for boaters and branded British Waterways 'elements." Which turned out to be prophetic and succinct words indeed!
My fifth choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways is British Waterways and its aspirations as a property developer which lost thirty three million pounds at Gloucester Quays. The plans, promoted by a partnership between Peel Developments and British Waterways, include a new bridge to carry St Ann Way over the canal, a designer outlet shopping centre, a new campus for the Gloucestershire College, a food superstore, a 90-bed hotel, offices, business units, shops, car parking and 1000 homes. Even more of a grandiose idea with another cash devouring finale.
My sixth choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways are the five 'historic Dutch barges' owned by the Canal and River Trust. Dieu De L'avolou, Martine, Louisiana, Niagra and Linkisi. Purchased by Mark Benstead and brought to London at huge expense. With losses of hundreds of thousands of pounds it has proved to be a very costly mistake. Doomed to failure from the outset - as a failure it proved to be a resounding success. 
My seventh choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways is 'BWB/CaRT -v- Nigel Moore' I don't think any further qualification is needed. As thousands of pounds of charitable donations is wasted once again. They were wrong, they knew they were wrong, but still carried on digging. Lose face or lose public money, was there ever a choice!
My eighth choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways is. While no one is held to account for the costly failures, everyone has to share the blame. When failure is rewarded and not challenged, ask yourself what are the lessons being learned. Only a robust root and branch action will bring about change. Do the CaRT trustees have such intestinal fortitude to bring around such change. I don't think so.
My ninth choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways is. Now the family silver of the inland waterways is being put up for sale on ebay. CaRT is selling off our heritage and with it some of the tangible parts of our history. A form of asset stripping that harks back to bad era in industry.

My tenth choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways is. The Canal and Rivers Trust is responsible for around 2000 miles of inland waterways. The outgoing CEO was on a reduced pay of £195,000 but in actuality with a bit of smoke and mirrors remained on his previous remuneration of £220,000. David Cameron the Prime Minister is on a salary of £198,661 and he is supposed to be responsible for everything with no performance related pay or bonuses.
My eleventh choice for Blunder of the Inland Waterways is, .........

Blunder after blunder to be added to the ever growing list of foreseeable and yet still unaccountable 'faux parThinking about numbers, we have seen the seven dwarves of CaRT, 101 dalmatians  I wonder if there is a list of 101 CaRT blunders to come. Or maybe there are enough for a play on '1001 arabian nights'... 


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