January, in like a lion.
This winter, so far the rangers have cleared well over 50 blockages caused by fallen trees. On two occasions the canal centre has gone into emergency status and the Lengthsmen have been called out to assist. We have been able to get out and report damage in a coordinated and controlled manner which has allowed the hard pressed rangers to concentrate on the urgent and dangerous stuff. We have also been successful in reducing the number of false alarms reported. Just the one that I know of.
Currently we also have the added problem of heavy rainfall on saturated ground posing a threat of flooding. Never a dull moment, some might say. How ironic that we spend eight months in fear of too little water and four with too much.
Before the bad weather set in a small team of Lengthsmen took on an extra project of maintenance and cleaning of the locks. Using one of the work boats we spruced up and weeded the empty chambers and fitted new cill markers (below).
The aim being to reduce the chances of boats grounding on the cill and also snagging their bow under the gates. We did have visitor last season who managed to lift a gate free of its hinges. In two weeks we managed to complete locks 7 to 28 and look forward to completing the task down at lock 1 in the spring.
Currently (January), in an attempt to assist all Lengthsmen in burning off the extra calories recently accumulated we are out conducting a boat census. This is a joint task on behalf of the BCA and BCS in an attempt to get a clear idea of just who and what is on the canal. This is fascinating as no two lengths are the same. A time consuming exercise for some while not applicable for others. Hopefully the info gathered will assist in planning.
On a day to day basis we continue to enjoy the towpath and accumulate a unique knowledge of our length. After a while it is amazing how quickly one spots the slightest little thing that is not quite right. Oh, and it’s also amazing how much litter we manage to clear as well. Just two little jobs that would not be done otherwise. The term ‘Lengthsman’ is coming back in vogue. County and Parish councils across the country are reviving the role. Country lanes and common ground as well as canals are now being tended by Lengthsmen. In this continuing hard financial time it’s a safe bet that or role will grow.
2013 saw great improvement in the state of our canal. Much was achieved and there was plenty to be rightly pleased with. We go into the New Year with confidence.
We are always looking for new Lengthsmen. If you are interested I’ll be very glad to hear from you, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the very best for 2014.
Mike Gordon, Senior Lengthsman
You might be interested in referring to the Lengthsman Guidance document for more details on the role of Lengthsman and their typical duties – Ed.