As you are aware over the past few months there has been an explosion of River users across Essex and other counties across the country. We are finding that traditional access points are under pressure. At times parking at access points have become dangerous with both parish and local councils are deploying new parking restrictions.
Essex Waterways Ltd (Chelmer and Blackwater Canal) are a small team and do their best to accommodate us but with increased usage their limited facilities are under strain. An example is Hoe Mill even before the Covid-19 outbreak on one weekend last year there were 28 DofE groups walking past Hoe Mill. Paper Mill has a small car park for those with boats 28 parking slots and yet there are 72 boats so it is clear there are challenges. A development plan is needed for our ever-expanding county and it is going to take a Multi-Agency approach to help shape access for all. This being toilet facilities, Access and Carparking, we cannot just expect pubs, landowners and Essex Waterways to magic up facilities it will take a concerted approach from Parish, local and County Council as well.
To this end the Essex Canoeing Association would like to recruit Volunteers from the paddle sport community who understand the issues in their locality and what ideally needs to be done for sustainable paddle sport growth.
There are two volunteer roles, the first is Local Paddle Sport Access officer’s we need a number of volunteers who truly know their area’s what is being affected and what ideally you would like to see for continued access.
The Second role is a Lead Paddle sport access officer who can bring together, discuss and help influence a sustainable access plan with multiple agencies.
I truly believe that with your help we can make a huge difference and just like the Medway improve access across the County.
The Navigation remains fully open to all users and, with effect from 4th July, Government has lifted all restrictions on boating activity. Users are reminded, however, of the continuing need to adhere to Government recommendations on social distancing and to be considerate to others on and alongside the waterway.
During the weeks of lockdown restrictions imposed by the Government, and subsequent bans on staying away from home and distant travel, use of the Navigation, particularly by walkers, cyclists, canoeists and the local population in general has been at record levels, and this has brought considerable challenges in managing the consequences.
Whilst the vast majority of visitors have been well behaved and considerate, a minority have left a great deal of litter, caused damage to lock structures and distress to fellow users and neighbours. We have done our very best to cope with these challenges, clear the litter, repair broken items and calm difficult situations.
PARKING AT PAPER MILL & HOE MILL
One of the consequences is that the parish councils covering Paper Mill and Hoe Mill locks have both been alarmed at the number of visitors and inconsiderate parking in these areas.
The result is that extensive ‘no parking’ restrictions have been applied in these areas, with double yellow lines a considerable distance either side of the road crossings at these locations. Our car parks remain available for your use at these locations but, understandably, there is likely to be increased pressure on space with fewer alternative parking facilities – so please close and lock car park gates immediately after entering or leaving, and watch for attempts at tailgated entry.
Please also ensure that your parking permit is displayed. The car park adjacent to the tea room at Paper Mill (open 10.00 am to 5.30 pm daily) is now operated by the farmer who owns this land, and a charge of £5 per day introduced to everyone except those with disabled driver badges.
WELCOME BACK TO OUR VOLUNTEERS Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and not only are we pleased to see boaters return to the Navigation, but we are especially pleased to see our volunteers return – their support is invaluable and if you would be willing to help too, you will be made especially welcome. There is something for everyone, whether it is litter clearance, vegetation control, cleaning and painting equipment along the Navigation or minor repairs at the moorings. The more jobs that can be tackled by volunteers, the greater the benefits for all users of the Navigation and the more tasks our employees can tackle to improve the Navigation and its infrastructure.
KIOSK & CAMPSITE REOPENING
The kiosk at Daisy Meadow re-opened in June, the campsite at Hoe Mill re-opened on 4th July and we hope to bring the trip boats back into use when we consider it safe to do so, and in line with Government and NHS advice. In each case, the risks of re-opening have been carefully assessed and additional precautions are in place to mitigate against any spread of infection. Please do not visit the Navigation if you have any symptoms that might possibly indicate an infection.
Photo: Daisy Meadow Kiosk is now open for business for drinks, snacks and canoe licences.
BOATS ON THE HARD STANDING AT HEYBRIDGE BASIN
Additional charges were due to come into force on 1st July 2020 for vessels that had been out of the water for more than six months. This date has now been put back to 1st October 2020.
UNIDENTIFIED BOATS AT THE MOORINGS
We still have a number of vessels with no name on. Please make sure the name of your vessel is clearly displayed so we can read it from the towpath. This is a requirement of your Mooring Agreement and helps us identify the owner if we need to make contact due to any problem. We are also finding boats moored in the wrong places, which is confusing and has knock on problems. The owners of boats without names are at risk of having their vessels towed away and with effect from 1st October 2020, an additional administration fee of £50 per quarter will be charged to the owners of boats without adequate identification because of the additional work this creates. If the names are not clear on both sides of your boat, please attend to this as soon as you can to avoid the charge for you and unnecessary work for us. Adhesive vinyl names can obtained locally.
PAPER MILL LOCK
A loose coping stone at the downstream end of Paper Mill Lock, which was preventing use of the gates and been fixed and re-set into place.
