A lot has been said, both on this site and at the meetings about the negative impacts of the proposals, understandably, people have been pushed onto the defensive by these threats to our homes and lifestyle. However there is a significant amount of feeling that we can also effect change in a positive way.
It has been pointed out that some of the positive change over the last couple of years include; less rubbish on the towpath, more responsible attitudes to dog ownership, tidier boats, more movement, less congestion around visitor moorings – yes BW, I’ll say thaty again, – less congestion.
Now our assessments, a lot more authorative and indepth than those of Sally Eichmann, show that there are around 160 resident boats (obviously a changing figure but it will suffice for now), 80 official hire boats, around 10 unofficial hire boats and a number of day boats between Devizes and Bath. Add to this Tranquil Rose, Dawn and Dusk and other hotel boats. Then there is an uncounted quantity of weekend boats emerging from marinas and those visiting from further afeild.
This popularity of the Western Kennet and Avon, we assert, is a success story, our canal is growing in popularity, there are a lot of boats, sharing must take place. None of these groups is going to go away.
The conclusion from this is that although the liveaboards have a majority and thus a big say in what goes the other groups have needs too. Particularly identified;
- Hire boats need easy moorings, they don’t stay long but they don’t have the skills to use long planks on reedy margins.
- Hotel boats need particular access to 24 hour moorings at major stopping points.
- Visitors need places to stop within a quarter of a mile of popular visiting places, towns and villages.
- Local boat-orientated and boat-based businesses need to work on and take deliveries at wharfs.
- Easy access to boats by local midwives.
So we propose an alternative method of moorings management – a voluntary agreement – gosh.
We will be rolling this out next spring and summer, way ahead of even the very rushed over-complicated proposals from BW.
We will be posting friendly signage, designed using traditional canal art techniques, suggesting that the easily identified visitor moorings, Bath Top Lock, Darlington Wharf and Bathampton Wharf for example, should be left for visitors and legitimate wharfage. We will restrict this to sites where hire boats, visitors and boats needing wharfage actually use rather than the illogical and unenforceable areas with restrictions at present. We hope that most sensible boaters will heed this signage and that we can apply peer pressure to the ones who will abuse it.
It was pointed out at the Bradford-on-Avon meeting by a boat hirer that the Southern Oxford canal has a similar scheme going that is a great success. Banbury, Napton, Oxford itself have become place where, Bank Holidays and suchlike excepted, you can just roll up and find a mooring. Nothing to do with BW’s (mis)managment but a voluntary agreement within the boating community on that canal reinforced by peer pressure.
It is certain that there will still be idiots and selfish gits who will, without trying, mess things up for everyone else but if we can minimise this behaviour then it will make our case, that there is no major problem, stronger. The abusers will become marginilised and fewer, what problems they do cause will diminish. It might even sway some of the local hire boat firms’ opinions – though don’t hold your breath.
And, of course, that fine honourable tradition of giving birth at Bathampton wharf will be encouraged and validated.