The access track, alongside Treasure Island, to the moorings on the North Bank at Paper Mill has been resurfaced, partly financed with a contribution by the owners of Treasure Island.
There is now a lock on the outside of the toilet at Paper Mill that requires a code to gain access. The code is 2469. This is to prevent authorised use from non-boaters. Those in possession of a valid canoe licence are permitted to use the toilet facilities along the Navigation, but the car parks are for boaters only and authorised youth groups.
SPRINGFIELD BASIN & LOCKSIDE MARINA
A new sluice has been installed in the sluice room at Springfield Basin. This is similar to those at Sandford and at Paper Mill North Bank, and will allow toilet cassettes to be emptied more easily. The outside of the facilities area at Springfield Basin has been painted.
The landing stage outside Lockside Marina, just above Springfield Lock, has been re-decked, and repairs have been completed to mooring stages along the Navigation.
Photo: Improvements to the landing stage at Lockside Marina.
The landing stage alongside Tesco at Heybridge has been repaired and re-decked. This was originally provided by Tesco when the store was first opened, but is now our responsibility to maintain.
A new pump out unit has been installed alongside the lock at Heybridge Basin. Boaters are reminded that the use of sea toilets on the Navigation is forbidden, and transgressors liable to prosecution and heavy fines by the Environment Agency.
The steps leading up to the Navigation from Daisy Meadow car park have been refurbished and new hand rail added.
Photo: Steps at Daisy Meadow Kiosk.
OTHER NAVIGATION WORKS
Low water levels in the Barnes to Springfield reach have been resolved by removing a blockage from the sluice by the weir at Barnes Mill.
Repairs have been made to lock gates where pins have been removed by vandals.
Paddle gear at Little Baddow Lock has been fixed. This required a two-day stoppage to dewater the lock so that the repair could be undertaken.
The downstream landing stage at Cuton Lock has been renewed.
A new step has been added to one of the balance beams at Rushes Lock to make operation easier.
Photo: New step at Rushes Lock.
WEEDS & WILLOWS
Hot weather this spring has brought on the usual prolific growth of weed, and our weed-cutter boats have been out the length of the Navigation to try to keep it under control. This will continue throughout the summer.
A large willow tree overhanging the Navigation above Barnes Mill has been removed.
We have also been busy with the usual mowing along the towpath and around lock sides.
We plan to undertake some piling work adjacent to Sandford Lock to protect the bank there shortly. This work may start as early as the end of this month.
We will be draining Paper Mill Lock on 7th September to survey for new lower lock gates, which we hope to install in early part of the winter, possibly as early as November.
We are also planning to undertake some piling work around the lock island at Paper Mill over the winter. This is to replace the existing failing bank protection and to try to help prevent further slump in the middle of the island. We will be using some very long piles at the upstream end of the island to try to cure any streams of water running under the island, which are considered the most likely cause of the slump.
We have been monitoring small movements to the brickwork at Rushes Weir and intend to undertake some piling to secure the foundations and place iron straps around some of the brickwork to prevent further movement. This will necessitate some vegetation clearance and stump removal as soon as we can without undue disturbance to wildlife.
There will be additional signage put in along the Navigation to remind canoeists (including inflatables) and paddle-boarders that they need to hold a licence, which can easily be bought on line – just enter ‘Essex waterways canoeing’ or ‘Chelmer Blackwater canoeing’ in a Google search.
You should be aware that you must hold a Boat Safety Certificate if you are moored or venture above Hall Bridge. This now includes the requirement to have a carbon monoxide detector. We have two excellent booklets available on Carbon Monoxide and Fire Safety on Boats for you to collect from your local moorings caretaker or the Paper Mill office. The requirement to have a carbon monoxide alarm has been in place since last April, regardless of when your next inspection is. Boat Safety inspections have now resumed following easing of lockdown restrictions. Certificates expiring between 1st March and 31st July are valid up to 31st July, but there are no extensions beyond this date.
BUYING OR SELLING A BOAT
We are often asked about boats for sale so, if you wish to sell your boat, send Sarah Phillips your boat’s details we can pass this information on to people who enquire. Permanent moorings on the Navigation are almost full at our current capacity. If you plan to buy or sell a boat, please ensure that you contact Sarah well in advance to facilitate mooring arrangements. Please remember that you cannot sell your mooring with your vessel: it is not yours to sell!
We have some more canoe racks at Paper Mill Lock. If you would like to store your canoe there, the cost is £80 per year. Please contact Sarah.
Lock gate setting – please leave locks full and top gates open with the top paddles half open in case the wind or children close the gates.
Landing stages – please do not alter or add to them without consent.
Speed limit – 4mph
Insurance – evidence of cover must be given to Sarah every year, as soon as you have renewed it, please.
Bank and Towpath – Please do not leave any items on the bank; everything should be stored in your boat when you are not present for safety reasons and so we can cut the grass.
As a waterway user, we hope that you enjoy your experiences and you may wish to consider membership of our parent organisation, The Inland Waterways Association, to support their valuable work and help to reopen another 500 miles of waterways for navigation.